There appears to be a current trend for Incident Commanders to keep their RIT/FAST team standing in the front yard like a piece of ugly lawn art. Most firefighters have an inherent nature and work ethic that is not conducive to standing in front of the building, and watching everyone else work. All of us know the feeling that occurs when responding to a confirmed fire. You are struggling to listen to the radio, adrenaline flows, you from a loose game plan….building layout…..type of building. As you pull out of your first due response area continuing towards the fire, you hear over the department radio, “Ladder XX, you are responding as the RIT team!”
The members in the rig immediately feel “deflated”. In addition, groans and sighs immediately follow the transmission, and typically members will again start talking about ESPN or dinner plans. This is very common in today’s fire service, as these highly motivated firefighters feel that they will most likely be standing in the front yard. The “deflation” is a very dangerous condition and may be considered one of the rawest forms of complacency. Why not give these firefighters active tasks that correspond with their RIT assignment, and improve the safety of members operating on the interior? These tasks will be completed on the exterior of the building, and still allow the RIT team to remain available in case needed.
Of course there are members of “management” who will resist this or similar operations. Those individuals will most likely hide behind the word, “freelancing”. In reality, the RIT team is not freelancing. They have been given assigned tasks and locations by their officer and are conducting those tasks to PREVENT a “mayday” situation. In fact, they are proactively starting or accomplishing their job! In the event of a “mayday” transmission, the RIT team members will return to the designated RIT area (where they would have been standing), and deploy to assist the stricken member(s).
A RIT company arrives to a fire in a single family or small apartment building. Upon arrival, the company officer locates the incident commander to confirm his arrival, and gather a briefing on the incident. The officer may even perform a quick 360 degree walk-around while the firefighters gather equipment and transport it to the designated RIT area. Upon the officer’s return, he/she may assign them to tasks that will aid the RIT team in case they are activated for a downed firefighter. These tasks WILL NOT include suppression operations, and will be conducted on the exterior of the building.
- Perform forcible entry on rear and side doors
- Remove window bars
- Placing portable ladders under sills of upper floor windows.
- Clear out sashes of windows taken by interior companies
ALL tasks mentioned above provide egress for members operating within the building. ALL tasks mentioned above provide access for the RIT team, in the event the RIT team is activated. Finally, many of the aforementioned tasks can be accomplished in a few minutes, and usually with little exertion by the RIT team.
Proactive RIT operations may be modified to various building types. In the event of a fire in a multiple dwelling/apartment building, the RIT team may add a lower floor reconnaissance to their list of possibilities. This will provide a layout of the fire apartment above. A radio transmission stating, “I am trapped in a rear bedroom” will no longer leave guesswork to the RIT team that is going to get the stricken member. Those members now know that they enter the apartment door, move down a hallway passing two doorways (a bathroom and a closet) and will then enter the third doorway to the bedroom. If an exterior route is chosen, they will know which windows to start placing ladders. If a fire occurs within a warehouse or other large commercial building, the RIT team may be utilizing search ropes or a LAST (Large Area Search Team) to rescue the stricken member. The RIT team may proactively look for objects to secure the rope, points of entry, etc…
Possible Obstacle and/or ProblemThe proactive RIT assignments that are discussed above are all completed while in direct communication of the RIT officer. At any time, RIT team members performing proactive tasks can drop what they are doing and report to the RIT staging area for deployment. The proactive RIT concept is not an excuse to “freelance”. If a team has a plan of attack, known assignments and are being supervised by their officer (either directly or via radio), it is not considered freelancing.
Advantages of Proactive FAST/RIT Operations
One advantage of the proactive RIT team lies in the fact that there will be a crew operating on the exterior of a fire building constantly performing a size-up and providing feedback to the RIT officer and the incident commander. While crews perform this size-up, they are gathering information on building construction, smoke conditions, fire travel and the progress and location of crews operating within the building. This information may allow crews to “predict” when and where a problem or “mayday” may occur and plan for those issues. The best “mayday” is one that is resolved before the RIT team is in operation.
Imagine a ladder company operating on the floor above the fire. A charged line is aggressively being advanced in the fire apartment and things appear normal. The ladder company above is conducting searches and opening up to check for fire extension. Suddenly, conditions change and the crew cannot exit from the entry point that they used. Conditions worsen, heat continues to increase rapidly while smoke banks down, and “maydays” are transmitted as they work their way to the rear bedroom window. Seconds later, the RIT team, (deploying to assist the stricken members) round the corner into the rear yard. They witness two members descending the ladder and the last member, an officer, stepping out of the window and onto the portable ladder. Over his head, heavy black, velvety, churning smoke is pushing under pressure from the window. The room lights up as the officer descends the ladder. The officer notifies the incident commander that all of his members are accounted for in the rear yard, and that his “mayday” can be cancelled.
This tragedy was averted because of proactive RIT/FAST team operations. Minutes before, the RIT team had placed portable ladders to several windows in the rear of the building. In the above case, the members on the floor above would have most likely resulted to jumping from the upper floor windows, unable to await the assistance of the RIT team. Proactive RIT/FAST operations turned a tragedy into a mere “close-call”.
Brotherhood Instructors, LLC. believes in “Proactive RIT/FAST Operations. If you are interested in the concept, or would like to host a class centered on this topic, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, feel free to add comments or questions to the article. We appreciate your feedback, and your continued interest.
Dusty joined the Appleton City Volunteer Fire Dept (Appleton City, MO) in 1996, In 1998 he started as a part-time firefighter with the West Peculiar Fire Protection District(Peculiar, MO) Dusty was hired as a full-time firefighter with the Southern Platte Fire Protection District(Parkville, MO) in 1999 and later in 1999 left South Platte when he was hired by the Kansas City Fire Department(Kansas City, MO) In 2001 Dusty transferred to a rescue company and is currently assigned to Rescue 31 where he has been since 2005. Dusty also serves as in Instructor for the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute.