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jennifer-mabeeMarch 2, 2012 - Monday night I missed our station’s regular training night because I was busy trying to recapture my youth at the Hedley concert in Barrie. Fortunately, Station 2 was doing RIT training Tuesday night and I was able to catch a ride up to Mactier with two other firefighters from my hall.

March 2, 2012
By Jennifer Grigg

March 2, 2012 – Monday night I missed our station’s regular training
night because I was busy trying to recapture my youth at the Hedley
concert in Barrie. Fortunately, Station 2 was doing RIT training Tuesday
night and I was able to catch a ride up to Mactier with two other
firefighters from my hall.

The scenario we used for our training evolution began with a two-person fire attack team advancing a charged line into a building (which, in this case, was the fire hall corridor and offices – you make do with what you’ve got.) In our scenario, one firefighter becomes trapped, and the second firefighter loses contact with him and exits the building while dealing with a regulator malfunction.

Enter the four person RIT team. (Our masks were covered with waxed cling wrap, which works really well because it sticks to your mask but removes easily and gives an effective representation of a smoke-filled environment.) We followed the hose line in to the injured firefighter. At this point, the instructor “paused” the evolution to take the time to explain the duties of member of the four-person team.

The first firefighter makes contact with the patient and checks his responsiveness, his mask, his regulator, and his air and injuries. He then updates the fourth member, the eyes and ears of the RIT, who then updates command.

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The second firefighter is responsible for augmenting the air supply if the firefighter is low on air, by connecting the RIT air pack to the universal RIT connector on the back of the downed firefighter’s SCBA. (The other option, if needed, is the SCBA changeover, which is done by swapping the regulators, or if the firefighter’s mask is damaged, you can change the mask with the one in the RIT pack.)

The third member of the RIT team is responsible for the conversion of the SCBA harness, which is accomplished by loosening and unbuckling the waist straps, running the one strap behind the firefighter’s leg and then up between his legs, and then buckling it back up to the other waist strap. This prevents the pack and the bunker coat from rising up the firefighter’s body while they are being pulled out to safety.

The fourth member, who I referred to earlier as the eyes and ears, has the job of staying at or near the entrance of the room and monitoring conditions of the fire, the firefighter and the RIT team, as well as relaying updates to incident command.

After everyone was clear on the duties of each member of the team, we carried on with our scenario. Two of us grabbed the firefighter’s straps of his pack and pulled, while the third firefighter pushed his legs, and the fourth firefighter updated command that we were on our way out.

Aside from the burn I felt up the back of my legs when we finished pulling him out (I think it was my quads reacting to the lack of use), and a few other muscles that I’d forgotten I have, the removal of our downed firefighter went quickly and smoothly (although the firefighter we dragged out may not see it that way). It was a great exercise and no firefighters were harmed in the making of this blog topic.

After a discussion of how the first RIT drill went, we switched up positions and went in again and this time I was the patient. After radioing mayday, mayday, mayday, command answered and I gave my LIP, location, identification, and problem. Command then instructed me to activate my PASS alarm.
Those of you who have read previous blogs may recall that the FireHawk packs are relatively new to me. When command told me to activate my PASS alarm, I found myself thinking, “Oh crap, where’s that button?”

I tried pressing what I thought was the right button on the top of the PASS alarm, but it wasn’t working. While laying on my back, in the dark, not wanting to turn my flashlight on because I wasn’t sure how close the RIT team was to finding me, I struggled to look at the alarm and that was when I noticed a backlit button on the front of the alarm and thought to myself, “Well, that must be it if it’s lit up. (Obviously it would make sense to have such an uber-important button back lit and easy to find in the dark!!) So I pressed it. Nothing. Pressed it again. Still nothing.

By this time, I’m thinking that if I just stay still long enough, the darn thing will go off on its own anyway. But then I hear the RIT coming down the hall. Crap! Can’t help but laugh at myself and think that I’m not really playing this role well! Why didn’t I look at this thing before I came in here?

I tried pressing and holding the lit button again and sure enough, off it goes. The team comes in and locates me and each member does the assigned task. Once they’ve got me packaged, instead of pulling me out by grasping the straps of my pack the way we did in the last evolution, they use a piece of webbing, which they looped under my arms and behind my neck. (Every firefighter should carry webbing because it has multiple uses!)

They get me situated and start to pull on the webbing. I can feel it pinching around the tops of my arms, but what can I say, it’s part of the drill. As they continue to pull me, my arm catches on a desk. They stop and readjust me. Then they carry on and my boot gets caught on the desk. As they carry on, I can feel my boot slowly sliding off my foot until I lose my boot completely. I start to giggle. (Not appropriate to giggle but I can’t help myself.) Then one of the firefighters who’s pulling me out yells, “Ahhh! I’ve got a cramp in my foot! S$@#.” I keep giggling.

While the first two firefighters are pulling on the webbing and struggling to get me untangled, the third firefighter is attempting a “bulldoze” technique and pushing my lower body. Now, I couldn’t help but laugh at this. “We’re all friends here,” I kept hearing throughout the night. I’m not going to describe the positioning of the third firefighter, but any of you who have done this training know what I’m talking about.

Needless to say, I was safely extricated from the building. Actually, they didn’t get me all the way out, they left me laying in the doorway to the truck bays. One boot missing, RIT pack still strapped to me, webbing still wrapped around my shoulders . . . laughing. I guess I was more work than they bargained for.

Despite the red marks left on my shoulders by the webbing, a broken helmet tag and one wet sock (the charged hose line leaked a little), I was none the worse for wear.

It was a great training session with a few laughs thrown in for good measure but, most importantly, we learned some new tools and techniques – that we hope we never have to use.

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