FRIDAY FORUM: Vice Presidents and Training Scars
What do RIT Packs and Vice Presidents have in common? You have to have them, but they are pretty much useless.
Yes, there is a place for these often close to 40lb duffle bags of spare air, facepieces and hand tools. They HAVE been successfully deployed at a few MAYDAY fires, primarily long duration collapse events. The UAC (Universal Air Connector) is perhaps their most positive trait, allowing a quick hit to buy some time.
However, the standard practice of locating an unresponsive firefighter, attaching the RIT Pack to them, and then dragging them out as a unit is out of touch with reality and develops severe training scars that pose a threat to the actual real world survival of trapped firefighters.
Uncomfortable as it may be, to train effectively we must take a hard look at reality. The majority of firefighters found unresponsive have stopped breathing. If thermal injuries have not already sealed their fate, their only chance for survival is ALS care, and fast. Applying air to these firefighters is wasting time and decreasing their chances of survival, akin to placing a cervical collar on a subject trapped in a burning car. Do we perform civilian searches dragging a bottle of air? No! Because we know the answer is speed. A firefighter is no different.
Instead of “If MADAY, then RIT Pack” training and policies, take a second to think. What are the conditions? What is the emergency? Unless the issue is specifically air related for a conscious firefighter or conditions allow for a long operation, our top priority MUST be rapid extrication. As always, context is key.