First Due: Be for RIT

Feb. 14, 2022
Jake Miceli makes a solid case for why career as well as volunteer departments must make assembling a rapid intervention team a priority

Too often, in both career and volunteer departments nationwide, rapid intervention teams (RITs) are established too late in the game.

It’s well-established through multiple studies that RITs happen rather early in most incidents. However, a RIT often isn’t designated until after a confirmed working fire is declared and often is an additional company that’s dispatched solely as a RIT.

Now, not only must both career and volunteer departments worry about the chute time for the crew to get on scene but also about the entire time that they run the potential for a disaster to happen with no dedicated RIT available.

It also is commonplace for chiefs and/or incident commanders (ICs) to designate as RIT the “B team”—the less-than-stellar firefighters or those who might be a little out of shape. The best people always seem to be put to work fighting the fire directly. After all, why wouldn’t you? The goal is to put out the fire as quickly as possible, right? This is flawed. When things go sideways, you should have some of your best personnel available and ready to respond to rescue a downed firefighter. If you utilize your best crews for fire attack, you can’t stop the entire operation for a downed firefighter. Further, leaving some of your better people available for RIT is an added layer of protection.

Good ICs know their personnel’s skills and how to best utilize them. Consider those skills for who is best for RIT. You must be proactive.

The ideal RIT

With the temperatures of fires increasing, lightweight construction and lower staffing consistently occurring nationwide, you must advocate for yourselves and be more prepared for these scenarios. Although most departments are in the process of improving their positions on having RIT teams at fires, it just isn’t happening quickly enough.

Ideally, a RIT should be a minimum of four personnel. As soon as they come up to the scene, they immediately should identify where people are working, conduct a 360, if possible, for their own reconnaissance and start softening the building. There is no reason for there not to be a ladder to every window available, so long as it doesn’t interfere with fire attack and ventilation operations. This can be coordinated easily with strong communication.

The RIT still can do some exterior tasks, such as move hose and secure utilities, that leave them available for their primary function, but you must ensure that softening the building occurs. Personnel should know what their job is as soon as they arrive at a fire. I don’t mean just the assigned task of RIT. Get really granular with your crew. Dedicate someone to the air supply role, someone to forcible entry, someone to disentanglement and someone as your officer.

Roles that your department utilize should be established before you arrive. By pre-establishing roles, you give people the opportunity when they get on scene to start to do their own individual size up. For example, the air supply person will focus on the RIT Pack and be reminded if he/she must be on bag, too. The forcible entry person must look at exit doors to see what routes might need to be opened on a quick evacuation of a downed firefighter.

Assigning roles gives the RIT an established base, which increases confidence and preparation.

RIT off dispatch

A newer trend is the assignment of RIT groups off dispatch—RIT groups being two established trucks, each with a minimum of four personnel dispatched at any possible or confirmed working fire. All departments should move toward this regardless of staffing, because this can be accomplished with mutual aid agreements. Having eight dedicated personnel on scene early can make the difference in saving one of our own’s life.

Although this might not be feasible for your department immediately, it should be discussed. Keeping your people safe always is worth the conversation.

The ideal RIT is on scene within minutes of the first-arriving companies, has assigned roles and tools within the unit, immediately starts softening the building and maintains readiness to deploy to help fellow members. The buildings that we operate in don’t wait for you to be prepared. You must take the steps yourself.

Be for rapid intervention teams at the start of your incident, because, at the end of the day, it could affect whether you get to go home. 

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!