Rapid Intervention Roles & Responsibilities

Happy Holidays, after a short break for vacation we’re back…  A while ago Brian Rayner asked about some thoughts on RIT responsibilities, so while it took me a while – I usually come through.

I’m going to share with you the recently revised policies for the DCFD on this topic.  Let me start off by saying that I don’t think this “the light”, or the only way.  I do think it’s a good idea, and that they work well.  But ultimately I’m just sharing what we do.  Hopefully you guys have some better ideas to share back, or maybe you’ll pick up something to take back and make work for your department….


To bring you up to speed:

  • Our engines are staffed with FOUR (driver, officer, lineman, layout) and truck have FIVE (driver, tiller, officer, barman, hookman).  
  • Our box alarms get 5 engines and 2 trucks.  The 5th due engine has the “initial” RIT responsibilities.  They lay a separate supply line (the 3rd supply line BTW) from an independent source and report to side A with a independent attack line.  
  • When an incident is discovered to be a “working fire”, that brings (among other things) a 3rd truck company which is teamed up with the 5th engine to be the “RIT Group”.

So in summary, if that bored you, we have 1 engine & 1 truck with a total of 9 FF’s as our RIT group.

Truck Company Responsibility

The truck company’s role is to locate the downed firefighter, get them on air, package the downed-FF and begin removal, if possible.  Let me interject my own thought here:  locating the downed-FF and keeping them on fresh air is critical.  If that FF runs out of air before you find them, or because we can’t get fresh air on them, the rest is a recovery…  

Another personal point on this – companies should prepare for the fact that they may not complete the extrication.  As firefighters, we train & learn to complete our tasks:  you start forcing the door, YOU finish it… Your first due?  YOU put the fire out, etc…  In RIT, situations can be so complicated and STRENUOUS that it is likely that the first team to put their hands on the downed FF may not complete the removal process.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t TRY, but we need to accept this, put down our egos, and work together to do what’s necessary…


So back on track – our 5 person truck splits into two teams.  This mimics our regular fireground operations where we have an entry team (OIC, bar, hook) and roof team (driver, tiller).  

Reconnaissance Team (OIC, Bar, Hook):

The primary goal of these FF’s is to locate the downed-FF as quickly as possible.  They use a tag-line as orientation to themselves and to provide rapid access to the downed-FF, once located, for those coming to assist.  This team must be LIGHT, FAST, AND MOBILE.

  • Officer: search line bag & TIC, out front of the group.
  • Hook: RIT SCBA pack
  • Bar: Halligan & Axe, Hydra-Ram.

Equipment Team (Driver, Tiller):

These guys are on the “ready 5” (Top Gun reference, BTW).  They are outside, STAYING FRESH.  They may be gathering additional tools dicataed as the situation unfolds, establishing egress to the specific area where the FF is thought to be, etc…

Their BIG role is to be FRESH BODIES that can scurry in on that tag line once the downed-FF is located and start removing the downed-FF.  Again, more than likely that Recon team is going to be whopped and out of air after they accomplish their goals (if not, great!) so the Equipment team has to be fresh so they can keep the operation going as additional resources are gathered.

  • Assemble tools in staging area.
  • Place lighting, ladders.
  • Open up means of egress.
  • Be in a rested, ready state to head in and assist the recon team as needed.

Engine Company Responsibility

The engine has a simple, straightforward, yet CRITICAL mission: create a “defendable space” (translation: KEEP THE FIRE OFF US).  Their job is pretty much to make sure the truck can do theirs.  In most situations, if week keep the downed FF on air and keep the fire off them, we can take as long as we want (figuratively) to remove them.

  • Engine Driver: insures the team has water.  Ideally, the RIT Engine’s line should come off their OWN rig (redundancy in pump, supply, etc).  However if, for some reason, it CAN’T, the driver will physically stand at the pump panel of the rig that line does come off of to make sure it has water when needed.
  • OIC, Lineman, Layout – advance & operate line to protect the RIT operation.


This has been a really quick overview of our operations – most things here could of course be pages & pages on their own, so go easy on me if I over looked something 😉

A lot of our policies were revised over the spring & summer and were part of the Department’s “Back to Basics” program, which I was fortunate enough to be a part off… Taking 1200 of our personnel through this program certainly allowed the instructors to see a lot of pro’s & con’s and how things really played out.

Again – this isn’t the only way, it’s just our way (currently).  I think it shows a lot of pro-active thinking for RIT though, and I’d hope everyone would take away the concept of having SOME plan for your Department’s operations.  As always just make sure it fits your typical staffing & operations.  If you don’t have enough manpower on the 1st alarm to handle these duties, you probably need to beef up that 1st alarm assignment…

Take Care & Happy Holidays,



8 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing Nick as we are trying to gain a better understanding of truck work where I’m from, but again even thought we have being doing engine work we are still trying to gain a concept on that too!

    Happy New Year

  2. Our RIT is run manily with four because we feel four is a managable number.
    RIT Officer- handles communications with RIT command and reports all progress and benchmarks.

    Navgation/Air Supply- Manages tag line, and RIT Airpack

    Searches- These two firefighters are out infront providing the qucik and dirty to find the down firefighter. We also use tools such as Scott Pak Tracker to aid in locating the downed firefighter.

  3. Good stuff, Nick…I like the concept. Question for you (are you tired of these, yet? LOL)…what contingencies do you have in place for a downed firefighter that is in relatively close proximity to another crew operating within the structure? Like Fire Student, we are subscribing to the Fire Department Trianing Network (Jim McCormack) method of Air/Nav, Officer, and Searches; but we also understand that it is realistic to expect someone (on a hoseline or whatever) in close proximity to the downed firefighter to want to go and help them. Do you keep your RIT outside, or let the other folks make the rescue? What are your thoughts?

  4. Tim,

    Never tired of talking about this stuff… That’s how we got into the “blogging” world..

    If you and I are working inside together and you go down, I’m going to call a MAYDAY on your behalf and begin what’s necessary to help you out. I think the line in the sand is if you have to STOP AN ESSENTIAL FIREFIGHTING TASK, you’re going too far. The IC should be making decisions about what’s essential and reallocating resources as appropriate.

    For example, if you’re operating a hoseline on fire and someone calls a MAYDAY, the best help you can provide is to EXTINGUISH THE FIRE – because then there is no longer a problem. Same could probably be said about ventilation and maybe even “hooking” (exposing hidden fire).

    I think a a key point with RIT is that when a firefighter goes down – FIREFIGHTING OPERATIONS MUST CONTINUE. The worst thing you can do is abandon the aggressive firefight, because then the fire that is trapping our guy is just going to expand and grow.

    I know this answer may sound kind of vague, but I think it’s very situational in nature. In theory, this is where an officer earns their pay – because they have to assess as situation & make a decision.

    Kind of answer your question?


  5. The topic of Rapid Intervention has surely become one of the most written about duties of today’s Fire Service. I am by no means an expert, in fact as a ‘Dinosaur’ I still have to remind myself of its presnce on today’s fireground.

    I have watched and particiapted in alot of training in this area and it has amazed me that it always focuses on extended and time required disentanglements and extractions. Yet alot of the case studies and recent incdents in our metropolitain area have occured rapidly and were resolved in a short time period. As a result in my thinking on this, I have divided my response to RIT into two catagories. Immediately Reactive and Planned Preparedness.

    Two of our firefighters where trapped, disoriented and in a rapidly deteriorating environment. The time window for rescue was exteremely small. The RIT (a single company) response was, and needed to be, fast, mobile and aggressive. The team entered, located and removed with utmost haste resulting in no loss of life as the area went to flashover. This is what any company that assumes the role of initial RIT needs to be prepared to do until the build up of the group occurs. Most of the out of control moments when stuff happens is while the fire is building to flashover, and it is during that period,and soon after, that the RIT is likely to be that single company. So, prepare accordingly.

    The planned preparedness catagory is well documented by many smarter than me and so I follow their teachings. If the fire/incident allows for 10-20 minutes to located, disentagle, package and remove then out typical RIT training will serve us well. But if “this thing will be OVER in two minutes” (Top Gun reference) is what is unfolding, then sound, rapid and aggressive actions are our best shot at getting them out. Much like combat, it is when courage and heroism is required, so check your hair gel and blackberry at the door.


  6. This is good stuff. Thanks for posting a reply to my request Nick. Think the key thing you hit on is the fact that “The good guys don’t always win” as unfortunate as it is. Budget cuts, staffing reductions, lack of training and/or knowledge, and “The game of Numbers” play an important role as much as anything else. Drill as you would on the fireground. It’s not rocket science. Reported fire? Drop hose, throw ladders. If nothing else, it’s great practice for The Real Deal. Also, be innovative and receptive to more than one way of doing things. What works at one place may not work somehere else.

  7. Absolutely, Nick…I couldn’t agree more. We are trying ot overcome the philosophy on my two departments that if a firefighter goes down that “everyone is coming to help;” what we really need to do is allow for some common sense (of course I’m going to help someone who goes down within 15 feet of me) mixed with a little discipline (continuing the firefight to increase the chances of a viable firefighter rescue.)

  8. Great article, along with good questions. It seems the question of who should interact comes up quite often as we conduct allot of our Rapid Intervention classes. I find it interesting that many of the departments are on the same page when it comes to staying task oriented. However, I think disipline is the key word. Everyone on the fireground that relizes what’s going on, want’s to be involved in the rescue. After all, thats what we’re about! There were many tactics mentioned above such as accountiblity, proper equipment, RIT team deployment, communication, and the fact that the whole process is unbelievibly physically demanding. Something that Greg mentioned was the fact that the team in his particular incident had to move with ” utmost haste”. Use the K.I.S.S method! KEEP IT S___ Simple! When things get complicated in the fire service. Dominos start to fall. Sounds like those guys did a good job!
    One thing that I would like to add is the confusion and miscommunication that occurs when there’s to many hands on the victim. If your approached by another team, words pass through the officers/crew leaders, while the rest of the team quiets down for a second. Remember if the Rapid disappears then its a prolonged intervention!

    Be Safe

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