To me it's simple, train hard to stay out of trouble, but be prepared when trouble happens anyway! Regardless of what you may read or believe, Rapid Intervention training is still important and relevant, for the team, for the crew, for the individual (remember, you are your partner's first RIT rescuer).
To help me make this point, I have asked a man that I respect more than words (or cartoons) could ever express.
Chief Jim Crawford knows all too well what it's like to face the realities of things going bad on a fire ground.
Chief Crawford, the floor is yours...
All the King’s Men and all the King’s Horses
I believe the question being asked here is if, “All the King’s Men and all the King’s Horses”, or otherwise us, the firefighters, are trained to handle or capable of handling any event that would require us to save one of our own BEFORE the event happens. Because after the egg falls off the wall it’s too late to learn how to keep it from breaking.
Presume if you will that Humpty Dumpty was a firefighter trapped in a burning building and they transmit their Mayday. How many of us are well trained, confident, and proficient in firefighter rescue skills that we could intervene successfully and eliminate the threat to our firefighters in this smoke and heat environment? Remember that when a Mayday is transmitted, there is a clock that starts that will not stop until the trapped firefighter is completely removed from the building. Depending on their injuries after the removal we must also have to deal with the golden hour of trauma care to ensure that we completely bring them home. Having medical transport such as ambulances or medivac helicopters waiting on scene before the removal is extremely important not to mention a clear path to these vehicles from the removal point.
When a firefighter is “falling off the wall” per se and in imminent danger of severe injury or death within a structure, that is not the time to be figuring out how to perform firefighter rescue techniques. The time to prepare for proficiency is now while we all have a chance to learn the skills and get confident in their deployment before we would have to use them. My experience with firefighter line of duty events is that when it happens it hits you in the face like a brick. The first thought is disbelief in the event. The next thought is what am I going to do? It is at this point that you will want to rely on muscle memory grabbing all of the firefighter rescue skills that you have learned and practiced throughout your fire service career. This, and your skilled crew, will be what makes the difference between life and death for our brother or sister.
Another area of concern that must be learned is that of firefighter down cardiac arrest skills. All of us need to know the rapid procedures to remove the turnout gear and SCBA off of a firefighter in cardiac arrest so that effective compressions can be delivered, whether after being removed from the building or from a sudden cardiac event on the exterior of the building. Knowing all of these skills will better prepare ourselves to increase the chances of survival for firefighters in distress.
I know Paul pretty well and I don’t know where he keeps coming up with this material but I’m glad he does. It continues to keep us thinking, learning, and pushing ourselves to be the best at a job that will kill you as quick as you can blink an eye. At the least it makes us say that “he has a point” which could nudge one of us to do the right thing.
Remember, at three in the morning when a firefighter goes down in a building, the town Mayor is not coming in to get you, nor the police chief, or council members. What you see is what you get, the firefighters on that fireground. We are responsible for rescuing our own at every single fire. If we aren’t prepared and trained to do that, shame on us. We have to be the experts in firefighter rescue. Remember, no one is coming in for us, but us…
James K. Crawford
Assistant Fire Chief
Midway Fire Rescue
Pawleys Island, SC
(Assistant Chief, Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire, Ret)