You are a firefighter assigned to a rapid intervention team (RIT) at a working house fire. Your team has set up its tool-staging area and completed its size-up of the fire building. A ground ladder has been thrown to the second floor of side 1 by the truck company crew and the rapid intervention...
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You are a firefighter assigned to a rapid intervention team (RIT) at a working house fire. Your team has set up its tool-staging area and completed its size-up of the fire building. A ground ladder has been thrown to the second floor of side 1 by the truck company crew and the rapid intervention team leader has reported to the incident commander (IC) that the team is in place and ready to go.
As you settle into your staging area for your standby duties, you scan the fireground for potential hazards. Everything seems to be going well with the operations as you scan the crews for familiar faces.
Suddenly, you hear a loud rumble in the fire building. You see a large column of fire rise into the sky as a portion of the roof collapses into the attic. You have a terrible feeling that somewhere in the path of that collapse was a firefighter. As you and the other members of the RIT make your way toward the fire building, you ask yourself:
- How do we begin to conduct this search?
- Are firefighters trapped in the attic or did they fall into the second floor?
- If firefighters are in the attic, are they trapped by the roof collapse in the fire area?
This scenario (and many more like it) lurks just around the corner on every fireground. We, as firefighters and fire officers, must be prepared.
Reasons For Deployment
There are many reasons why a RIT is deployed on the fireground. Typically, any sudden hazardous event such as a collapse, flashover, backdraft or rapid increase in fire will put a RIT into action. But it is the more common occurrence of a firefighter becoming lost or disoriented in a fire building that will put a team into action most often.
Another occurrence that will activate a RIT is a "Mayday" radio transmission. Team members should constantly monitor the fireground radio frequency for calls for assistance because they may get only one chance to hear a "Mayday" over the radio. The firefighter in trouble could become unconscious before being able to transmit another "Mayday" or report an approximate location.
A rapid intervention team could also receive orders from the IC to deploy because an accountability check reveals that a firefighter is missing. Team members could even activate themselves based on their visual observations, such as seeing a firefighter hanging from a window or a crew attempting to perform an emergency wall breach to escape from the interior of a fire building.
When a RIT is deployed to a fire building for an emergency, team members must accomplish several tasks before entering the structure.
First, try to continue or establish radio communications with the firefighters in trouble. This procedure could give you pertinent information about the firefighters or crew in trouble, such as its location, type of injuries or level of consciousness, type and extent of entrapment, the amount of air left in self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and type of SCBA being used. It is important that you gain as much of this information as possible before an injured firefighter becomes unconscious or unable to use a radio.
The RIT leader should also ask the firefighter to switch to a tactical radio channel, if possible. This will permit communications without interference from other fireground radio traffic.
While the RIT leader is obtaining this information, team members should be selecting and gathering their entry tools from the staging tarp. The initial entry team should select only basic forcible entry tools so as not to slow the team during the search. If larger or specialized tools are needed after the size-up, a second team should enter with this equipment. If the RIT is using a thermal imaging camera, it is at this point that it should be turned on to assure that it will be ready for the team at the entry point.