The proactive Rapid Intervention Team

CarolinaFireJournal - By Brad Maness
By Brad Maness
01/11/2012 -
In an earlier column we discussed the organization of your rapid intervention team (RIT) and how to overcome several roadblocks early on. Having a well trained, equipped team of firefighters ready to deploy for a fireground emergency should be a necessity. Even though most of us understand the extreme importance of staffing this team, not many firefighters jump at the thought of filling the RIT assignment. For those that don’t usually have a positive outlook regarding this assignment, you are inherently placing yourself and other firefighters at risk. image

Having a negative attitude toward RIT can cause you to miss important radio traffic, forget to check a piece of equipment, and ultimately fail to complete your assignment if deployed. Our department leaders must step in and stress the importance of this task and empower our members to make the RIT assignment more than just being a spectator. There are many different ways for our RIT to be proactive and still be “in service” in the event of an emergency. Below are just a couple of ways our RIT can become more involved on the fireground without losing sight of our primary goal.

Monitor Calls

Upon receipt of the call, crews should be monitoring radio traffic constantly. This will help us to get in the right frame of mind early in the incident and it may provide information that will assist us after arrival. This time should also be used to ensure our portable radios are on the correct assigned channel.

After arrival, and throughout the incident, RIT should monitor radio traffic for any mayday calls or emergency traffic. In a perfect world the incident commander and other personnel will hear every radio transmission given, but we know this is not always the case. The RIT could possibly hear an emergency message missed; therefore, we must stress the importance of listening closely to what is being said on the fireground.

Position For Deployment

As RIT personnel arrive, we must set up in a position that will be advantageous for our team to deploy if needed. Our apparatus needs to be close enough to allow the team to transport equipment to the scene without feeling exhausted. A RIT officer should be determined first and foremost. In a career department this is usually the officer of the truck designated for RIT. If volunteer companies are staffing this team, it may take a few seconds to determine who will be the RIT officer once personnel have arrived. This is where training with your mutual aid agencies will help you predetermine what personnel could be filling this vital role. He/she should make contact with the IC, preferably face-to-face if possible. Ideally we would like to set up our equipment on a corner to view two sides of the structure, but this may change depending on the IC’s request.

Often times RIT staging may be near where the first attack line goes into the structure or it may be predetermined to always set up on the “Alpha” side. Wherever you choose make sure it will be in a position ready to deploy.

Basic Minimum Equipment

  • SCBA w/mask or RIT Pack 
  • Spare cylinders 
  • Portable Radio (All RIT members) Thermal Imaging Camera Flashlights 
  • Search Rope (150ft. is common) Ground ladders 
  • Set of Irons, Sledgehammer, Pike Poles 
  • Webbing 
  • Wire/Cable cutters, pliers 
  • RIT staging Tarp 
  • Vent Saw or K-12 w/blades for metal & concrete 

Additional Equipment Additional 
  • Portable saws 
  • Oxygen / EMS equipment 
  • Stokes basket 
  • Hydraulic Tools 
  • Metal cutting tools 
  • Masonry cutting tools 
  • Battery operating tools 
  • Life Safety Rope, Harnesses, rigging hardware and software 
  • Backboards, KED, SKED stretcher Cutting Torch 
  • Shoring Equipment-Airbags


The next step will be for the RIT officer to complete a walk around of the structure. Depending on the size of the building this may not be possible. Normally, it can be completed on residential and small commercial building. Larger facilities may only allow you to monitor the immediate area where crews are being deployed. Having a pre-plan of these structures can prove beneficial for RIT to look over when the walk around is not feasible. During the walk around, the RIT officer is looking for obstacles or hazards that could directly affect a firefighter rescue or endanger crews operating in or around the structure. Look closely for access/egress points, building construction, bars or obstructions on doors and windows, utilities, ladder placements, weakened or severely damaged portions of the structure, etc. Once completed report back to the RIT what was observed and advise the incident commander of any pertinent information or recommendations.

Equipment Needs

While that is being completed the other members of the RIT can organize the tools necessary for the job. Depending on what companies may staff RIT there can be a huge difference in what is available. Developing a minimum equipment list will assist your department in becoming standardized each time the RIT is staffed. Refer to the chart for examples:

Equipment needs may change due to the construction or any other special circumstances found. Having an outlined staging tarp for all your tools can be helpful. Take a few minutes to double check air cylinder levels and turn on and set up your RIT pack. Be prepared to use the universal RIC connection, regulator or mask change depending on the emergency. Start your power saws to make sure they will operate and are equipped with the blade that will be most utilized. Check flashlights, personal equipment and the thermal imaging camera. Use the TIC to make a quick scan of the structure to find areas where fire and heat are most evident. This can also be accomplished by the RIT officer during the walk around. Make sure your equipment is not set up for failure before you enter a hostile environment.

Be Proactive

Once your tools are organized, checked and your RIT officer completes the survey we shouldn’t just sit back and enjoy the show. Being proactive as RIT really starts here. Depending on the observations from the RIT officer and the incident commander you could be tasked with completing several assignments. This will also rely heavily on available manpower working the fire. In my area, manpower is always a concern, so utilizing the RIT can be very beneficial in accomplishing quick fireground assignments.

Access and egress is a major concern if interior or roof crews need to exit quickly. As a member of RIT we can assist these crews by throwing ladders to upper floor windows and providing ventilation crews with an additional exit from the roof via ground ladder. If we throw one ladder we should always throw another. Having multiple points of egress can dramatically improve the chances of interior crews being able to exit under hostile conditions. This task can usually be accomplished with only two RIT members, leaving others back at the staging area to monitor conditions.

We should also consider “softening” the fire building. This is carried out by removing bars, plywood, or obstructions from windows and doors to provide better access and egress. Glass should not be removed unless directed to by the incident commander and interior crews are aware. Truck company personnel could complete this task as well if available.

During night operations consider lighting up the scene with portable lights. Apparatus mounted light towers are great, but the rear of the structure is always dark. RIT members may also assist in determining hazardous materials involved in fire by identifying placards, air monitoring the area where firefighters are working, controlling utilities, or any other assignment that doesn’t remove them from their permanently from their main priority. And it should go without saying, if you deploy RIT for fire suppression, ventilation or other critical functions you are responsible for staffing another RIT immediately.

On a recent fire with our mutual aid companies, RIT was advised they would be going to work upon arrival. The incident commander needed the assistance right then but simultaneously called for additional manpower for rapid intervention. We need more of our fireground commanders to think like this and make the call early for additional assistance.

Being assigned to RIT may not put a nozzle in your hand or get you in the smoke and heat, but it is a critical fireground function that must be staffed every time. Whether you’re career or volunteer, consider staffing the RIT as a privilege as you could be the last hope for your fellow firefighters in trouble. Challenge your members to find new ways to be proactive while assigned to RIT, don’t just be a spectator. Our brothers and sisters are relying on you to give your best each and every time.

Captain Brad Maness is a 15 year student of the fire service and is employed with the Belton Fire Department where he serves as Training Officer. He is an adjunct instructor with the South Carolina Fire Academy and is a volunteer firefighter and Haz-Mat team member with the Anderson County Fire Department. Captain Maness is also a charter member of the Municipal Fire Officer’s Association and can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 864-934-3151.
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