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Safety should be the priority in the new year

From The Editor

December 13, 2007 
By James Haley

The arrival of a new year often comes with resolutions, some hastily made and ill-kept, others more on a long-term basis where the plan has been conceived, the mechanisms to aid the resolution put into place, and the resolution has been unveiled.

Does your department have a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) program in place yet? If not, you should, and there’s no time like the present to plan a resolution to provide RIT for the safety of your department’s firefighters. The concept of RIT, simply put, is firefighters saving firefighters, through specialized rescue training.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, firefighter Joe Carollo was injured in November when he broke through a weak floor while he was working the interior of a house fire and he fell about 12 feet into a basement.

A rapid intervention team rescued Carollo and he received only a small burn on his thigh. He also was treated for a torn bicep and injuries to his shoulder and back. In a report published in the Tulsa World, firefighters were dispatched to a house fire in the wee hours of the morning on Nov. 10, 2005. When they arrived, they saw flames coming from the unoccupied residence, which was being remodelled. An interior attack was mounted. Carollo and other firefighters were inside the house fighting the blaze when a weak floor gave out underneath him and he fell.


The incident commander District Chief Eddie Bell  then sent in the rapid intervention team to rescue him.

“They have a water supply dedicated solely to such an emergency,” he told the Tulsa World newspaper. They were standing at the front door and responded immediately. In this case, it worked perfectly.”

Bowles said the firefighters are to be commended for their response to the dangerous emergency. “We practice for these sort of events so when they become a reality, we have the ability to respond quickly,” Bowles said.

This incident had the potential to be a fatal one but for the fact that the department was ready for the accident, with a RIT team suited in full gear on stand-by, as is the department’s practice for calls that involve a structure fire with interior attack. In the end, the practice worked and Firefighter Carollo is recovering from his injuries.

This positive outcome is the only one we should accept in our departments. Most major departments have implemented RIT procedures and trained their personnel in these procedures, but not all departments have done this. It means having specialized training in emergency rescue techniques, having dedicated equipment and a team standing by at the ready at all times during operations. All firefighters need to have this training and, like all of our other training, ensure practical exercises are done regularly by everyone. One never knows when one will be tapped to be part of the RIT team on stand-by at an incident.

We are all working harder in ensure better safety for firefighters, whether through the active encouragement and programs offered by senior staff for healthy living and better physical fitness through diet and exercise, or to the establishment of a dedicated safety officer at all incidents, for example. But nothing is as reassuring as knowing when you are working in hazardous conditions, that fellow firefighters are standing ready to help you if something goes wrong, even after all of our meticulous planning and training. As the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation espouses, public safety is our duty, firefighter safety is our responsibility.

Yours in fire service safety and education,
James Haley

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