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I’ve got one for the group…utilizing a 2 person medic as the initial rapid intervention team. 

I will admit right up front, I used to do this when I was the chief of a small 2 station department about 15 years ago, when suburban rapid intervention operating guidelines were just starting to be developed.  As a matter of fact, at the time we designed ambulances that carried saws, search ropes, extra SCBAs, a variety of hand tools, and thermal imagers.  I have learned a lot since then, and unfortunately have been faced with the realities of RIT and firefighter rescue and survival.  Based on my experiences, and a lot of trial and error, I do not believe that assigning the first due medic as the IRIT does anything more than meet the 2-in-2-out requirement.  My concern is, have these departments thought this through?  Are they considering the realities of rapid intervention, and managing the mayday?  Here are my concerns:

  1. More times than not, newer members are assigned to ride ambulances.  I know in our system, we could have a one year guy and a 2 year guy assigned to the medic.  Are these less experienced members experienced enough to attempt a rescue of more senior members?
  2. Most ambulances that I know of, don’t have an officer as part of the staffing.  My experiences are that successful firefighter rescue operations are as much about strategic thinking and controlling communications as they are about performing actual tasks.  If a two person IRIT, consisting of two members at the rank of firefighter, who is in charge?  Who makes the call inside to stay in and push on, or pull out an re-group?  This same question should be asked when an ambulance crew is assigned to search.
  3. Is the medic crew as familiar with the tools and equipment as they should be, seeing they may not be carried on their rig?

I am curious what the mind-set is of those out there that subscribe to this practice.  I have had a few of my guys over the years try and convince me that this is the way to go.  I am “now” a firm believer that at an absolute minimum, the initial rapid intervention team should consist of a three person fire suppression, truck, or rescue company, and a rescue chief.  I also believe that the rapid intervention, or the on-deck crews, need to be beefed up as soon as possible.  Our one alarm assignment always includes an assignable crew in addition to the IRIT and rescue chief.  When the assignable crew is put to work, it is time to go to the next greater alarm. 

On a one alarm, our second-in fire suppression company assumes the firefighter safety position.  They pull a line and assume IRIT.  If a back-up line is requested, or by default mandates a back-up line (multi-stories), the firefighter safety crew goes to work with the back-up line, and the third due is assigned IRIT.  Taking into consideration that “most” maydays occur within the first 28 minutes of an incident, should assigning a less qualified IRIT be assigned to meet the 2-in-2-out mandates, or should a response be built around getting a more qualified company in RIT, with a chief officer to supervise if need be?

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