Advanced RIT training: Remix your drills
This unique mayday drill is highly realistic and physically demanding
This article was originally published in the digital edition “The Mayday Training Evolution.” Download the full edition for more mayday content.
Many in the fire service seem to have lost the sense of urgency that comes with mayday operations. Our goal should be a quick removal, not necessarily an easy removal. This means we must have a snatch-and-grab mindset driven by physical strength, not the latest gadget. I would say if you’re using anything more than a short piece of webbing to remove a firefighter, you are adding unnecessary complication to the operation, prolonging removal of the downed firefighter. As such, our training should be focused on strength and speed.
What’s more, too many RIT drills and scenarios are overly sanitized, meaning conditions are conducive to an easy and predictable outcome – not conducive to a good learning opportunity or even close to the worst possible conditions we could experience during our routine interior attack activities. Of course, there is the learning curve that we should all expect, and initial training for new members should be in a “clean” setting where successful outcomes are prioritized. The problem: For most agencies or companies, the training ends there – for all members.
It is time to up your RIT game.
Setting the stage
There are countless RIT drills and scenarios that we could run with our members, but the one we’ll review here is focused on getting our members comfortable with being uncomfortable for more than 5 minutes. In fact, I would say it is the most realistic and physically demanding drill of all the ones I’ve seen online.
The scenario requires more than a RIT; it requires three teams – an attack team, a search team and a RIT. Taking it a step further and adding an additional attack team or backup team will enhance the realism and increase the communication difficulties that are frequently experienced during a mayday event. Note: Don’t let the multi-team element hold you back. A single engine or tuck company can train on individual aspects of RIT operations during a shift, but bringing multiple companies together provides the opportunity for realistic drills where we can put it all together.
The scenario involves zero-visibility (blackout masks) for all teams involved, low air, a collapse, communications difficulties, and either a crew or firefighter removal.
Try to avoid performing this scenario in a building that simply has four walls; however, if that’s all that’s available, you can, as we have, build multiple props simulating various collapse scenarios. The ideal training environment would be an acquired structure or a compartmentalized training building.
Start strong, then mix it up
The scenario starts with the attack team making a push, and the search team performing a search – straightforward enough.
At any point during these operations, the director of the scenario, who will also serve as the IC, will call for a mayday and verbalize the collapse at or near the point of entry. At this point, the director can call for either crew – the attack team or the search team – to become the crew in distress. Then, the IC will order the other team to locate and escort the other team out, all while simultaneously deploying the RIT from a different point of entry. Also, at any point during the event, the director/IC can add that additional attack team.
Another consideration for the scenario: Without warning to anyone involved, the IC removes a member, preferably the team leader, from one of the teams, then waits for the rest of the team to realize that a member is missing. The hope is that the team will realize the situation, call a mayday, react appropriately and not spiral out of control. Either way, it is a good learning opportunity even for the observers.
Another good addition to any drill is to simply add an additional crew to the scenario – a crew that has any random assignment other than locating the crew in distress. The IC/director of the scenario needs to make sure these two crew’s cross paths. This little gem creates more confusion than one would think, and it requires good communications and solid leadership abilities to keep the two separate crews intact when they go on about their original assignments.
One way we make it even more realistic is to monitor everyone’s air usage and manipulate the available air through the regulator. Having everyone’s low-air alarms activating during a RIT scenario, while completely blacked out, adds an element that many have not considered, trained for or experienced.
Another way to manipulate the available air and increase the individual member’s level of being comfortable in uncomfortable environments for extended periods is by having them find their way out. Remember, the initial entry point is blocked, and you as the IC can control or determine where they will have to exit.
We also use blackout masks to not only complicate and add realism to the scenario and communications process but also to require the company officers to actually learn how to physically guide their teams in a zero-visibility environment, rather than simply saying “come here, go there, over there, over here, right here, etc.” This form of communication simply does not work in a zero-visibility environment. Communications will require a hands-on approach from the team leaders.
If the RIT finds the crew in distress first, this provides an opportunity to deploy the RIT bag and fill everyone’s bottles in a zero-visibility environment prior to leading them to the exit. Each member should have a go at it at this point. If you have not tried this previously, you are missing a key element in your training program. This process requires not only knowing your equipment intimately, but also a good amount of finesse to seat the connections timely and properly.
In this scenario, we are not concerned who finds the crew or member in distress first, but that they perform as they are trained and with urgency in removing the downed firefighter as the priority.
Don’t forget the common sense
I encourage you to use this drill in your next mayday training, and apply as much common sense as you can to your training and tactics. For that matter, all of your training and tactics should incorporate a good deal of common sense.