Much attention is paid to the response and duties of Rapid Intervention Teams for structural fires. Many departments have developed RIT companies and tools assignments, which when deployed certainly raise the level of safety for every firefighter operating at the scene. But what if an emergency develops prior to the arrival of a full RIT team of 5 or 6 members. What if a sudden change in conditions endangers a firefighter when the original and minimum team of 2 is still the only immediately available rescue team? When a full RIT unit is on-scene, they usually assemble a collection of tools that can be used for almost any possibility. When we only have our "2 out" team available, what exactly can they do if a "mayday" is received that requires them to go to work?
A team of two is limited to what tools they can assemble and which they can use. We certainly can't expect two firefighters to carry the full tool compliment that an entire RIT unit would. So what can they carry and what can they expect to accomplish? Let's look at a specific situation and examine the options this team has.
An engine and ladder company, each staffed with 3 firefighters arrive at a fire on the first floor in a two story detached private dwelling. A neighboring department dispatches a safety team of two members to act as the "2 out" for the protection of the firefighters operating in the IDLH atmosphere. What tools would be reasonable for this team to assemble at this time and what tactics could they expect to be able to initiate by themselves? With each member fully geared up with PPC and SCBA, they should each carry at least one hand tool and both should be radio equipped. If one carries a halligan the other can carry and axe. The axe can be used to strike or cut and the halligan can pry, strike or punch through material. This team should have a power saw available and even stretch a dry hoseline to the front of the building should it be required. An entire SCBA should be readied for use if they need to enter the building for a rescue and a search rope of sufficient length should be at hand as well. Each firefighter should carry a personal rope and/or harness to drag an unconscious or incapacitated firefighter and a scissor type folding ladder should be in readiness in proximity to the saw and hoseline in front of the building. This two man safety team must remember that they are not only the first two members that are trying to remove or rescue a distressed or trapped firefighter, but they may be the only members to perform this duty.
When ordered into the building to perform rescue/safety duties, this team must take their hand tools, the extra SCBA and they should consider tying off the end of the search rope at the building entrance and deploy it as they proceed to the location of the firefighter in distress. This action will not only provide a rapid exit route for the rescue team but it will also assure a path for additional firefighters to follow into the area where the firefighter in distress is being assisted. The only people that should have to search for the firefighter in distress is the first in rescue team. The deployed rope is now the marked path to the area where the "2 out" team is operating for others to follow to render assistance. If it is initially reported that a firefighter has fallen through the floor or a hole, then the folding ladder may be taken in initially.
As mentioned, the first in team of two rescuers should take with them a complete SCBA in the event that a trapped firefighter needs air or is running low on air. This air supply will give the rescue team time to assess the situation and time to affect a rescue or removal if that is necessary. One of the worst outcomes at a firefighter rescue would be the successful removal of a trapped firefighter who does not survive because of smoke inhalation or CO poisoning.
Once the firefighter is located the safety team must provide a detailed report to the IC of the condition of the firefighter in question. This report must include;