Eastern Berks Fire is one of the area departments which specializes in RIT (Rapid Intervention Team), also known as a F.A.S.T. team (firefighter assist and search team). RIT (or FAST) is a team of two or more firefighters dedicated solely to the search and rescue of other firefighters in distress. RIT teams have no other operational assignment during an incident. Multiple alarm fires may require multiple FAST/RIT teams.
EBFD takes this responsibility seriously, and carries specialized equipment including a RIT pack (with auxiliary air supplies and adapters to hook into a downed firefighter’s SCBA); a FAST sled (a specially designed rescue sled to allow for more rapid extrication of a downed firefighter); as well as stokes baskets, rescue tools, and cutting equipment.
If requested as RIT, EBFD will send specially trained firefighters and this equipment to stand by in case of need. Other apparatus from the department may respond in addition, if requested.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have requirements for some type of FAST/RIT at structure fires. These standards require that a minimum of two fire fighters be standing by in full personal protective equipment while other crew members are working in a hazardous atmosphere. The standards are the result of a series of incidents where fire fighters became lost, trapped or disoriented while fighting a structure fire without a FAST present.
Through the late 1960s and early 1970s the London Fire Brigade introduced RIT procedures using emergency air supply equipment. This consisted of designated firefighter search and rescue teams (termed “emergency crews”) stationed at self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) control entry points, equipped with emergency SCBA specifically designed to be worn by unconscious, injured or trapped firefighters.