RIT training prepares for team emergencies

CarolinaFireJournal - By Martha Ball, Communications Specialist at A-B Tech Community College
By Martha Ball, Communications Specialist at A-B Tech Community College
08/04/2013 -

It’s the scenario no firefighter ever wants to face, but it can happen at any fire — the Mayday call from a teammate in trouble. The Buncombe County Fire Chiefs’ Association, in conjunction with A-B Tech Community College’s Emergency Services Division, has created a course to address the issues related to those occupational hazards.

The Regional RIT (Rapid Intervention Training) School will be a five-day intensive course covering Mayday training, firefighter self survival training and rapid intervention team training at one of the most advanced firefighter training centers in the region.

“The focus is to train firefighters to rescue other firefighters. All of this is part of the bigger picture to improve safety and reduce fatalities,” said John Witherspoon, Chair of Fire Services Education at A-B Tech.


Interior scene from the fire fighting training building at the Buncombe County Public Safety Training Facility.

Firefighters are not just dealing with a victim but one with the bulk of turnout gear and the breathing apparatus. The Mayday training includes recognizing the Mayday call, proper procedures for calling a Mayday and how to control radio traffic during a Mayday scenario.

“There will also be firefighter self-survival training. Hopefully one does not get into a challenging situation but we train them how to get out and safely self-extricate during a firefighter emergency,” Witherspoon said.

The Rapid Intervention Training will cover how to make a productive and successful rapid intervention team. Working as a team, students will be trained in techniques including methodologies for locating and accessing a downed firefighter.

“This is a very physically challenging course. Students attending must be in good shape and able to train for long periods of time. We require they frequently rehydrate throughout the day,” Witherspoon said. In addition to a T-shirt, snacks and lunches, each student will be issued their own water bottle. Water for refills will be available at each training site. Also, two of the outdoors classrooms have a misting system and water and other sports drinks will be available on the premises.

State-of-the-Art Facilities

The RIT school will be held at the new Buncombe County Public Safety Training Facility for law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical services, hazardous materials emergency response and other rescue and emergency personnel.

The regional 30 acre training center will adapt state-of-the-art techniques to region-specific challenges and increase the safety of the Buncombe County region and its emergency personnel. The facility includes multiple buildings with fire, emergency medical services and law enforcement training platforms.

“This is an opportunity to provide firefighters with the skills necessary while utilizing the most state-of-the-art firefighter training facility in the region,” said Witherspoon. “Firefighters will learn skills to design, develop and implement a success plan of action. Firefighters are faced with one of the most hazardous jobs in the world. Our aim is to reduce firefighter fatalities and improve firefighter safety.

The Drill Tower is used for realistic fire fighting training scenarios at the Buncombe County Public Safety Training Facility.

The buildings are equipped with devices, systems and processes that simulate real-life situations encountered by emergency services personnel involving residential to industrial environments. Live fire training conducted under controlled conditions affords safe, effective training to firefighters in the region. Anchor systems located throughout several buildings provide rope work platforms for rescue personnel.

“Firefighters will experience live fire scenarios. We have two live fire burn buildings with multiple stories. One is a class A fuel burn and the other is gas burning. We introduce theatrical smoke to create a more realistic environment. The building has a bedroom, kitchen and elevator shaft for firefighter training. We can also change the layout of the floors so they don’t get used to the location of every room,” Witherspoon said.

Getting Prepared for Class

“The primary reason this school is so important is it teaches firefighters the skills to hopefully prevent them from getting into a situation that leads to their injury or death,” said Barry Hendren, Division Chief of Training and Safety at the Asheville Fire Department. “Firefighters need to learn situational awareness, recognizing the importance of calling a Mayday before it’s too late, and concepts of air management. 

“It also focuses on rescuing our own. Rapid Intervention is just as much a fire ground discipline as technical rescue, hazardous materials, or engine company operations.  These skills will allow the firefighters on the scene of an incident to be prepared and ready to rescue another firefighter if they become distressed or disoriented,” Hendren said.

The course is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from Sept. 23-27 at the Buncombe County Public Safety Training Facility and lunch is provided. Participants must not only be physically fit but a N.C. Certified Level I Firefighter. Each participant must furnish their own set of protective equipment including turn-out gear; self contained breathing apparatus; and a spare bottle. Air bottles must be marked for easy identification. They should also bring a portable radio that has State Fire and State Rescue channels available. The cost is $75 per person. The registration deadline is Aug. 16.

For more information, contact Tommy Brooks at [email protected] or at 828-298-7139.
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