Remember Your “BRIEFCASE”

WHAT DOES RAPID INTERvention team (RIT) mean to you? Does its meaning differ depending on whether you are assigned to the function or working inside, possibly relying on it? Would your perspective of RIT be dramatically different if you had to call a Mayday?

It’s ironic that most crews are excited when assigned search and rescue but consider RIT less than appealing. Firefighters willingly search to protect unknown life hazards yet put little effort into protecting lives of their fellow members who are operating in the same hazardous environment.

Our fellow firefighters fall victim to unfavorable circumstances every year. It is not a question of if but when. Ignoring the possibility does not reduce or eliminate the possibility. Therefore, when assigned to the RIT, we must take it seriously and prepare ourselves mentally and physically with the appropriate tools to address the worst-case scenario.

Since recruit school, it has been engrained in us that there is no such thing as a routine call. Although this is true, we learn to recognize similarities among alarms. Previous experience, training, and our scene size-up will usually give us an idea of what we need to appropriately execute our assigned function. The exception is RIT. A rescue strategy is difficult to determine until the actual Mayday is called, identifying the tools necessary to mitigate the event. Until the emergency traffic broadcasts, we can only speculate and anticipate what might happen. This is the reason tool selection must be comprehensive, allowing us to provide the maximum deployment to rescue a downed firefighter. A mechanic wouldn’t diagnose a troubled vehicle with only a single wrench in his toolbox; we shouldn’t go to work without our full RIT “BRIEFCASE.” The necessary tools can be easily prepackaged and transported in a stokes basket or on a ladder carried to the scene. Tools are packed on an extension ladder or stokes basket placed atop a roof ladder with roof hooks extended, and then the ladder can be dragged to the scene (photos 1-3).

(1) To carry the “BRIEFCASE” using ladders, place a roof ladder with the hooks pointing up. The extension ladder holding the BRIEFCASE is placed over the roof ladder beams and slides down, catching the roof ladder hooks, leaving a single roof ladder rung at the top to serve as a handle. (Photos by author.)


(2) Alternatively, BRIEFCASE tools may be preloaded on a stokes basket instead of on an extension ladder.


(3) If using an extension ladder to carry tools, load hand tools first to create a grid-like base. This will prevent the remaining tools from falling through the rungs.



B It is used for breaching, smashing, and striking, particularly in forcible entry operations.

Roof hook. Preferably, it should be the six-foot “New York” roof hook, which can be used for reaching and pulling, prying, testing the floor for stability, and clearing windows or as an anchor for rope work in a doorway or over a hole.

I Their many uses include forcible entry, enlarging holes, breaching walls, dragging victims, self-rescue, and endless other possibilities. Think of the irons as your credit cards-don’t leave home without them.

E The specific tools used will depend on the building construction type. Use the chainsaw for cutting floors and windows into doors and for extricating firefighters from ordinary heavy timber or wood-frame structural components.

Use the rotary saw to cut metal walls, roll-up doors, fencing, security bars, and high-security doors.

The battery-powered reciprocating saw is useful for interior cutting in smoke-filled environments.

The rabbit tool is used to expedite breaching of high-security doors or multiple exterior access points on commercial jobs.

Hydraulic tools should also be considered, but they are cumbersome and are more likely to be used in a delayed or prolonged rescue

F-a medical bag and automatic external defibrillator (AED). Notice it is called “firefighter medical equipment”-it should not be used for anything else. A department once had an incident where the RIT medical bag was being used to resuscitate an animal when a firefighter began having chest pains. His treatment was delayed while other medical equipment was retrieved.

C (thermal imaging). One of the most underused tools on the rig, it serves as a search aid, allows crews to better monitor interior fire conditions, and assists in identifying secondary means of egress from the interior. It also helps crews to identify the fire location and assist with the positioning of interior crews from the exterior.

A We must be able to make an air hookup in a prolonged rescue attempt. In more complex activations involving multiple RIT teams, the first team often locates the firefighter, and the second team is responsible for making the grab. In these situations, supplemental air can be the difference between a rescue and a recovery.

The downside to an air hookup is that it takes time. In certain circumstances, it may be more appropriate to employ a swift rescue without taking the time to provide supplemental air. There are several considerations when making this decision, including how long the firefighter has been down, how quickly a rescue can be made, and volatility of conditions.

If you decide to employ an air hookup, use a RIT pack (self-standing bottle and mask) instead of the buddy-breathing method. This avoids entanglement between the rescuer and the firefighter victim, facilitating full mobility of the rescue team. If your company does not have a RIT pack, learn to break down an extra SCBA to the minimum components necessary. Another benefit of having a RIT pack is self-preservation. If the RIT needs additional air, it will be readily available.

S This provides a reference for crews to the downed firefighter’s location and back to the exterior. This line should be securely fastened to an exterior object or a six-foot roof hook that spans the doorway through which the RIT enters. It is the team officer’s responsibility to notify command of the location.

Be careful that this line does not induce tunnel vision and divert your attention from other potential viable paths of egress. Always survey your surroundings; look for secondary options for evacuation that may be more readily available.

E Ladders make a convenient one- or two-firefighter tool transporter for the BRIEFCASE. This will free resources within the team, allowing other members to start the 360° size-up and execute necessary proactive RIT operations. Addressing concerns prior to a Mayday often will be the most effective RIT function performed. Assess ladder requirements based on the elevated floor levels presented. Additional ladders should be brought to the scene even if some have already been raised to the structure. Removing ladders already set to a window or other part of the structure may be removing the escape routes for active interior crews. If firefighters went into a structure by ladder, they likely will intend on coming out by the ladder.

In accessing belowgrade levels such as basements, it is dangerous to assume the stairs will support your rescue attempt. A folding ladder works great for providing access to such areas from within the structure or to disperse weight over a weakened floor system.

Ladders also make great ramps or see-saws for removing firefighters when confronted with varying elevations.

The BRIEFCASE memory device does not consider lights, webbing, wire cutters, or radios, since they are personal tools that every firefighter should carry.

. . .

RIT has only one rule: Save your brother or sister. This can be accomplished by unlimited means. When deployed, RIT’s success will come down to company courage, a collaboration of fireground knowledge and skills, often good luck, and the tools you have available. Whether you carry the BRIEFCASE in a prepackaged stokes basket or on ladders, get it to where the team can easily access it. The tools we carry can do a lot in our hands; they will be of no benefit to us or a firefighter in danger if they are left on the rig.

Special thanks to Lieutenant Lane Pearman and Firefighter Ryan Armstrong of the Wichita (KS) Fire Department for their assistance with this article.

SAMUEL HITTLE, a firefighter and a hazmat technician with the Wichita (KS) Fire Department, has an associate’s degree in fire science from Butler County Community College.

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