Crawford on RIT: Dangerous but Necessary Work

This year, the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award went to Chicago Firefighter Larry McCormack for his rescue of a down firefighter--a stark reminder not only of the dangers firefighters face at every structure fire, but also of the perils members will undertake to rescue a comrade who is in danger.

In his classroom Wednesday at FDIC 2012, Jim Crawford, assistant chief of the Midway (SC) Fire Rescue and retired Pittsburgh assistant chief, reviewed the evolution of rapid intervention over recent years. Crawford reflected on the many changes in standards, training, and equipment that have occurred for those situations in which firefighters must rescue another member who has gotten into trouble on the fireground.

"The job of the rapid intervention team (RIT) is to increase the chance of survival for a down firefighter," Crawford reiterated. The techniques themselves are not necessarily safe or simple, but they are designed to create a better outcome for the endangered member.

Crawford expressed some dismay with regard to standards involving rapid intervention and firefighters rescue, and stressed his belief in the need for a four-member RIT.

Crawford also discussed the use of the acronym LUNAR (location, unit, name, air supply remaining, and resources needed) for firefighters in Mayday situations. He suggested that, as an incident commander, he would prefer to simply know the "Who, What, and Where" of the firefighter in distress.

Crawford also reviewed some training drills for firefighter rescue and survival, including the Pittsburgh drill, the Denver drill, the Nance drill, use of a charged hoseline to raise a fallen member up, and training on self-disentanglement from wires. A student commented that his state was prohibiting him from practicing one type of RIT drill, which Crawford said was not lawful. He said that some areas might be averse to running these drills because they were injury prone.

"The fire service needs to get its man pants on," Crawford said in regards to the dangers inherent to RIT training, a comment which elicited enthusiastic applause from the crowd. Crawford went on to stress that training firefighters to rescue trapped colleagues is critical. "If a firefighter gets into trouble, no one's coming in for us but us--not a cop, not a lawyer, not a mayor. If we don't know how to do it, then shame on us."

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