BY DON FRANK
When a firefighter is trap– ped in a working fire, regardless of whether it is a residence, a taxpayer, or an office building, that is not the time to come up with a plan for getting that person air until he is rescued. The ability to provide some type of air supply to the victim in minutes will determine if the incident will be a rescue or a recovery.
When with the Robins Air Force Base Fire Department in Georgia, Lieutenant Rick Hypes and I developed an inexpensive a rapid intervention team (RIT) bag. The bag holds a modified SCBA backpack frame; a one-hour cylinder; a regulator with a hand strap; and a hose coil strap, which holds a five-foot hose that hooks into the regulator of the trapped firefighter’s SCBA (photo 1).
Also attached is a bag with a face mask and short pigtail adapters that would be hooked into the hoses of an air cart. Using an air cart would provide an unlimited supply of air to a trapped firefighter if he could not be removed immediately.
Another way to give air to someone not wearing an SCBA is simply to disconnect the regulator unit from an SCBA cylinder, place the mask on the person, and connect to the five-foot hose of the RIT unit or from the air cart unit with the pigtail adapter (photos 2, 3).
The Robins Air Force Base Fire Department carries one RIT bag on the rescue truck and another in the assistant chief’s vehicle. In addition to the equipment listed above, the RIT bag inventory could include SCBA thread adapters for different manufacturers’ SCBA bottles, doorstops, wire cutters, flashlights, and so on-anything to help sustain a life until that person can be rescued from a toxic, high-heat, or oxygen-deficient atmosphere.
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Practice using the RIT bag with your personnel so it becomes second nature to them. I hope you will never have to use this equipment to save a fellow firefighter, but we can never assume that “it will never happen to us.” ■
■ DON FRANK is a 27-year veteran of the fire service and a firefighter with the Defense Distribution Depot San Joaquin California (DDJC) Fire Department of the Defense Logistics Agency in Tracy, California. He has served as a rescue firefighter with the Robins Air Force Base Fire Department in Georgia and the Springlake (CA) Fire Protection District. Frank is an instructor in all phases of aircraft emergency operations and firefighting, confined space, high-angle rescue, and building collapse operations. A nationally certified fire instructor III, Frank holds fire officer certifications from California and the U.S. Department of Defense.