Rapid intervention operations, or firefighters saving firefighters, has come a long way since it was first recognized in the 1990’s. And although firefighters have worked to develop better ways to rescue their own, many questions remain unanswered. That was the focus of the Rapid Intervention Realities Roundtable I hosted yesterday at the HEAT Conference 2012. The Roundtable was the idea of the Rapid Intervention Committee (RIC) that was recently formed to raise awareness, heighten the state of readiness, and strengthen the level of rapid intervention response in Palm Beach County. Members representing a variety of positions from several fire departments in the County gathered to talk about how to improve firefighter safety, survival and rescue. Driven by a variety of questions ranging from policies to practices to staffing to command, following are some of the lessons learned from the discussion.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION
What are your department’s procedures for establishing a rapid intervention crew (RIC)?
- While everyone plans to establish a RIC, most do not have a predetermined unit assigned to RIC. Because of the geography, staffing and resources available, most believe that the establishment of a RIC is prioritized with other objectives (rescue and fire control). All follow the initial rapid intervention crew (IRIC) and 2-in/2-out rule in the initial fire-ground operations.
Should county-wide standards be used for consistency?
- While everyone agreed that county-wide standards is probably the most important issue and should be used, they voiced several obstacles that still need to be overcome including politics, equipment purchasing, and home-control.
How does your department measure its rapid intervention capabilities?
- Unfortunately, while most departments do provide some kind of annual training for rapid intervention, most do not measure the capabilities. This is a hot topic in Florida since there is ongoing debate about how to measure any firefighting capabilities, other than what an individual department requires.
Are there negative perceptions of being a RIC?
- All agreed that there are, but there shouldn’t be. This is probably because most firefighters misunderstand or are just confused about the why, how and what of the RIC.
How does your department respond to a Mayday call?
- Again, because of geography, staffing and resources available, there was a difference in response. Some departments do have triggers in their SOGs that provide for additional alarms, but that is after the Mayday is called. Many observed that they should have more fresh crews “on the bench” in case something does happen, at least until the incident is under control.
Do you front-load command staff to aid the incident commander and/or be ready to take over a Mayday or RIC operation?
- All agreed front-loading command staff is important for command and control of the complex rapid intervention operation. The IC’s span of control is quickly lost when an unexpected event such as a Mayday occurs.
THE REAL LESSON LEARNED
For everyone, this Roundtable was a reminder, or maybe an awakening, about the importance of rapid intervention and the many questions that remain unanswered in the shadows. All agreed that everyone, from chief to firefighter, must understand and want to improve the basic skills and the clear thinking required for a firefighter rescue. Being prepared and ready for a rapid intervention operation just makes good sense! We have to keep talking about this. Look for more roundtable discussions in the future.
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COMING EVENTS FOR THE RAPID INTERVENTION COMMITTEE
- RIC members will attend the Sunshine State Training Officers Meeting on February 23, 2012 where rapid intervention will be a topic of discussion