Rapid Intervention: Are We Really Prepared?

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?


This is an area that seems to get a whole lot of attention when discussing rapid intervention. Many advocate deploying a combination engine-ladder-rescue to be standing by at the disposal of the Team.

KISS! Remember, keep it simple! When performing emergency fireground operations, under emergency conditions, what equipment is being used? It's usually standard hand tools, hose lines and ladders. Add to that list a search rope and thermal imaging camera and see what you can do. Sure, access to every piece of equipment that is available would be nice - but it's the basic equipment that is used on every fire that will get the job done. Don't forget to consider air supply - for the trapped firefighters as well as the Team. Under rescue circumstances air supply will become an issue - plan for it ahead of time!


Rapid intervention, as with most issues in the fire service, is a shared responsibility. The department is responsible for making sure that teams are available and capable of performing when needed. Individual firefighters are responsible for accepting the responsibilities associated with rapid intervention and remaining proficient at the skills needed to get the job done. Rapid intervention skills are nothing new! They're simply a fresh, and updated, look at the skills we've been using for generations to take care of business.



WHO:The crew that will ultimately save your butt!

WHAT: A crew of safe, aggressive, progressive, and capable firefighters that are good at working in the worst conditions possible, while remaining calm and focused, and getting the job done.

WHEN: At the worst possible time.

WHERE: Who knows! The crew must move to any location on the fireground, as quickly as possible, to locate the firefighters in trouble - and then find the quickest and most efficient way to safety.

WHY: Because things happen! Some because of staffing, some because of inadequate training, some because of lax policies - and some just because that's the way things go.


You're a member of a rapid intervention team that is activated by command because of a trapped firefighter. The last known location of the firefighter is unknown, however, he was conducting a search with his partner and they had already given the 'all-clear' for the first floor (it's a 2-story residence). There is heavy smoke pushing from the eaves as well as from the front door - none of the windows have been ventilated. One hoseline is in operation and was advanced through the front door - the crew is operating on the first floor. There have been no ground ladders placed around the residence, the truck crew accessed the roof over the aerial and is getting ready to ventilate.


  • How would you handle this situation?
  • Would you ventilate the windows while you advance?
  • Would you bring an additional line in with you? Is it part of your standard rapid intervention equipment?
  • Would you request that ground ladders be placed to the second floor? Would your crew place them? Is this a standard policy for your crew?
  • Does the crew have a thermal imager? Does the department have one?
  • Do you deploy a search rope when advancing as a rapid intervention team? Has your crew practiced this technique?
  • Are you prepared to perform rapid intervention?

Jim McCormack has been a firefighter for 15 years and is currently with the Indianapolis Fire Department. Jim is also the founder and president of the Fire Department Training Network, a membership network dedicated to firefighter training.