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It strikes me as being rather odd that we have all come to agree that a RIT activation requires significant resources and by in large most of us are behind the "8" ball when it comes to staffing levels to begin with, yet most agencies wait until units arrive on scene of an incident and declare it a "working" fire before they add at least one additional company to account for RIT responsibilities. Time and time again we have seen that the majority of Mayday calls come early in an incident (perhaps even before that RIT company has even been dispatched). The final thing that confuses me about this situation is that since I got into the fire service it has been preached to me that it is better to call for too many resources and have to turn them around if they aren't needed than to wait until you actually need them and then you have to play the waiting game. If anyone can help make sense of this for me I would be greatful.

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The way I look at things is that we cannot rely on a certain company to act as RIT. Everyone on the fireground has to be ready to act in the capacity of a RIT company at any given time, more times than not the firefighters who transmit a mayday are found by others operating in their vicinity. RIT, RIC, FAST or whatever you want to call it still has not been fully grasped by many folks around the country and it is sad to say that it is going to take a death of one of their members to realize that they need to have some sort of system or training in place to deal with these types of situations with or without an operating RIT on scene.

Yes, staffing levels are thin all across the country and that is why it takes guys like you and everyone else reading this to stay ahead of this stuff and train on different scenarios using the folks that you are going to get on an initial assignment. Even single company training will get you much further than those who are putting in NO training.

Unfortunately the people that pay the fuel bills and dictate what is done are often so far removed from the front line that they do not realize the difference a few seconds can make. I am lucky to be on a volunteer department where the Chief and us other officers are on most of the fire scenes and we understand the need for safety and manpower.
It was before my time but, at one time our dept. only had two air packs. So the first crew in would not wear them so that a safety team ( now called RIT) could use the air packs to get the first crew out if something happened to them. Our dept. started in 1975 so I am sure this was sometime around then. But it adds a bit of proof that we have known for many years that there needs to be one group who's main concern is rescueing other firefighters, it is not a NEW concept, it is the same old thing we have always needed to do it just got a new name.
Great post Kelby,

I believe a lot of departments suffer from the same old adage: "several hundred years of service unimpeded by change". As firefighters and leaders we must put the pride and ego that says "we got it we don't need any help" down and realize what we need BEFORE we need it. That starts with leadership, from the company officer to the chief of department. I believe you will see some significant changes in how we do RIT at SMFR over the next year. Your statements are indeed right on the mark. Often times the managers over us on line have a difficult time understanding the magnitude of a downed or trapped firefighter, quite frankly because they have never experienced it or been to FDIC and had to pull someone like Kirschke out of a basement.

Great post K!

Isn't it funny that no matter how large or small your department, staffing is always an issue.
In my previous department all fire incidents included a company for R.I.T. in the initial dispatch. In my present department though, if we are fortunate enough to know at the time of dispatch that it is actually a fire, then the B/C will call for a mutual aid company to fill in as R.I.T. Otherwise if we find it to be a working incident upon arrival then a first due company will be assigned R.I.T., and some other functions will just be held back or done as best as possible until mutual aid arrives. We believe that our safety is paramount, and that mind set has to be incorporated into the very first training that a new member receives. It is vital that we teach our young guys how not to ever need a R.I.T. response. Train them not to become a victim, but that is a whole other topic for discussion.
The old adage of calling for more than you may need is still valid. It would be a serious mistake if any of us think that we can handle anything that may occur. It is important that the incident commander always be aware of what resources are available to him at any given time of day or night, whether they be internal or external resources. I hope something of this helps.
Fraternally, Joe

We live with a lot of bad habbits in the fire service, the points you address being some. I have learned that we embrace change at the slowest level of all we do but at the biggest cost for the lack of. The lack of training by the top brass and empowering individuals with the ranks of an officer who are not qualified is one of the costs we suffer. This inturn causes a domino effect on the department operations and standards because the education to see the need for change is not there. In my area, change is moving a little faster with the "change" of the older Officers and Chiefs with the younger candadates trained in todays position specific requirements. My Dept. has a Highly Trained FAST Team and a mutual contract with two surounding towns that has worked very well in making sure that a FAST response for every working fire(visible fire or heavy smoke condition ) is called at the time of dispatch. This is reviewed every three years and signed by the Chiefs as well as the town fathers. We have embraced with opean arms the concept and viability of FAST/RIT operations and what it means to us as firefighters. I have always been a believer in change and as a Captain of a company with a LODD, my trip to the NFFF service in Emmitsburg Maryland and seeing the pain of 100+ families receive an American Flag and Red Rose, made that belief even stronger. A place where the non believers of change should go and ASK THEMSELVES, WHY HAVE I WAITED SO LONG ?

STAY SAFE !! Dennis
Im from a small dept in New Jersey and we too have a very well trained and knowledgeable RIT team. My dept is one of the 3 teams that is affiliated with Capt Sampson's. My team also responds to several other towns in the area on the reciept of a "working fire". Some of those towns RIT is sorta, but not fully understood by all members and chiefs involved, but its getting better. The one thing we noticed when we first started expanding out to other towns is our level of comfort at fire scenes "the sore thumb effect". At first most members just see you as a neighboring town on their turf. Then the more you go, the more they understand what your purpose is. One major thing we found out is ,you have to posses SOG's on you RIT operations at a fire ,as well as meeting annualy with the leaders of the Depts you will be serving. This is to inform them of your operations, so it is not mistaken for freelancing.They have to understand that your not thier to take the 20 minutes of fame away from anyone. We are soley there for their protection, a second set of eyes. It all falls down to the BRASS of the dept's to educate their members and themselves of the RIT concept and what its for and when to call for it. Calling a RIT team 5,10,15 minutes into a fire does nothing for your members who are operating in ,on or around the fire building. It should be automatic on any possible structure fire. When your dept is dispatched so are your RIT teams. Most Mayday incidents happen within the first 10 minutes or so. One thing that causes the disbelief in the concept is that most of us in this trade have a severe mindset that nothing will ever happen to them, not in my town, its only Union Beach this is'nt NYC. What I always tell myself and my men is its not if it will happen, its when. The departments in the area are making great strides in advancement of the concept and each year seems to get a little more accepted. Why anyone would'nt want their guys protected to the fullest is beyond me but some things will never change. Not to get off the subject but think or take a look around at your next job how many members do you see wearing hoods, chinstaps,even their gear properly at a fire. Then see how many of them are Sr members or officers, you know the ones the younger guys model themsleves off of. If they wont grasp the concept of personal safety ,will they ever grasp safety of their personell.
Your last two sentences say it all! Anyone who has had the privilege of taking any of the FDIC RIT courses by John Salka, the guys from Rapid Intervention Associates or any of the other programs knows that it will take a minimum of three teams to affect the rescue of a downed, unconscious firefighter from the basement of a single family dwelling, without entrapment. That is the best case scenario from my experience. Having a RIT group on-scene of greater (multiple) alarm incidents is critical to our safety! When command staff believes that a RIT team of three firefighters is sufficient for a multiple alarm multiple family dwelling we have serious deficiencies in leadership as well as strategy and tactics at that level.

So here's my question...How do we create a balance that command staff can live with AND that is sufficient for when we need RIT, not AFTER we need RIT?

The County I am in is not up to times. I have been on the Vol. Fire Dept. for 13 years and we just did are first RIT class. Are Dept has 8 FF's that are trainined out of the 20 members we have. There are 9 depts in are county and i know that 2 other depts have RIT Trainied 1 of them has 2 members and the other dept has 3 members. RIT is not activated in are county due to know body using it. I am a beliver in mutal aid and safety of all members. I am currently in the process of speaking with are head dispatcher about issuses, with safety of are FF's since we have a central dispatch the boys in "BROWN" come before anyone. But back to the topic I think RIT needs to be activated on any strcture fire confirmed or not confirmed.
Several years ago, we sat at a staff meeting discussing the whole RIT issue. Our SOP at the time called for an ambulance to be the RIT. We never followed the policy because we thought that it was a joke. However, the Ops Chief at the time said we had a policy and we should follow it. The discussion moved toward the ineffectiveness of the current policy. My point was we should address RIT in the best way we could and embark upon a renewed training program and rededicated to the RIT concept. This was early in the days of firefighter survival training, the Illinois Fire Service Institute had recently developed the Saving Our Own program and the timing was right. We made significant changes to our RIT policy and it has worked very well for us. We followed-up with several months of firefighter survival and RIT company training.

Our RIT is activated automatically whenever a still company arrives with smoke showing. Additionally, when dispatch recieves multiple call or at the discretion of the responding Battalion Chief. A second truck company is dispatched and pairs-up with the second due ambulance company (croos-rtrained Firefighter/Paramedics). The Rit officer reports to the IC while RIT members gather tools and equipment and change over to one hour bottles. Our RIT companies do not sit by the IC, they are working on the exterior addressing issues of access and egress, ladders etc.....

The "smoke showing" trigger has worked well for us combined with Batt. Chief discretion.
Thanks Chief. The trigger may just be something that our department could buy into as well. I appreciate the input.
It sounds like you are ready to take the bull by the horns on this issue. Realistically it sounds to me as though your department is ahead of my volunteer department of over 100 members. Although we run almost 3000 calls a year and typically only have one engine staffed we still resist establishing better mutual or automatic aid with our surrounding departments. Good luck with your training.

We are required by SOP's to have a RIT team dedicated on every working fire. I cannot tell you the last time that we actually did, at least on my shift. I have heard our Shift Commander say during critiques that " We got things knocked down so fast there just wasn't time" multiple times in the past few months. Manpower for us is really not a large issue. We have 25 firefighters on duty at all times (5 FF's on each of the 5 companies) and send 3 companies to every reported single family residential alarm and 4 to every multi family or commercial alarm. If it is a working incident, an additional comapny is sent.

We recently had a large detached garage fire that was fully involved on arrival with partial collapse of 2 walls - no RIT was assigned because "It was a defensive operation" Now I've heard everything.

RIT should be accounted for on the first alarm assignment. Regardless of your department size or status, make whatever arrangements you need to make to not only put enough people on the fireground early to actually accomplish something, but expand the response to have a fully equipped and trained RIT team there and ready to go. If this means mutual aid or automatic aid, so be it.


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