A rapid intervention team (RIT) must have a thorough knowledge of basic and advanced search procedures to be effective at reaching the downed firefighter quickly. The time saved at reducing the search time can be time used at completing a RIT bag change and extrication if needed. This search knowledge can only be gained through constant training and understanding of search techniques.
Keep in mind that a RIT under normal circumstances will not be using the basic right hand left hand search technique but instead will be using a “go straight for the PASS device” search reducing the time that it takes to reach the downed firefighter. This style of search must always be used in conjunction with a search rope and thermal imaging camera to ensure the safety of the RIT. Along with proficient search operations, a RIT must also be skilled at the use of specialized RIT and rescue equipment.
The Importance of a RIT Bag
RIT members must be proficient at the use of basic hand tools, hydraulic tools, airbags, reciprocating saws, manual jacks, and shoring operations to name a few of the tools that may have to be used in a firefighter extrication.
One of the most commonly overlooked tools to be an expert on is the RIT bag. It enables the RIT to provide an independent air source to the downed firefighter to keep the firefighter breathing until a rescue can be completed. During the 1990s when RIT was becoming a subject of interest and standards were starting to be looked into, there were no RIT bags being produced.
After years of fire department self-made RIT bags, and requests to manufacturers to produce this tool, many vendors started to build their own RIT bag. As technology improved these devices began to take on the form of a mini fill station of sorts inside of the structure.
With the incorporation of the Universal Air Connection (UAC) onto all SCBA manufactured after 2002 in compliance with NFA 1981 (Standard on Open Circuit Self Contained Breathing Apparatus for Fire and Emergency Services), the fire service has the ability to connect any manufacturers RIT bag using the UAC to any other vendor’s SCBA.
This universal air connection was a huge improvement in the standardization of RIT bags and a very important and useful feature at saving firefighters lives. Another concept that is gaining popularity in the use of technology is the ability to make a smaller RIT bag which of course has many advantages.
In 2016, Scott Safety introduced the concept of multiple-sized RIT bags. A small version and a medium sized version called the RIT-Pak™ Fast Attack assists in providing an air source quickly to a downed firefighter, while the largest version called the RIT-Pak III provides more air for longer duration firefighter rescue. All of these RIT bags have different degrees of abilities to fit any fire departments operations.
Looking at Recent RIT Data
A good source of information to help us understand RIT searches is the recent “Mayday Project” conducted by Don Abbott of CERT. Surveys were conducted on 293 maydays to reveal specific statistics regarding mayday occurrences. Some of the highlights of the study identify some interesting and concerning points. Identified in the location/nature of maydays find that 23 percent occurred from a fall/trapped in basement situation. How many RITs practice sub-level firefighter rescue?
The study also asks questions of firefighters who survived a mayday. Some statistics from their responses include:
- 7 percent became worried when hearing who the RIT was
- 37 percent report receiving no instructions
- 31 percent report confusion due to “yelling and screaming” over the radio
- 51 percent report the rescuers didn’t have a plan
RIT communication was also identified in the study as an area that needs improvement. From new electronic technology to operational procedures, communication is nearly always identified as a problem. Another area of concern raised in the mayday project was that 90 percent of the time the mayday occurred to one of the first three companies to arrive on the scene. What type of technology can be developed to correct or assist with this identified occurrence?
With the many changes occurring in the field of RIT technology, all firefighters and fire officers need to keep themselves aware of the new equipment and tactics that are becoming available to us. Having a proficient, safe, and successful rapid intervention team must be our goal and end result.