BY ROBERT CHILDS
Since the advent of rapid intervention as a firefighter survival tool, many fire departments have taken a proactive approach in their continual preparation and training of rapid invention teams (RITs). Although the tools are a vital necessity for any RIT, it is breathing clean air that will keep you, and the downed firefighter, alive until these tools help you effectively remove the member from the hazardous environment. The Cherry Hill (NJ) Fire Department operates an on-site breathing apparatus repair shop.
(1) The RIT bag and its contents. (Photos by Chris Dollarton.)
When approached about the possibility of developing a rapid intervention team bag (RIT bag), members of my department decided to take older, surplus SCBAs slated for the auction block and strip them down to just the cylinder and harness assembly. We felt that we could add some additional equipment to complement the SCBA component section of the bag. We added a spare mask and face piece regulator to replace damaged parts and a six-foot air line to clip into a low air pack. These items were all put together for the air section of the RIT bag.
Next, we added a hand tool section to the bag that would address the different entrapment situations encountered, based on published accounts of entrapped firefighters. We placed a pair of lineman’s pliers, wire cable cutters, a utility knife, EMS scissors, and two 12-hour glow sticks in the tool section. We felt these tools would be best suited to provide RIT members with the ability to cut and remove wires, cables, clothing, and harness straps and any other item that would impede the swift removal of the downed member.
The next question was, “Where do we put all of this stuff?” The SCBA shop researched a variety of bags within the fire and EMS industry and came up with an EMS-type bag that, with a few modifications, would suit our needs as a RIT bag. Since the members from our haz mat squad recently had some vinyl covers custom made for their rig, we sat down to draw out what we needed to modify the EMS bag and sent it to the tailor for modification. Holes were cut and stitched on the air cylinder side of the inner compartment to allow the low-pressure airlines from the cylinder to pass through. This became the airline compartment, which also stores the extra face piece regulator.
We also added four reinforced carrying points with tri-links to the top of the bag. They also can be used as points to clip the bag to the downed firefighter’s SCBA harness. Hook-and-loop straps were placed on the top to hold the flashlight. Finally, large key rings were placed on the zippers to enable RIT members to easily grasp and open any section of the bag with ease.
(5) The downed firefighter readied for hauling and all the members of the team. The anchor point can be seen in the background. It was devised using a 36-inch pry bar with some rescue webbing and a carabiner.
Now, we all know that the firefighters of today are lean, mean, firefighting machines. We are all in shape and ready to lift, pull, drag, push, or lower any 200-plus-pound firefighter to safety. We added a rope section component consisting of 90 feet of seven-mm static kernmantle reflective rope, a large locking D carabiner and four aluminum carabiners, two one-inch pulleys, a 25-foot piece of one-inch tubular webbing, and a 6,000-pound adjustable rescue strap that serves as a carry strap and an anchor strap.
If the need arises, a quick-haul system can be prepared to assist our team members who might find it difficult to physically lift, pull, or remove any of our 200-plus-pound members. Finally, we added an intrinsically safe flashlight to the bag-you can never have enough lights.
Although it seems like this bag would weigh a lot, making it difficult to carry to our objective, it weighs only 37 pounds.
As with anything that is introduced for use within the suppression division, the RIT bag had to be approved through our training and safety division, which will develop and distribute a training bulletin to each company describing the bag, its contents, and various uses. Afterward, each company takes the bag through a series of training scenarios to identify and iron out any bugs before the item is distributed and placed in service.
(6) The anchor point is quick and easy to set up.
Remember, this isn’t something to put away until the day it’s actually needed. Training and familiarization with the components should be ongoing. Examine this bag at the start of your shift when you lay out your PPE and check your breathing apparatus. Take the necessary time when you are in the station and go over your rigs and equipment, including the RIT bag and, most importantly, your SCBA.
However, the tools and rescue equipment stored in the RIT bag by no means replace the tools and equipment required for the RIT itself. The RIT bag just adds to the complement of tools that could make the difference in the quick and successful removal of one of our own. ■
■ ROBERT CHILDS is a lieutenant with the Cherry Hill (NJ) Fire Department and a 32-year-veteran of the fire service. He is a New Jersey certified fire instructor II, a fire instructor with the Camden County Fire Training Center, and a member of the state USAR team, New Jersey Task Force One.