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RIT for a volunteer department

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  • RIT for a volunteer department

    We are a small volunteer department in a rural area. Because we're small, we rarely can assign more than two volunteers to RIT. What would you recommend as the minimum equipment requirements for a two-person team?

  • #2
    Minimum equipment??? More bodies.
    Yeah, I know, it's hard to get more bodies on a VFD.
    That's why you NEED to have AUTOMATIC mutual aid with the departments around you. Don't wait to call, they should be coming on the first report of a fire. Two guys isn't a RIT team, it's more victims for the beast.
    The tools aren't that important. Every fire will be different, so you need more tools available to you than what two guys can carry. But it's hard to know what exactly you'll need until a situation for a RIT team occurs. For instance, you're not likely to need chainsaws on a cinder block commercial building, but they may come in handy on a wood frame residential dwelling. A K12 saw might be useful on both depending on the blade that's on it. (do you have wood and metal blades for your saws??)
    And training is just as important. You need to be VERY familiar with your equipment and your SCBA's. Do dept's around you have the same brand of SCBA's, or are there several different types? Is your RIT SCBA bag compatible with them?? Know how to quickly package a downed firefighter and different ways to drag or carry them.
    And can all your firefighters wear SCBA?? If they can't, then they aren't usable on a RIT team.
    I can't say for sure what the number is now, but I know years ago, it took TWELVE firefighters on average to rescue a downed firefighter. Using that number, you're ten short. I'd say at a MINIMUM, you want at LEAST 4-6 to have a reasonable chance at saving one of your own. I've done a lot of RIT drills, and just a basic rescue is a huge undertaking for 4 guys.
    But don't let this scare you off. Work with the people you have, and build a cooperation with other dept.s to share the work load. Support them and have them support you. That's the only way to do it right.
    The FIREFIGHTER is the most important tool. Make sure it's well trained.


    • #3
      We have a department nearby that trained for RIT and is often called for that reason.

      One major problem is maintaining interest. Most rural departments only catch a very few workers a year. There is great interest at first, then it starts to wane due to lack of actual activity. There is also the problem of "Whadya mean, I'm stuck on the RIT again? I want to fight fire!" Not to mention pulling the RIT to fight fire because you need hands on hoses.

      That said - work with your surrounding departments, as Johnsb points out. Develop a common SOP and train together on it. That way you can assemble a RIT with firefighters from several departments if need be. And if your whole department (and your neighbors) all know the SOP, then they'll understand the jobs you may expect of them if you pull them out of rehab to assist with RIT.

      If you do have a particular department that you'll use for RIT, try to have them dispatched that way, so they know what they're coming in for.

      But you do need RIT the moment you go interior - so your own RIT, however small, needs to be a good start. Right tools, right people. I can tell you right now that at 67, I'm not your guy. You will be pulling me out, too.

      I would opine that there is a position that you need to fill almost before you establish a RIT - a safety officer. This isn't just a name on the org chart - this is the person who is going to help you avoid the need for the RIT. They need to understand building construction, fire behavior, and have a good idea of the types of construction in your area. Some fires you just don't go interior, especially these days when a lightweight construction house may be structurally compromised long before a volunteer department can get on scene.

      Best of luck with your efforts. Come back and let us know how you're doing.
      Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

      Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.


      • #4
        2 people is not a RIT team..... That might satisfy 2in/2out, but that's about it.

        If you have a fire, start your mutual aid, and hope they can bring more than 2 people. Seriously.

        Think of it this way: do you really think two people can retrieve a trapped and downed firefighter? maybe but it will be tough.

        There is a reason small departments will call for a RIT team from a mutual aid company....
        If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!



        • #5
          Johnsb, tree68, and drparasite thank you for your thoughtful responses.

          My all-unpaid volunteer department provides fire protection and emergency medical services in a sparsely populated, rural area of 240 square miles. Our roster has twenty-five names, but only a dozen of those are active responders. Almost all the latter attended the fire academy and various EMT programs. Depending on circumstances (weekday or weekend, daytime or nighttime, etc.) we may have as few as four or as many as ten respond to a fire.

          In response to your comments, we have a safety officer and all our fire fighters can wear SCBAs. We have a ?smoke? machine for training and we practice deploying personnel and equipment and conducting searches in buildings under limited visibility conditions. Naturally, we wear full PPE including SCBAs during these exercises. We may live out in the sticks, but we are trained and aware of professional standards and expectations. Our struggle is to reconcile the tensions between those standards and the financial, organizational, and logistical constraints we face.

          About automatic aid. Most of our district is bordered by national forest and USFS fire crews usually do not include structure fires on private land beyond forest boundaries on their ?to do? list. Other volunteer departments are distant. We have an automatic aid agreement with a neighboring district, but their volunteer department is struggling and rarely responds to their own fire calls, let alone ours. When we receive a structure fire call we promptly call for mutual aid even before we leave the station, but distances and conditions in other volunteer departments are such that we may be on our own for as much as an hour

          However well-intentioned, ?more bodies? is just not a realistic answer to my inquiry. Realistically, we will never have more fire fighters. At our fire scenes there will never be four more fire fighters just two minutes out. Automatic aid will never be the magic bullet that kills our problem. And yet people still expect us to save their homes and loved ones, and they will not be dissuaded by reference to NFPA standards or best practices in the Phoenix Fire Department or the SOGs of a department that routinely puts at a suburban house fire twenty fire fighters and every item in the edarley equipment catalogue. Bottom line: like most rural volunteer fire departments we must fight our fires with the fire fighters and equipment we have, not the fire fighters and equipment we wish we had.

          Thanks anyway.


          • #6
            Originally posted by casimiro View Post
            ... we have a safety officer ...
            The safety officer at the scene doesn't need to be your official safety officer (sometimes called health and safety officer, dealing with non-incident issues as well). But there should be one. He/she needs the authority to stop unsafe acts, even over-riding the IC if necessary.

            All of your firefighters should be empowered to question how things are going down.

            And remember - if any position in the organizational tree at an incident is not otherwise filled, the IC owns it.

            Originally posted by casimiro View Post
            Bottom line: like most rural volunteer fire departments we must fight our fires with the fire fighters and equipment we have, not the fire fighters and equipment we wish we had.
            And this is where community education comes into play.

            Your residents need to understand the importance of fire prevention, etc. If you have a FB page, you should be regularly posting information about how quickly homes these days burn, and the value of residential sprinklers, to name a couple of ideas. And encouraging people to follow your page. It can be a good recruitment tool, too.
            Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

            Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.


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