There is no reason to be dismayed at the thought of having to purchase all of that specialized equipment needed for rapid intervention team (RIT) operations. You already have some basic RIT tools on your apparatus. Some of the basic tools you can use for RIT include the irons, sledgehammers, handlights, portable radios, handlines, SCBA, ladders, chain saws, hooks, and rope.
Proactive RIT. When RIT members are awaiting activation to rescue downed or trapped firefighters, they should be performing fireground duties such as opening means of egress; placing ladders on all sides of the building to provide additional means of egress and bailouts; illuminating the fireground; continually sizing up the scene (which includes command and building operation); and setting up tools for RIT operations.
Irons. Using the irons, the RIT can gain entry through locked doors as it opens up exits while in the proactive stage. During the interior search for a downed firefighter, the RIT can use the halligan to breach walls to access other rooms where the downed firefighter is, as a step up to a window for an exit from a lower level, or as an anchor point for bailouts. To use the halligan as a step up, jam the fork end into the floor below the window and near the wall, leaning the halligan against the wall with it resting on the adz and point. This will hold the halligan in place as you step onto the adz end to get yourself up and out of the window.
Sledgehammers. Use the sledgehammer to enlarge openings from the outside through block walls or inside the structure to breach walls. It can also break out glass block windows to provide a means of egress for interior firefighters in lower levels of the structure.
Handlights. Your apparatus should have at least four or five handlights that individual RIT members can use if their own light isn’t working or if they don’t have carry their own. If the team members do have personal handlights, use the handlights from the apparatus to light up all doorways and means of egress. Use any available scene lights to illuminate the fireground, and use portable scene lights to light up exits. Remember, part of RIT operations is being proactive: “If it is predictable, it is preventable.”
Communication. Communication is important on any fireground or emergency scene. Each RIT member should have his own portable radio with a lapel mic, which enables him to hear messages over all the fireground noise and to reply if his radio is below his hands or gear and not easily accessible. All on-scene firefighters should have portable radios set up like this. If you happen to get entangled and cannot reach your radio, hopefully you can reach the lapel mic up by your head.
Hoselines. In past practice, the RIT would take a hoseline into the structure for protection and to extinguish any fire encountered during the search. This can be time-consuming for the RIT members while they are searching for the downed firefighter. The thought now is to have a separate engine company advance in front of the RIT to extinguish the fire, which enables the RIT to search faster and have hands free to carry the necessary tools. But if personnel are limited, the RIT may have to perform both roles.
SCBA. Each RIT member should be wearing his own SCBA and be ready to go to work, and the team should take an extra SCBA or one specifically designated for RIT to use in the rescue. Set up the SCBA so it’s simple to use in a dark hostile environment. This unit should be easy to carry; the mask should be kept attached to the regulator or otherwise readily available. Keep the mask as clean as possible, and attach a small bag in which to keep the rescue SCBA mask.
Ladders. To keep ahead of the game, put the ladders up during the proactive stage. Try to ladder all four sides of the structure if possible; if not, then at least place the ladders according to size-up priorities. Raise the ladders to a bailout ready position.
Chain saw. The chain saw carried on the engine is not just for roof ventilation; take it with you as part of your RIT tools. The saw can be used to enlarge openings, clear away shrubs or small trees around doorways of exits, or cut structural material from an outward building collapse in which firefighters are entrapped. Remember, the RIT is for exterior rescue operations, too.
Hooks. The six-foot hooks can be used to aid a firefighter who has fallen through the ceiling of the floor above. Two RIT members would place the hook handles on their shoulders to help support and raise up a firefighter who has fallen through the ceiling joists or roof rafters. This takes the weight off the firefighter who is hanging on between the rafters. If needed, the hook can be used as a bailout anchor point through a window.
The hook, along with any short tool such as the halligan, can assist with dragging a downed firefighter. Wrap your webbing through the firefighter’s SCBA shoulder straps, and bring the ends together. Then slide your tool through the ends of the webbing. One or two RIT members can use this method to help drag out the firefighter. It provides a good, dependable dragging device.
Ropes. If individual members do not carry any search rope, they can use the rope used to raise and lower tools. As long as the rope is dependable, it can be used for some search techniques. RIT members can tie off one end to an outside anchor point and perform their search for the downed firefighter. If RIT is following a sounding PASS device, the last RIT member in will carry the rope bag. If the RIT is performing large area searches, the first RIT member (usually the officer) will carry the rope bag.
These are very basic and simple tools you can use for RIT operations. But as you train more and more with these basic tools, you will see ways to improve the skills of your RIT. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what you have. Attend as many training schools and sessions as you can. If your chief won’t pay for it, you should! You have to give something to get something in return; that something is your life or your fellow firefighter’s life. You can learn different ways to improve your RIT toolbox from all the training sessions you attend at your fire station and elsewhere.
As time goes on and your department keeps challenging your RIT, you will need to add to your toolbox. I hope at that point your chief recognizes your skills and the need for rapid intervention on the fireground.
The Concord Township (OH) Fire Department has been very fortunate because our department chief is very progressive and sees and understands the need for rapid intervention. He has also taken the time to watch and train with us to learn what it takes to operate a RIT, and he knows that an effective team needs more than two firefighters to function. Our chief has allowed us to purchase new equipment and train with it; he has allowed several of our members to participate in training sessions around the tri-state area.
But, it has taken us a long time to get to this point. We trained on and used some real basic techniques with basic tools that we carry. Every week, our members train on some sort of RIT or survival technique.
Fire departments don’t have to spend a lot of money to establish RITs on the fireground. You already have the people and the basic tools to get your brothers and sisters out. If you don’t, then your department needs to adjust how many engines and trucks respond to building fires within your community or start automatic aid from neighboring departments that can assist you in rapid intervention on your fireground. There are ways to accomplish this needed protection. It’s not rocket science-it’s called “taking responsibility.” ■
RON TERRIACO is captain of the B shift and a training officer with the Concord Township (OH) Fire Department, with which he has spent 16 of his 21 years in the career fire service. He is in the second year of the three-year Ohio Fire Chiefs Association-Ohio Fire Executive program. He is a certified fire investigator, a fire inspector, a haz mat technician, an EMT-I, and a fire instructor.