RIT Best Practices

Issue 6 and Volume 7.

Many departments spend quite a bit of time on rapid intervention team (RIT) training. And fire service websites and magazines contain a lot of information on all the tools and techniques that go along with RIT operations.

This month’s Quick Drill is in a slightly different format than you may be used to seeing here; it’s more of a list of RIT “best practices” that you can review with your crew, discussing which practices will fit with your operations and hopefully expanding your training ideas.

One note of caution: With the size and diversity of the American fire service, there are a lot of ways to get the job done. One standard operating procedure or guideline (SOP/SOG) can’t work for all of us, especially for a complex topic like rapid intervention. The other complicating factor with rapid intervention: It requires a lot of different skills and operations with ropes, ladders, SCBA and a host of techniques like the Denver Drill or ladder bailout. This best-practice outline should not be considered all-inclusive because of the diverse nature of the operations and the departments that may use it.

The List

  • RIT is a critical fireground function. It should be established either by clear guidelines that are based on the need of the operation or by the incident commander (IC) as early in the operations as staffing allows.
  • The company (or companies) assigned to the RIT function should report to the IC in full PPE with a thermal imaging camera, prepared to go into action.
  • After being briefed by the IC on the needs of the incident, the RIT officer should complete a 360-degree survey of the incident, noting smoke and fire conditions, potential areas of extension, hazards such as burglar bars, the need for additional ground ladders for secondary means of egress, and the locations of companies that are engaged in the firefight.
  • While the RIT officer is completing the 360-degree assessment, the other crewmembers should be deploying the RIT bag and beginning to assemble tools and equipment based on the needs of the incident. A big box-style commercial structure may require a slightly different tool cache than a one-story frame home.
  • RIT tools must include tools that help the team rescue a downed firefighter, not just tools that provide additional fire suppression capability.
  • All tools and equipment that have been staged for RIT should be off limits to other crews operating at the fire. At the same time, tools assembled for possible rapid intervention use shouldn’t be taken from the first-arriving ladder or engine company, as this could slow down the suppression efforts of those first-arriving units.
  • After completing the 360-degree survey of the fire building, the RIT officer should provide a Conditions-Action-Needs (CAN) report to the IC, including the need for additional RITs. The officer should then brief the crew on needs and possible hazards that were found in the 360-degree survey.
  • The IC should consider the need for additional RIT teams, especially during complex operations or when operating at large commercial or multi-family structures, such as apartment buildings, where the reaction times of the RIT may be slowed due to the distance required to reach the downed firefighter.
  • The RIT should be allowed to “soften the building” by forcing locked exterior doors, placing ground ladders for a secondary means of egress on all sides and above-grade floors of the building, and removing burglar bars from exterior windows.
  • The RIT should be in contact with the IC at all times and ready for deployment.
  • The RIT should continuously develop a size-up of conditions and needs of the incident, focusing on where fire crews are operating and the potential hazards that might exist.

Although the above list doesn’t include every RIT best practice, it should help you to start a discussion in your own department about your rapid intervention capability and SOPs—which will in turn lead to additional best practices for the list.

2 Quick RIT Drills
Drill 1: Equipment Review
Location: Apparatus bay floor.
Equipment: Your department RIT bag. Note: Each department’s RIT bag will hold different equipment. Adjust the drill to meet your needs.

  • Remove the emergency air supply and review the procedure for supplying air to a downed firefighter.
  • Review the use of search ropes and how they would be used during RIT operations. Ask each member to demonstrate creating an anchor point for a search line.
  • Ask each member to demonstrate how to use a pair of vise grips to prevent an overhead door from falling.

Drill 2: RIT Scenarios
Location: Apparatus bay floor.
Equipment: Fully loaded fire apparatus and associated RIT equipment.

  • Select several photos from past issues of FireRescue or photos of structures in your response area. Use the photos as examples of the types of scenarios and buildings the RIT team should be prepared for.
  • Using equipment from the apparatus, have the fire crew lay out the needed equipment based on the photo you have chosen.
  • Review with the crew all the tools and where they would be used during a RIT deployment. Repeat the process for other photos.

Note: This drill will also let you evaluate members’ knowledge of where equipment is stored on the apparatus.