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Some of the most important steps that can be taken to prepare a members of rapid intervention team (RIT) for the tasks they may have to perform are to establish standardized tool assignments and practice common removal techniques. While the vast array of possible scenarios that can be encountered preclude knowing every possible tool or technique that will be utilized, the basic items can be determined from past events, ways that others have gotten themselves in trouble and the ways that got them out.
The rapid intervention team must report on the scene ready to go to work with the tools that are likely to be required. Think of the first group as tools that every member stepping off the rig should have in his or her possession at all times. They include:
- Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with an activated personal alert safety system (PASS) alarm.
- A large handlight, preferably on a sling, for hands-free use.
- A good, sharp knife.
- A spare cylinder immediately available (on the apparatus) for each member.
- A National Fire Protection Asso-ciation (NFPA) rated personal rope (40 feet of 3/8-inch nylon).
Each RIT officer should ensure that the following team tools are brought with RIT members when they report to the incident commander:
- Portable radios for each two-member team within the RIT.
- A 200-foot search/guide rope for each two-member team.
- Forcible entry tools (halligan and flat-head axe) for each two-member team.
- At least one hydraulic forcible entry (Rabbit) tool.
- A lifesaving rope and harness/belt.
- A spare mask for a trapped firefighter.
- A Stokes stretcher and resuscitator.
- Power saw, either wood- or metal-cutting, depending on the size-up of the building
- Suitable ladders for the building involved tower, aerial or portable.
In addition, at the scene the unit should attempt to obtain, if available, a copy of the building's floor plan ("You Are Here" signs) and a copy of the command chart that indicates which units are operating and where they are located. Also, if possible, locate a hoseline that can be committed for rapid intervention in the event it is needed. Know what unit is supplying the line.
As with every other fireground task, the RIT must perform a size-up. The specific duties of the RIT make its size-up somewhat unique. While encompassing all aspects of the standard 13-point approach and the Firefighter Survival Survey, the RIT's size-up takes extra considerations. The RIT officer should:
- Request size-up of the building by radio while still en route. Size of building, construction, occupancy and fire location.
- Monitor tactical and command channels for urgent or Mayday messages.
- Once at the scene, perform the RIT size-up (building, occupancy, fire location and extent).
- Location of units/members and their access-egress.
- Progress of operations.
When firefighters are trapped or missing, the RIT must have prepared for the occasion with some techniques which have been practiced and honed so they can be performed blindfolded, because that's exactly the way they're going to have to be done. The fireground is extremely confusing when a Mayday has occurred. Of course, no two situations are exactly alike but some problems repeat themselves so often that we should expect them to occur and have a game plan all worked out in advance for when they do.
As soon as the first report is received of a "firefighter down," three things should immediately happen. First, if not already at the scene, an advanced life support (ALS) ambulance should be called. Second, additional firefighting personnel must be special called; this may require transmission of multiple alarms or calls for mutual aid. Third, a protective hoseline, a spare mask and a resuscitator should be brought to the vicinity of the member, even if there is no obvious immediate need for them.
Photo by John Norman
The rapid intervention company must report in with all necessary tools, ready to go to work.