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.




As the rapid intervention team (RIT) concept becomes more prevalent and more frequently used by fire departments nationwide, firefighters also look for ways to improve basic RIT operations at the incident scene. Our department has created a RIT bag to improve its RIT deployment.

We use the RIT bag to gather the loose equipment the RIT uses during its operation. Normally, these items are found scattered around the apparatus in different compartments. Searching for these items while also gathering the normal complement of RIT tools (thermal imaging camera, stokes, power saw, spare SCBA, forcible entry tools) can delay the RIT response to the incident scene and its preparations for a possible firefighter rescue.

1 Photos by author.


Our department’s RIT bag is 30 inches long, rectangular, constructed of a heavy-duty black vinyl, and trimmed with reflective tape. The outside of the bag is marked with our department patch, the station number, and the letters “RIT.” A shoulder strap makes it easy to transport (photo 1). It’s similar to the bag many fire departments use to carry their high-rise hose systems.

The RIT bag contains the following:

  • three rope bags (one with 200 feet of search rope and two with 100 feet of search rope);
  • an 8- 2 10-foot yellow vinyl equipment staging tarp stenciled with the letters “RIT” and our station number;
  • a “through the floor rescue” rope bag with 60 feet of 3/8-inch kernmantle rope and two large ladder belt-style carabiners;
  • six personal search ropes;
  • six 20-foot pieces of orange one-inch tubular webbing;
  • two 30-foot pieces of yellow one-inch tubular webbing;
  • 12 orange door latch search markers;
  • one clipboard with a laminated checklist of basic RIT responsibilities and equipment; and
  • a stop watch to time entry teams (photo 2).



Since we also use this equipment bag for large area search (LAS) operations, it is designated the “RIT-LAS Bag” in departmental memos and training bulletins. The laminated checklist on the clipboard includes a LAS chart on the back to track search team members, time on air, and progress reports. Our response district includes a hospital/medical complex, numerous schools, shopping centers, and mid-rise office buildings.



For more than three years, the Burlington County (NJ) Emergency Services Training Center has advocated the use of a RIT bag or a box as part of our RIT training curriculum. More and more area fire departments are finally developing and using their own RIT bag or box, durable heavy-duty nylon gym bags, or plastic storage tubs (photo 3). Our bag and its contents cost approximately $1,000, but it can be made for much less by reusing components already in service or in storage around your department. We bought the bag and its contents separately and developed our own department RIT bag instead of buying a prepackaged one.

The most time-consuming part of developing our RIT bag was finding one of a manageable size that would also carry all of our desired items. We contacted several fire service vendors and received different sample bags, which we tested for size to see if our equipment inventory would fit. The bag we finally selected was 12 inches wide with 10-inch side walls and had an open top with a wide cross strap. It was offered in lengths of 24 inches, which was too short, and 36 inches, which was too long. So we made a prototype bag using cardboard and found that a bag 30 inches long would contain all the items we wanted to carry and still be manageable by one firefighter. The vendor worked with us to create a 30-inch-long bag, which then became the vendor’s standard size RIT bag.

Our department has outfitted one apparatus at each of our three stations with a RIT bag; we have received positive feedback from the firefighters who have used them on RIT assignments. The RIT bag or box should be a standard part of every fire department’s complement of basic RIT equipment.