Rapid Intervention is still one of the most commonly used buzz words in today's fire service but are we really prepared to perform it?
It's more than just a name. Rapid intervention team (RIT), rapid intervention crew (RIC), firefighter assist and search team (FAST), or whatever else it may be called - all refers to the crew of firefighters that is standing by waiting to respond to a fireground emergency. The primary target of the team is firefighters.
It's time to take a good look at rapid intervention and answer a few questions that are directly related to the firefighter(s) in trouble. Basically, it's a look at rapid intervention from the inside-out. Consider the following regarding the Team.
The Team is the crew that will ultimately save your butt! This team will deploy when needed to enter the structure, locate your position, and take the necessary actions to safely remove you from danger - at least that's who they're supposed to be!
Unfortunately, the Team is usually assigned, or put together based on convenience, to satisfy the paper demands of firefighting (the liability). How many teams have you seen that are standing-by, properly motivated and prepared, ready to handle a true firefighter emergency?
The Team is a crew of aggressive, progressive, and capable firefighters that are good at moving through the worst conditions possible, while remaining calm and focused, and getting the job done? The crew remains proficient at the basic skills of firefighting while continually striving to take it to the next level - at least that's what they're supposed to do!
The Team acts at the worst possible time - when something has gone wrong! Look at it this way, during fire attack, search and rescue, ventilation, overhaul, securing the utilities and all the other related fireground tasks, the Team is preparing the fireground and maintaining a ready-mode to deploy and rescue firefighters who get into serious trouble.
Sure, things can go wrong during all aspects of the operation but it's right in the middle of the initial chaos that things usually go from bad to worse - and that's when the Team usually operates.
Who knows, that's the point! One of the most difficult things to track during fireground operations is the location of all crews and personnel operating inside the fire building. As a result, when something goes wrong and firefighters get in trouble the first priority, and problem, is locating them. First floor, second floor, basement, attic, front of structure, back of structure, left side or right side - it could be anywhere in the structure - how good are your search techniques?
Because things happen! And besides that, staffing is always less than it should be when it comes to fighting a fire. Sure, proficiency and continuous training can help many things go right during fireground operations but no matter how prepared you are things can go wrong.
WHERE DO YOU FIT IN?
With those points considered, take a few minutes to think about your role in the rapid intervention process. Look at it from two sides - the rescuer and the victim. Can other members of your department count on you as a member of the Team? Are you ready, and proficient, at performing the duties assigned to the Team? If the answer is no, hopefully you'll take the necessary steps to get prepared.
Now consider things from the other side of the issue. If you're trapped, running out of air, and unable to get yourself to safety, who's on the Team that's coming in to rescue you? Are they prepared? Can they get the job done?
What type of training is needed for rapid intervention? BASICS, BASICS AND MORE BASICS! Firefighters who remain proficient at performing basic structural firefighting skills can eliminate many of the emergencies that occur. When a true firefighter emergency does occur the Team can use the basics - including line positioning, fire containment, extinguishment, search, rescue, ventilation, and any combination of fireground skills - to handle the emergency and move the firefighter(s) to safety. Proficiency with the basic skills will allow the Team to improvise and overcome any problems that arise during the rescue.