The Carson City Fire Department is implementing new training drills to improve it Rapid Intervention Teams.
R.I.T. is the response team on a major disaster or fire, used as the last line of defense if a firefighter goes down in an incident. The team, usually the third engine to arrive on scene, goes in to help retrieve a lost or injured firefighter.
“It is our team that rescues us,” said Carson Captain Scott Baker. “They assist us and are solely assigned to R.I.T. if unfortunately one of us goes down and we are prepared to locate, tag them and air them up.”
Baker is responsible for writing and designing this training to help teach the department ways to improve its rescues. He took training drills from several agencies across the country, especially from the New York Fire Department on the best policies and procedures for a R.I.T. situation. Though Carson has never experienced a situation like this, Baker said it’s important to know exactly what needs to be done to potentially save lives.
“It is an uncontrollable environment and emotions are high because that is our brother or sister in there,” Baker said. “Far too many mayday calls go unanswered (from trapped firefighters).”
The department trained at the old state building on King Street twice this week, rotating between shifts so every firefighter received the necessary training.
In each drill, the R.I.T. members would be briefed on the situation and have to go in with full gear as if it was a fire and locate two firefighters who had gotten trapped in the building; one who was trapped under debris and another who had gotten lost. When firefighters are in trouble, they’re supposed to try to send a mayday call over the radio, however, because there can be a lot of radio traffic dealing with the incident, mayday calls sometimes go unanswered, or a firefighter waits too long to send out the call. When firefighters stop moving, their oxygen tanks start chirping, then sound an alarm after a certain amount of time. R.I.T. will key into those alarms to try to locate the firefighter. From there R.I.T. would have to tag the firefighter with rope and give the firefighter additional oxygen before getting back out of the building. Because locating and helping the other firefighters can be labor intensive, the R.I.T. members won’t extract the trapped firefighters because they would run out of oxygen themselves. Instead a second team, with full oxygen tanks, would go inside to extract them.
“It is eye opening for crews who haven’t done this training in a while,” Baker said. “I think it was harder than they thought. We had some failures and some theoretic fatalities, but we have those crews go through again so they gain the confidence and practice what works and what doesn’t work.”
After each drill, the instructors would take crews through the scenario and show them what was done well and what could be improved on so the firefighters felt more comfortable going through a situation like that.
“There are too many firefighter fatalities in the U.S. and we can be prepared with this training so if it happened to us we want to be prepared,” Baker said.