Lessons Learned On A Fire Scene
Establishing Rapid Intervention Teams
Being a volunteer fire fighter on a small department has taught me that you must be resourceful and vigilant to overcome the obstacles that staffing may make for you. One of those obstacles is one that sadly a great deal of departments overlook. That is the importance of RIT (rapid intervention teams) The rapid intervention team (RIT) is a vital part of firefighter safety. The RIT are the ones who go into burning buildings to rescue firefighters. Their training must be top notch.
We are number one on the fire scene. It is us who must take responsibility for keeping us safe. I can not express how furious I get when I read a report of a firefighter death as a result of failure to have RIT established and in operating order. It is sad that departments still fail to watch their own buts.
I have seen departments send men into a burning building with a hoseline in hand and assume everything is alright. The rest of the staff complete their duties and the thought is always there that maybe those men inside will have trouble. The sad reality is some departments do not know how to handle that situation. The 2 in 2 out rule needs to apply. If you have men inside for God's sake have men outside prepared to go in and rescue those men in the event tragedy should occur. I am not going to give you and in depth article discussing all of the aspects of RIT, that would take awhile. I am simply going to give you some ideas to improve RIT in your department.
Two men in the house Two on the...porch?
I see this a lot with would be fire standouts. They see a man go in and right off the bat they are standing on a porch with an overhang. Words of wisdom if you are going to do this please check to make sure that porch roof is stable. It may not seem like it could kill you but many firefighters have lost their lives in such a manner. Establish your two in two out from a safe point. Remember you have radios to communicate and PASS devices. Some people generally feel they can keep an eye on the men inside if they are closer but under smoke conditions that is usually not a viable option.
Set up your two men out with caution. Have them close enough to make entry in a timely fashion but far enough that a collapse won't wipe them out. The only thing worse than two fallen firefighters is four!!! Look at your scene and make the choose based on the factors there. Is the porch a safe staging area? Probably not. There will be smoke and heat there that will cause hassle for the two firefighters on the outside of the structure. I find staging the RIT crew at the truck can be the most beneficial aspect. When the mayday is issued they will have a better chance to grab any extra tools that would assist in the removal of the firefighters inside the structure. If there is a collapse reported thay may go right to a side storage panel and grab a trench shovel. Being at the truck gives RIT members easier access to the tools on board.
You may also stage RIT crews near the incident commander that way they will receive information from command as well as the initial mayday call. Staging is a matter of preference but always remember what worked at one scene may not work at the next.
Where's the second hoseline?
Some departments are rared and willing with two men on the outside ready to burst into the flames and save their allies. The problem is they are not armed with a fire hose. This is a sad mistake that could cost lives. I realize some departments feel that they can just utilize the hose that is already inside. Hey, if you think that fire will stop progressing through a structure until you reach that hose go for it, as for me and mine we are going in with a second attack line.
You never know what to expect in a fire ground situation and that second hose line could be the difference in pulling out two injured but alive firefighters and pulling out extra crispy turn out gear. I hate to be so blunt but remember safety is the issue. A second hoseline becomes a shield against fire. That shield may save your life. If you review the case of Bricelyn Street you will see that the initial attack team drug their line over an opening in the floor where heavy heat and flame were progressing. The end result was a hose being burnt into and rendered useless. This proves that we can not rely on the first in hose to assist with RIT procedures.
Spare Airpacks are a must.
Remember when acting as the RIT you need to be able to carry in extra air to the fallen firefighters. This is a bit of a job as air packs coupled with our already heavy gear make for slow progression. This is why I suggest only the fittest of the fit attempt to act as RIT. That extra air pack is vital in the event the firefighters inside have been down for an elongated period of time.
What if the firefighters inside are not able to equip the new air pack? That question is important. RIT members must be properly trained on how to put an airpack on a non responsive firefighter. This training is advanced and really takes a good deal of practice ti implement. These techniques for moving the existing airpack and adding the new are often called conversions and many methods exist to allow this procedure to run smoothly. Departments must train in these techniques to allow speed and accuracy to be a major concern.
Training Training Training
I can not express enough how vital this is. While I have given you a few suggestions to make your RIT operate a little more efficiently none of that matters if you do not pursue the proper training. If your department does not train for firefighter survival and rescue seek that training somewhere else. If nothing else look online for videos and try to prepare yourself to handle situations when a firefighter is down.