Rapid intervention team (RIT) concepts have steadily changed over the years. As technology advances in the fire service, we must continue to change our RIT operations to coincide with the new equipment and concepts that it brings. This also means that we must rethink the way we approach firefighter rescue and RIT deployment events.
To understand where we are going, we must first look at where we came from.
For many years, having three or four firefighters standing outside with basic tools and equipment was considered a RIT standby team. These firefighters generally had no formal firefighter rescue training and it was often considered the “punishment detail” on the fireground.
As much more training, newer equipment, and a new sense of RIT duty was introduced to the fire service, we now have a more serious and committed type of rapid intervention team standing by on our nation’s firegrounds. Formal training programs such as those held at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) and many state fire academies have opened the eyes of current and prospective RIT members and fire officers allowing them to realize the difficulties and seriousness of the task at hand.
Knowing what the real meaning of rapid intervention is will assist team members and command staff in understanding how and when to deal with a mayday event. Many assume that rapid intervention means a firefighter rescue is controlled rapidly.
This is far from the truth, especially in the cases of a firefighter entrapment, which requires the use of specialized equipment that must be brought into the structure to complete the rescue. In the term rapid intervention, the word “rapid” refers to the ability of a standby firefighter rescue team (RIT) to rapidly intervene in a mayday or firefighter rescue event as soon as it occurs.
This rapid response or deployment to a mayday may mean the difference between life and death of a downed firefighter. Most significantly, the delivery of an independent air supply, such as Scott Safety’s RIT-Pak™ Fast Attack., to the downed firefighter may be enough to buy the time the RIT needs to affect a rescue and remove the firefighter from the building.
This process also includes having a trained RIT standing by on the fireground with the appropriate RIT equipment. Along with having the trained RIT members and proper RIT equipment on scene, the team must have a department sanctioned RIT policy (SOG) to follow. All department members must know and practice this policy. Most importantly, all of these strategies tied together will assist in developing a plan for the firefighter rescue.