If you’ve been in the fire service for any length of time you should have heard the mnemonics RIT, RIC, or FAST mentioned in formal class trainings, local firehouse trainings, or through self-study. Although those three mnemonics are all different, this doesn’t change the fact that they all carry the same purpose and that’s rescuing one of our own if the need arises. They stand for Rapid Intervention Team (RIT), Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC), and Firefighter Assist and Search Team (FAST). I will be referring to RIT throughout the rest of this article.
Regardless of what your department calls it, you should have a Standard Operating Procedure on this operation and the IC should put it in place on all structure fires as soon as staffing numbers allow them to do so. There is no “perfect” number for these teams as studies have proven. The demographics and sizes of our departments are all different which means my department may only be able to designate 2-4 firefighters (1 RIT Team) on a working structure fire and your department may have the capabilities to set-up 2-3 RIT Teams that consist of 2-4 firefighters. Obviously this number will be dictated by the size of the incident, the number of firefighters actively in the structure working, the numbers of firefighters on scene, and more. Just remember the American Fire Service is very diverse and there are a lot of different ways of doing things.
I have been on structure fires numerous times and been assigned to RIT. Although this isn’t the most fun task on the fire ground, I believe that one should be proud to fill this position. If you’re assigned to this task that means the Incident Commander has enough trust and faith in you to get one of us out if that emergency happens to arise. What I don’t like, however, is when I see firefighter’s that are assigned to RIT standing around in the front yard, all in one place, tools on the ground and not in their hands, bottles turned off, and masks’ hanging down by their bodies. This isn’t how RIT Teams should be set-up and preparing for entry. These firefighters should be fully prepared to make entry as soon as the IC calls them to action; they should literally have to reach down, grab their regulator, and click in to their mask to go on air. So why do so many fire departments complain that their RIT Teams aren’t doing this and why are they putting up with it? That needs to change IMMEDIATELY. It would be a sick feeling as a firefighter to get caught in an emergency situation and get to a window without a ladder thrown to it. It would be a sick feeling as a firefighter in an emergency to call a MAYDAY and it take the RIT Team a few minutes to “finish getting ready”. It would be a sick feeling that NO FIREFIGHTER should have to feel.
Let’s talk about some things that RIT Teams can do besides just stand in the yard and take up front row views and prime real estate.
RIT TEAMS CAN AND SHOULD PERFORM FUNCTIONS SUCH AS:
• Throw Ground Ladders
• Locate Doors/Windows (Means of Egress)
• Perform 360’s
• Gather Their Own Scene Size-Ups and Continuously Monitor Fire Conditions
• Note Special Building Construction Features (No Means of Egress, Security Bars)
• Note Where Firefighters Are Operating Inside The Structure
• Soften The Structure (Force Doors, Remove Burglar Bars, Take Locks)
• Put RIT Team Tools In A Designated Area (ONLY FOR THE RIT TEAMS USE)
• Stage At Different Corners of the Structure (View All Sides of the Structure)
I’ve had people come to me and say, “RIT Team members should not be throwing ladders or performing other physical task that could make them tired and in turn make them worthless in the case a true RIT situation arose.” I tell them all that if their firefighters can’t throw a couple ground ladders on their own or force a door or two without being gassed out for RIT Operations then they don’t need to be on the RIT Team in the first place. This sounds harsh, but the truth is the truth. We have to be prepared before the alarm sounds and physical fitness is a part of preparation.
RIT TEAM TOOLS:
• Married Irons
• Prying Tools
• Thermal Imaging Camera
• RIT Pack/Bag (Some Way of Getting Alternate Air Supply to Downed FF)
• Rope Bags
• Small Hand Tools
These tools are not all mandatory but should give you a good list of tools to start from. This is all dictated by how many members are on the team and what they can effectively carry with them to carry out their RIT duties; training is where you will get a good feel of what works for you and your department. When the team is in place each member should have a role on the team such as: RIT Officer or Group Supervisor, Air Supply FF, Search/Rescue FF’s, etc. The RIT Officer has a very demanding job and will have a proactive role in the leadership responsibilities of the team. The other firefighters should know their part of the team and be well versed in it (this should take place in training or on shift before the incident takes place). Members of a RIT Team should be well versed in firefighter survival techniques, pack conversions, ropes, knots, tool handling, ladders carries and throws, and more.
QUICK RIT DRILLS FOR YOU AND YOUR CREW:
• One Man Ladder Carries/Throws
• Firefighter SCBA Pack Conversions
• Webbing Uses/Harnesses (FF Drags)
• Various FF Drags/Carries
• Knot Familiarization
• Forcible Entry Training/Props
• Denver Drill
• Nance Drill
There is only one way to hone your skills in RIT, RIC and FAST and that is getting out on the training ground or in the engine bay and training on all these tactics. You should make the training as real and lifelike as possible to ensure you’re preparing yourself and team for the real world experiences you will encounter on the fire ground. You should train with a diligence and purpose as if you and your fellow brothers’ lives depend on it, because after all, IT DOES!