Rapid InterventionTechniques

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...


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It is important to note that this technique is a "fast and dirty" method of improvising a rope-lowering system using the barest of essentials; the 40-foot personal rope is more than sufficient. The rope will not be carrying the person's full live load, the staircase will! It is designed to allow a rapid removal of single, large bodyweights when conditions are life threatening. This is not the time or the place for fancy mechanical advantage systems which are probably out on the apparatus. This method can readily be put in place in a matter of 30-40 seconds using material which should be readily available on the person of any firefighter who ever contemplates going above a fire for search or rescue.

The removal of a heavy firefighter out of a window and onto a ladder is a serious challenge. If the window sill is high or the working room is constricted, firefighters on the inside will have severe difficulty in removal. One of the first steps to try is to get a member underneath the victim, by rolling the unconscious member onto the crouched rescuer's back. The rescuer then can use his powerful leg and back muscles, not merely his arms, to push the victim up to window sill height. A second rescuer inside can assist in keeping the victim in place on the first rescuer's back, and in passing him or her out to another rescuer on a ladder. When possible, the ladder removal can be made safer and smoother by placing two or even three ladders side by side with a rescuer and backup (this could be a civilian) on each.

If conditions prohibit the rescuer from getting under the victim, and the victim cannot be lifted to the sill by the members inside, then we have to arrange for the members outside to help. This requires the use of a rope and a high-point anchor. The rope must be secured around the victim and then passed up, out of the window, over a rung of the ladder, down along the inside of the ladder and then out along the ground, long enough to allow three or four rescuers to grab the rope and pull. The rescuers inside assist the victim up to window sill height, while the members outside perform most of the lifting effort. The rescue knot is passed up the ladder, over an upper rung and into the inside members who secure the victim. The signal to haul is then given to the rescuers below.

Removing a victim up a stair is another severe challenge, usually seen in below-grade situations, cellar fires and the like. An approach that may work well under these conditions involves the use of a rope and a backboard. The member is dragged to the base of the staircase, where a backboard is laid along the stair. The victim is secured at the wrists or ankles with a clove hitch and binder on one end of the rope. The rope is run up to the surface where it is grasped by two to four rescuers and the free end of the same rope is run back down the stairs, where it is tied to the top of the backboard.

Once the victim is secured to the rope, the signal to haul is given, pulling the victim feet first onto the backboard. One rescuer stabilizes the head and neck and maintains an open airway. Once the victim is fully onto the backboard, both ends of the rope are pulled by the surface rescuers, bringing the victim and the board up simultaneously. The use of the board is very important it prevents the victim from getting caught on stair treads as the ascent is made. The operation can be made easier if a ladder can be placed on the stairs for the board to slide on.

The third situation in which we find severe difficulties in removing an unconscious firefighter is the firefighter who has fallen into an opening in a floor or roof to a lower floor. While as many routes to the victim as possible should be attempted, the most direct route is often through the same opening into which the victim has plunged. This could mean lowering a ladder through the opening if space permits, or it could require a member to be lowered or rappelled via rope to the victim.

Once rescuers have reached the victim, the most appropriate available removal route should be taken: up or down stairs, out a window, etc. In some cases, though, the only available removal route will be back up through the hole the member fell into. Since a fall is involved, spinal injury is a major concern. If it is at all possible, the member should be secured in a spinal immobilization device.

A "last ditch" method that requires only the personal rope may be the only thing that works. This method involves lowering the middle of the rope down through the hole, where a slip-on "handcuff" knot is placed around the victim's wrists or ankles. If time permits, lower a second personal rope and place another handcuff knot right along side the first one, on the same wrists or ankles. Once the victim is secured, the signal to haul is given and two or more rescuers on each end of each rope begin to hoist. This allows four rescuers to hoist vertically, which is the minimum that should be used.