The need for rapid intervention to be RAPID cannot be overemphasized. As members of a Rapid Intervention Crew, your mission to rescue a firefighter victim will come without warning.

Blog by Ed Hadfield

Searching for a lost, down or trapped firefighter is different than searching for a civilian. Since a significant event has taken place that has already put at least one firefighter in danger, the Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC) faces many obstacles and adverse conditions. The following are recommendations that can be used to help search and locate the firefighter, protect the firefighter in place, or extricate them.

The need for rapid intervention to be RAPID cannot be overemphasized. As members of a Rapid Intervention Crew, your mission to rescue a firefighter victim will come without warning. Factors such as the time a member has been on air, or a delay in the notification that a member is in need of rescue, will significantly reduce the amount of time a RIC has to conduct a successful rescue.

The Golden Time is the period of time a missing or trapped member has the greatest chance of survival if in need of rescue. Longer rapid intervention evolutions, or even the slightest delay in deploying RIC, could impact rescue attempts.

The Golden Time and the fact your rapid intervention mission comes without warning are reasons you must accept this mission with all seriousness. Getting involved in the fire ground operations, not focusing on your mission, and not knowing Rapid Intervention Standard Operating Guidelines may jeopardize someone’s life!

Crew discipline is an important factor in the overall management and effectiveness of the ICS and will prevent the need for rapid intervention rescue operations at an incident. Following the direction of company officers and communicating conditions are important duties for rapid intervention. This is all critical in rescuing a member when called upon.

It is important to understand the principle of potential rescuers becoming victims. This phenomenon is seen in many technical rescues, as well as ill-advised rescue attempts in other emergency operations, such as hazmat and trench rescue.

When operating on the fireground, and notification for rapid intervention rescue operations becomes apparent, company officers, or members in the immediate area of the situation, should take whatever action is necessary to impact a rescue without compromising fire attack. Companies working nearby may have the best opportunity to affect a quick rescue.

Search and Locate the Firefighter
The goal of searching and locating a firefighter is:

Conducting a planned, rapid and effective search if the firefighters position is not known.
Gaining access to the firefighter in a way that can be tracked and monitored from the point of entry.
Gaining access in a way that can be followed easily by subsequent incoming search teams.
Removing obstacles so the search for the firefighter is facilitated.

To establish an anchor point for search operations, it is recommended to initiate at the entry point. This entry/egress location should provide RIC with vital RECON information via the RIC status board. Also, understand that typically there are additional egress sites or potential egress sites (wall or window breech) that may be used for a quicker extrication process.

The main entry point used for initial operations will have deployed hose lines that will aid in tracking the location and area of the victim(s). If there are no hose lines in place, RIC can either utilize a RIC pre-connected hose line, or a large area search line/rope (attached at the entry point), to initiate RIC search operations.

Searchers must maintain contact with the hose, search line, attachment by drop bag/personal rope, or by voice contact (not radio) with another member who is physically on the hose or rope.

The search is conducted based on available information on the most likely location of the downed firefighter. The TIC should be used. Searchers must remain alert to relay and mark, if possible, any significant hazards, changes in conditions, or obstacles that would affect the intervention. The RIC may need to wait for more RIC teams if additional resources are required to continue progress.

Intervention resources should be aware of the possibility that there may be multiple firefighters in need of assistance. When the downed firefighter is located they will be removed, if possible. If removal is not possible, due to entrapment or the search team is running low on air, the hose or search line should be secured to the downed firefighter. This will expedite the search time of subsequent RIC Teams arriving to remove the firefighter. Operating PASS devices should be silenced in order to hear other devices sounding in the area.

Once the downed firefighter is found, the primary objective is to support them with breathable air. This may be done by either transfilling their SCBA, if their SCBA mask and cylinder are still intact, or by placing the mask from the RIC bag on them, allowing them to breathe from the RIC bag air cylinder.

The RIC leader will supervise the entire operation, and keep the IC informed of PPPNs. This information should include distance and direction of travel, significant landmarks or hazards, structural stability, and any pertinent information reported by initial RIC operations. It is recommended that the officer NOT get involved with the actual extrication process. It is imperative that the RIC Leader stay in a heads-up position, responsible for fireground LCES and situational awareness.

In cases where locations such as basements, hospitals, X-Ray rooms, tunnels (confined space), vaults and other known radio trouble areas present communication issues, RIC members should consider using rope lines.

Large Area Searches
Searching a large area presents unique problems for the RIC. The method of using a hose line or search line with two tag lines can cover a large amount of space in a relatively quick amount of time. This SYSTEM relies on strict cohesion of crew responsibilities and assignments. Equipment will consist of: Full PPE, radios, hoseline or large area search system with drop bags, TIC, RIC bag and forcible entry tools.

RIC Leader (Officer): Coordinates rescue operation, Fireground LCES, TIC operations
RIC Member No. 1: Point Man. TIC initiated search forward progression
RIC Member No. 2: Sweeper or hound, move obstacles, rescuer
RIC Member No. 3: Sweeper

In-Line Position: A three-person search pattern that maintains contact with a reference point (escape route) while conducting the search. The first person (RIC Leader w/ TIC) on the line is responsible for leading the company and maintaining contact with reference point(s). The RIC Leader is also the person tethered (webbing or drop bag) to the outside with anchor line.

Parallel Position: This configuration allows members to temporarily reposition their position (orientate right), to increase their area of search. This technique requires the RIC Leader to remain in contact with the tether, which is anchored to the outside. To maintain contact, the RIC is using a tether.

Tether Between Personnel: There are several methods used to tether between personnel, utilizing webbing or strap. Below illustrates the utilization of a half-hitch around the palm of the hand, (allows to grasp and release as necessary) and the half-hitch around each wrist.

Carabineers secure RIC members to the RIC leader. The use of carabineers allows for a quick detachment should any of the RIC members become entangled. If a rope system is used (rings and knots), carabineers are connected to the rings. Rings also indicate the exit direction, while the knots indicate length (typically 25 feet per knot).

Hose/ Rope Line Fan: This is an effective method when following a hoseline or main search line. Tethers or drop bags can be attached to either the RIC Leader, hose line or main search lines. Remaining RIC members then fan out the length of tether and together the company searches the area around the hoseline and advances towards the nozzle.

Nozzle Fan: This procedure requires RIC to conduct a search using a nozzle as a reference point. First, RIC follows a hoseline (hose fan) to the nozzle end. The RIC leader stays at the nozzle to maintain a point of orientation. The RIC leader then utilizes nozzle fan with drop-bags. If a search system is used, the large area bag can be secured to the nozzle and extended the length of the bag by the RIC Leader.

Approach of the Down FirefighterRIC Leader Coordinates All Operations (PPPN)Unless Needed to Assist in Rescue
Have sufficient resources (extraction team) and ALS resources at the exit portal for immediate ALS intervention and transfer of downed member(s) to hospital. Prior to the actual extrication of a downed firefighter, the following procedures should be accomplished if conditions permit:

RIC Leader: Advise RIC group supervisor/IC contact has been made, location and landmarks, condition of mayday firefighter, stabilize the area (any immediate hazards) and assess ALL needs. Allow members to view extrication scene through the TIC if visibility is poor or non-existent. Maintain PAR within the immediate area and prioritize air management and search-line management (secure all tag lines) to prevent entanglement. Request rescue support from all other fireground operations, (fire attack, search groups and ventilation groups). If possible, create a defensible area between all hazards and threats to the rescue/extrication area.

RIC Member: Remove possible hazards, entanglements or fallen objects from the immediate area. Assist with victim packaging. During extraction, clear debris for rapid egress.

RIC Member (Air Person): Prepare RIC bag prior to getting hands-on with the firefighter.
Get assessment from RIC Leader, via TIC on whether the transfill or mask replacement procedures are needed.
BE AWARE that the downed firefighter may panic and reach for your mask!
If firefighter is conscious, maintain verbal instructions, calm the situation
Shut down P.A.S.S. device and reset

Assess the firefighter for the following:
Breathing/conscious/air supply (assess by operating the red bypass valve on second stage regulator). If unconscious, assure that the mask is fully functional.
Make sure that the members waist strap is secured to the members waist, if not; try to reposition the waist strap so as to capture one leg.
If the member is conscious but trapped, contact the rescue group supervisor and depending on the time needed for extrication, connect the rescued member into the RIC Bag, one-hour air supply.

A helpful acronym used to assist in a rescue deployment operations is A.W.A.R.E.
Air: SCBA with extra bottles
Water: A charged handline to enforce a defendable space/area for victim(s)
A & R: A portable radio for members and assess victims ability to communicate
Extrication: Necessary tools/equipment needed to remove victim

About the Author
Ed Hadfield has more than 26 years of fire service experience after rising through the ranks from firefighter to division chief. He is a frequent speaker on leadership, sharing his experiences within the fire service and also with corporate and civic leaders throughout the United States. For more on Hadfield, please check online at