By Bill Peterson and Ken Richards
Published Monday, February 1, 2010
| From the February 2010 Issue of FireRescue
Interior structural fire suppression operations are some of the most hazardous activities we engage in. The risks and hazards have been recognized for a number of years, and provisons are included in various NFPA standards, all of which direct fire departments to provide adequate personnel on scene for the rescue of firefighters operating at emergency scenes who become lost, injured, trapped, incapacitated or disoriented.
Over the past few years, the fire service has developed a variety of training programs that achieve a rapid intervention and rescue capability. Until recently, however, there was no national review of these programs to identify “best practices” for universal application. Recognizing this shortcoming, the NFPA Technical Committee on Fire Service Training developed NFPA 1407: Standard for Training Fire Service Rapid Intervention Crews (RICs), which was approved by the Standards Council in December 2009 and is currently available for use by the fire service.
The Development of NFPA 1407
The purpose of the new NFPA 1407 standard: to specify a training program that produces a strictly disciplined, highly capable team of firefighters to rescue other firefighters who become lost, injured, trapped, incapacitated or disoriented in the course of both emergency scene and training operations. If fire departments train their personnel using the prescribed process, they are much more likely to operate at fire scenes in the same structured manner, greatly reducing the risk for RIC members and maximizing the potential for rescue of a downed firefighter.
The standard specifies basic evolutions that can be adapted to local conditions and serves as a standard mechanism for the evaluation of minimum acceptable performance during training for rapid intervention activities. NFPA 1407 requires that every fire department have a standard operating procedure or guideline (SOP or SOG) in place that clearly specifies the response of an RIC to all interior operations, the specific conditions that would require the deployment of an RIC at an incident, and the criteria for the termination of the rapid intervention function at an incident. The standard includes a model SOP to help guide the fire department with compliance to the document.
NFPA 1407 requires the fire department to establish written policies for rapid intervention training that meet the specific elements identified in the standard. All RIC training and incident operations are required to be guided by the department’s written policies or guidelines and reinforced through a comprehensive training program conducted by the department or training organization. The policy must include the entry-level requirements for crewmembers, the training objectives and basic skills necessary for safe operation, and a list of suggested equipment to be used for RIC operations. The standard also includes recommended evolutions that may be used to train firefighters who will be tasked to conduct RIC operations. NFPA 1407 contains minimum training and experience requirements for training instructors, RIC crew leaders and RIC team members.
NFPA 1407 identifies minimum requirements for RIC training and specifies that the training is to be developed and carried out in such a manner that teams are trained and qualified to provide a constant, sustainable rapid intervention capability at an emergency scene utilizing a minimum crew size that is specified in NFPA 1710: Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments. Prior to being allowed to participate in RIC training, firefighters must meet the job performance requirements for Fire Fighter I in NFPA 1001: Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications. RIC team leaders must meet the requirements for Fire Officer I in NFPA 1021: Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications. Both firefighters and RIC team leaders are required to successfully complete a rapid intervention training program before they can be assigned RIC responsibilities on an emergency scene.
Instructors who train firefighters and team leaders to perform RIC operations are required to meet minimum qualifications set by the individual fire department or training organization. The standard recommends that this minimum training level meet the job performance requirements for Instructor I of NFPA 1041: Standard for Fire Service Instructor Professional Qualifications.
The required minimum training specified in NFPA 1407 must include the following subject matter areas:
- Risk assessment and risk management;
- Activation and management of rapid intervention operations;
- Communications procedures of the department that are specific to rapid intervention functions;
- Personnel accountability and resource management;
- Criteria for the deployment of RICs and resources to the emergency scene;
- Integration of the firefighter rescue operations into the incident command system (ICS) used by the fire department or training organization;
- Implementation of an incident accountability system that meets the requirements of NFPA 1561: Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System;
- The potential impact of RIC operations on the safety and welfare of rescuers and others as well as on other activities at the incident scene; and
- The clear distinction between “rescue” and “recovery” modes of operation at an incident.
In addition to the basic nine elements of an effective rapid intervention training program, the standard requires that personnel receiving RIC training be rotated in and out of the training periodically to prevent and reduce stress and fatigue that could result in injury to any of the participants.
Firefighters, individually and as members of a RIC team, who successfully complete a training program for rapid intervention operations in compliance with NFPA 1407 will be adequately trained and evaluated for knowledge, skills and abilities dealing with:
- Declaration of a firefighter emergency;
- Appropriate search techniques;
- Rescue access and extrication;
- Air supply/air management techniques;
- Use of ropes, slings and harnesses for rescue operations;
- Methods to safely protect firefighters in place;
- Methods to move downed firefighters to safety; and
- Firefighter self-rescue techniques.
The standard also requires the fire department or training organization to identify the tools and equipment that will be used in rapid intervention operations and to train all personnel that will be assigned to an RIC team in the proper use of the provided tools and equipment.
RIC Team Evaluation
NFPA 1407 identifies various training scenarios that are to be used to evaluate the performance of rapid intervention teams. The standard prohibits the use of a live person to act as a trapped victim in the training scenarios. Each training scenario is required to be staged as closely to the conditions expected to be encountered in an emergency scene where an RIC team would be deployed for a firefighter rescue operation. Training scenarios must include the following RIC operations:
- Locating, assessing and removing a downed firefighter;
- Moving a downed firefighter up a flight of stairs;
- Moving a downed firefighter down a first flight of stairs;
- Removing a downed firefighter from a first-floor window;
- Removing a downed firefighter from a second-floor window; and
- Removing a downed firefighter from a hole in the floor.
The standard also includes a wealth of additional information and recommendations for a fire department or training organization that will implement a rapid intervention training program. This additional information includes recommended tools and equipment, breathing air management recommendations, and heat exhaustion and heat stress prevention information, among others.
Most fire departments significantly underestimate the complexity, resources and time required to rescue a downed firefighter. To be successful, the fire service must understand the absolute necessity of performing a thorough risk assessment at an emergency incident prior to assigning personnel to interior operations where there is a risk of collapse or entrapment. Departments that make a conscious decision to commit personnel to interior operations must recognize the importance of training their personnel to meet the minimum requirements of NFPA 1407. Some departments, after reviewing the requirements of NFPA 1407, may decide to reduce or limit their interior operations accordingly.
The bottom line: The best rescue to conduct is no rescue. But if a rapid intervention rescue must be performed, NFPA 1407 will guide fire departments in how to achieve the safest and best outcome for all involved at the emergency scene.
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