The importance of building an equipment bank close to the scene for firefighter rescue operations cannot be underestimated. Having this Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) equipment staging area close to the firefighter rescue operations will drastically reduce the amount of time required to move this specialized rescue equipment to a downed firefighter in the event of a mayday. This operation is similar to transferring companies closer to a working fire as the incident escalates.
As we all know, seconds count when a firefighter becomes lost or trapped in a burning building. Taking steps to reduce this time wherever we can will increase the chances of survival for the firefighter in trouble. Rapid Intervention Teams must be pro-active while on the fireground. Performing building and fire condition size ups on a periodic basis during the incident should be standard protocol for the RIT.
A pro-active procedure such as setting up and maintaining a pool of firefighter rescue equipment near the incident, versus running for this equipment when a mayday is declared is good rapid intervention management. A series of staging levels is incorporated into the RIT standby to better manage the operations.
Level 1 Staging
A level 1 staging operation would be for "routine" room and contents fires that are held to one alarm, a smaller fire. This type fire is usually under control within 15 to 20 minutes requiring the use of one or two attack lines. Statistically, the most dangerous time on the fireground is within the first 20 minutes of arrival. With a quick dispatch of a RIT on the first alarm of reported structure fires, a firefighter rescue team would arrive well before this time frame expires.
During a level 1 staging operation the RIT would report to command and stage in front of the building, (trying to maintain a view of at least two sides of the fire building). The team should have with them; basic forcible entry tools, full PPE and SCBA, handlights, RIT bag (if used), a thermal imaging camera (if available), and an SCBA rescue pack. This level of staging will usually be short in nature time wise and would not require the action of setting up a formal staging area.
Level 2 Staging
A level 2 staging operation would be for one alarm fires that escalate into a two alarm or greater incident, a larger fire. Additionally, a fire that would advance to a second alarm before the arrival of the RIT would advance to a level 2 staging operation. This type of incident is inherently more dangerous to firefighters and would require a more pro-active standby.
The length of on scene time increases, structural integrity of the fire building weakens, firefighters work strenuously at initial on scene tasks reducing their stamina. Engine crews advance deeper into smoke filled structures locating the seat of the fire, truck crews are spending more time on the roof, and SCBA air supplies are often stretched to the low air alarm.
All of these situations and more make for a more perilous fireground with accidents and dangerous situations lurking in the shadows. It is within this type of incident that our firefighter rescue teams must be vigilant and ready to deploy at a moment's notice.
Having a formal equipment staging area during this type of incident will increase the RIT's ability to deploy on a mayday. This level of standby adds more specialized rescue equipment to the teams arsenal requiring the use of a salvage tarp placed on the ground to better control and maintain this equipment pool. This tarp will also notify suppression firefighters that this equipment is for use by the RIT only in the event of a mayday.
Equipment such as a chainsaw and circular saw with a metal cutting blade. Having these saws immediately available to the RIT will enable them to quickly perform an enlarged opening on a structure to remove firefighters or cut steel security bars from windows for immediate firefighter escape. This staging level would also require the team to secure a power source for providing electrical power to specialized rescue equipment such as sawzalls, electric chainsaws, or lighted search rope.