How To Use A Rapid Intervention Team

Michael M. Dugan offers a guide to training and utilizing firefighters for this all-important job.


Reports of missing children! A team of firefighters is operating on the floor above the fire, conducting a primary search. The engine company loses water. The firefighters are notified via portable radio to retreat until the engine regains its water supply. The firefighters return to the same...


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The members should stand by near the command post, in sight of the IC but not blocking access to the command post. The rapid intervention team officer shall be guided by orders from the IC. Tools should be brought to the command post area or an area near the command post where the team is awaiting orders.

Members of the rapid intervention team should now start a visual size-up of the fire building and any exposures that are endangered. They should be monitoring the radio transmissions on the fireground to keep abreast of the progress in the fire building or reported lack of progress. The team's officer and members should then determine the need for portable ladders on the front of the fire building. This should be brought to the attention of the IC and upon his orders, two firefighters can begin to situate ladders. At least one of these firefighters should be equipped with a portable radio so as to be in constant contact with the team officer and the command post, in the event of a change in orders. It is advisable that these ladders be placed only on the front of the fire building or exposures so as to keep members under the limited supervision of their officer and the command post. Also, these ladders should only be taken from apparatus close to the fire building so members are always close at hand. This could be done at any building or operation where portable ladders will assist with firefighter safety. If the rapid intervention team is needed to assist a trapped or injured firefighter, the officer can summon the members to the building front.

The officer then assigns each firefighter a specific task, as dictated by the sudden hazardous event. The position of the rapid intervention team must be adapted to the type of building in which it is operating. Depending on the team's manpower, the officer could send two members to place the portable ladders on the fire building or, if needed, the exposures. If portable ladders are placed to an exposure, they will provide an escape route for members if they get in trouble, trapped or their initial entry site is cut off by an extending fire. These ladders also provide access to areas of the building for rapid intervention team members. If these ladders are not in place and firefighters become trapped, valuable time is lost getting and placing the needed ladders.

After the rapid intervention team has reported to the IC, and with the IC's approval, the team's qualified apparatus operator has the unique responsibility of checking the ladder apparatus already operating on the scene. That person's job is to see if the member operating the ladder apparatus is on the turntable/pedestal ready to assist of a firefighter appears in distress on the building front. If the regular apparatus is engaged in other firefighting duties or is assisting with the rescue and removal of fire victims, then the team's qualified apparatus operator may be ordered to remain with that apparatus.

If the first apparatus is properly manned and the fire is extending to an exposure, then the team's qualified apparatus operator observes whether there is a second ladder company on scene and properly manned. If on the scene and not manned, the IC must be notified. Upon the IC's orders, it is the rapid intervention team chauffeur's duty to man it and determine if it is in position to assist in operation or if it needs repositioning. If the units are manned by qualified personnel and the operator's assistance is not required, then that firefighter immediately reports back to the team officer to await further orders.

If the location of fire is above the reach of portable ladders, the rapid intervention team reports to the command post and operates as a unit. After receiving the IC's approval, the chauffeur shall remain with the truck, if needed.

If the fire is in a fireproof multiple dwelling or high-rise building, the IC will usually direct the rapid intervention team to operate on the floor below the fire, under the supervision of an operations chief or sector commander. This way, they are closer to the fire location and in the most advantageous location to assist a firefighter in distress.

Safety Measures