Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighter Training, Firefighting

Training Days: Rapid Intervention

Article and photos by Tom Kiurski

This training day was designed to give some new ideas to members assigned to Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) duty. The idea for the class came from an FDIC hands-on-training (HOT) class I attended in April 2008. Although our department has trained on RIT before, these operations have so many different aspects that numerous training evolutions can be drilled on before repeating any of them.

We started the drill outside a house that was donated to us for training. Always be vigilant for any houses that are scheduled for demolition–they make great training houses. You don’t even have to burn it to have great training evolutions, but a burn is another great training option. We gathered around as I discussed the use of low- and high-pressure air bags for rescue. Although many firefighters think of using them for vehicle stabilization, I was hoping to get them thinking about using them in different scenarios.

Rescue air bags are great for vehicle stabilization; they are resistant to any fluids that may be leaking out of most automobiles and can be cleaned with soap and water. They can lift irregular shaped objects and, using simple physics, can lift extremely heavy objects. Review the weights that can be lifted by all the air bags in your department’s vehicles and where the air bags are stored. Using plates and plywood can provide a stable working environment when the ground does not offer. Some safety tips for air bag use include making sure that all valves are turned off prior to use, connecting air bags to hoses before placing them under objects to be lifted (this keeps hands away from loads as much as possible), and never stacking more than two air bags. Be aware of the dangers of “pillowing” (curving of the air bag, which reduces the area of the object in contact with the air bag). When stacking air bags, the total weight that can be lifted is the least amount of the two air bags, not a combination of the two.


(1) The webbing leading to the firefighter trapped by a partial roof collapse.
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(2) Once the crew located the downed firefighter, the equipment wass moved into place for lifting.
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The crews were assigned RIT duties. After the initial RIT team entered to find a firefighter (mannequin) who called the Mayday, we quickly reviewed our Mayday standard operating guidelines. Crews received a radio message from the initial RIT officer indicating the firefighter was located, was okay, and had an air supply but that he had to be freed from a roof collapse that had him pinned to the ground under a load too heavy to be removed by hand. Crew members’ masks contained inserts that obscured their vision.


(3) Cribbing the load before inflating the air bags is critical to keep the load from shifting onto the mannequin. This allows for an even lift.
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The crew assembled, came up with assignments, and decided how materials were going to be transported in to the firefighter. After following the webbing from the initial RIT team to the trapped firefighter, they began to work on shoring and lifting the load off the firefighter. Once the load was safely lifted and the mannequin was removed, the drill was stopped, and the crew was allowed to take off their masks to see the scenario and how it played out.

Tom Kiurski is training coordinator, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators ( Fire Engineering, 1999) , is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.



Subjects: Rapid intervention team training, firefighter training evolutions