This is a story about two types of Rapid Intervention Teams. The Stagnant RIT, and the Progressive RIT. A RIT or Rapid Intervention Team is a group of firefighters who are organized together to rapidly intervene if a firefighter, or crew of firefighters need help on the fire ground. Think of it like this, RIT is the insurance policy for every person on the fire scene. This team keeps special tools and equipment together, so if there is a MAYDAY where a firefighter gets trapped, then this dedicated team will be there to rescue them. There is nothing wrong about having a RIT in place on the fire scene, however there is something wrong with how today’s RIT functions. This article will focus on these two types of RIT’s and shed some light on the current guidelines in which both function.
Currently in many fire departments around the country, firefighters are expected to do more on the fire ground with fewer personnel. Two or three firefighters staffed on one apparatus can be a common occurrence in many departments. The days of four to five members on a rig are slowly becoming less of a reality and more of a hypothetical ideal. The problem of lesser staffed trucks spills out onto the fire scene. With less personnel reporting to a scene, the RIT tends to struggle in being of service to those inside fighting fire. When the RIT is formed on a working incident this team can go one of two ways.
The first chapter of the tale talk’s about The Stagnant RIT. This is a team who sets up on the Alpha side of the structure and starts to build its equipment list from a piece of paper. This team is formed from multiple firemen who stand watching and waiting for something to happen. This team’s only focus and goal on a fire scene is to be there to rescue down or trapped firefighters. A Stagnant RIT is just as it sounds, stagnant. This team does not move from the front lawn to do neither a size up, nor a 360 of the structure. This team watches other firefighters struggle to pull hose inside and stands there watching the fire take over, until everyone is drawn out due to the conditions of the building. A Stagnant RIT does not make friends on the fire ground. It shows others that we have one job and we do not do anything else. For some firefighters the stagnant RIT works great for them. Set up time is short and "Warm, Clean, and Dry" is their motto. The only task they are reminded of is clearing their mask of fog with the same air they started with. In today’s fire service with the saying “do more with less”, this tale will not work.
The second chapter of this tale is The Progressive RIT. The Progressive RIT is a team who arrives on the fire ground engaging in the actions of other firefighters. This is a team who gathers intel about the structure. The Progressive RIT completes a full walk around all of the structure with the entire team. Each team member sizes up the structure adequately, while reading the conditions of the smoke and fire. This group of firefighters is skillfully knowledgeable in fire ground operations. The team knows what specific tools are needed for that structure fire and is constantly moving around the scene but not freelancing. This team does not get discouraged when the RIT assignment is given to them. See the difference between the two is; The Progressive RIT has multiple goals on the fire ground. Firefighter safety is first and foremost, but The Progressive RIT knows that if the team can aid in the first lines through the door, pull hose, make a secondary means of egress, help throw ladders for the truck company, then the over goal of firefighter safety is achieved when the fire is extinguished quickly. The Progressive RIT does not allow the other fire crews to become overwhelmed with the daunting tasks of a minimal staffing fire scene.
The fire service RIT can go either two ways in your fire department. Today’s fire service is constantly getting tested with man power problems. The fire scene is one where manpower should never be put on the back burner. Safety is a must, but second is life and property. A RIT should never fall into autopilot mode and become stagnant. This tale of two RIT’s can be a growing problem in our fire service, so I leave you with a great quote from Chief David Rhodes: “Lay down thy hooks ye yard Sheppard’s and pull some hose!”