Also known as:
Rapid Intervention teams are the saviors to trapped or lost firefighters. While we don't like to think about having a firefighter trapped or lost in the fire service, the truth is that eventually it will happen. We fight many fires in many different conditions, including residential structures, High-Rise Firefighting, Technical Rescues, etc. The RIT teams job is to stand by and wait for someone to get trapped, then to go in and rescue them.

Because of this slightly important task, there are guidelines to follow when assembling your RIT team. First, it must consist of 3-4 well-trained, well-rested firefighters. This team may have to perform extreme physical tasks under the duress of finding one of your colleagues who is either trapped, hurt, or lost. Because of this, having an untrained crew, or a crew that just got finished being in the building and is exhausted, is the same as having no crew at all.

(Side Note: 80% of all fire ground injuries and deaths occur within the first 20 minutes of the incident).

There are 6 essential categories of responsibilities for the RIT team. They are:

Scene Safety

  1. The crew reports directly to the incident commander(IC).
  2. The crew can work as a safety officer, as long as they are able to respond immediately to a mayday call.
  3. The crew should act as an extra pair of eyes for the I.C., reporting any unusual behavior of the fire.
  4. The crew should monitor unforseen hazards to fire ground personnel
  5. The team can be mobile to monitor the entire fire ground, but must be ready at a moments notice.
  1. The crew should obtain the buildings preplans
  2. The crew should then examine the preplans for potential hazards and possible deployment locations.
  3. The team leader should assign tasks to the team.
  4. They should locate all emergency exits. Note that this does not just mean doors, but windows, stairwells, outer walls, etc.
  5. If there is not at least two means of egress the team should make them. This may involve having ladders positioned by windows, etc.
  6. High-Rise Firefighting involves special cases. Do you need an Aerial truck? Do you need a second RIT team?
  7. These plans must be reevaluated on an ongoing basis as the fire progresses and the structure weakens.
  1. The crew will monitor all fire ground radio communications
  2. Upon a mayday being broadcast on any frequency, the RIT team will 'capture' the channel and move all fireground communications to another channel.
  3. The RIT crew will be the only contact between the downed firefighter.
The team must have all necessary equipment within reach. This may include:
  1. ropes
  2. Additional SCBA equipment
  3. water supply
  4. Aerial Apparatus
  5. Heavy Rescue Equipment
  6. ALS Rescue Car
  7. Helicoptor
The team and I.C. should also plan for extended operations. Though the team will only be in for 15 minutes at a time (see below), if the firefighter is not reached another team should be sent in until the situation is deemed unsafe.

Firefighter Tracking
The team should monitor on-scene companies along with the I.C. They should know:

  1. # of companies
  2. Each companies assigned tasks
  3. following radio traffic to track sectors or divisions companies are working in
  4. Request that I.C. perform a Personnel Accountability System check at regular timed intervals.
Trapped Firefighter Rescue
  1. *NEVER* Self-deploy. The I.C. is responsible for ALL fire ground personnel, and has a more complete picture of the fire ground.
  2. When deployed, always notify the I.C. if the exact location of the downed firefighter
  3. Upon locating the downed personnel, immediately notify the I.C., provide protection to the firefighter, and provide a viable air supply.
  4. Immediately assess the needs of the firefighter. (Do they just need a beam lifted off of them?)
  5. Remove from danger ASAP.
If you can not complete the rescue and must exit:
  • Clearly mark the downed personnel with lights, ropes, etc.
  • NEVER leave the downed personnel without communications.
Be Prepared to leave the downed firefighter.
That last sentence is always the hardest for me. The above came straight out of my notes for our RIT 1 and 2 classes. The first day (RIT 1) was classroom where we took notes and discussed strategies. The second day (RIT 2) was hands on at a four-story building in downtown Tampa. (See the Training to be a RIT team node for information on that.

Basically the RIT team stands by on any fire ground situation where we have personnel inside the structure, just in case something happens. If it does, it is their job to get the hell in there, find the guy (or girl - we have female firefighters as well), and get the hell out of there, all without being hurt or lost or killed themselves.

The RIT team, when actually deployed, has by far the hardest job on the fire ground. You are going in because on of your buddies is trapped. You have no idea where, you can't see a thing, you only have a limited amount of air (our current SCBAs only hold approximately 15-20 minutes of air), everyone on the fire ground is listening to you, and after you have exerted your energy to find the guy, you might have to drag him back out.

I have luckily never had the fortune of having to be deployed in an incident, but the training was enough for me to realize that I hope I never am. But by following the above steps, I hope that I and my team will find and rescue our guy no matter what.

One final note: The RIT team is only deployed when a firefighter is trapped. The team is *not* used for search and rescue of civilians. Even though you are high up on the list, I come first, next to my guys, and then you. If I'm dead and my buddy is dead, you will be dead also. And as I mentioned above, sometimes the team can't make the rescue and the firefighter dies. The decision to pull the crew out and not send another one in is the hardest an I.C. will ever have to make in his or her life. But having four firefighters alive is better then having five dead ones.

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