Whether you use the terminology of Rapid Intervention Team/Crew, or Firefighter Assist and Search Team the concept addresses having a dedicated team that is responsible for rescuing a rescuer. Depending on where you are from, these teams may operate completely differently. Some companies simply arrive on scene, set up on the street side of the incident, and wait till further orders. There are companies that are proactive and conduct their own complex tactics as the dedicated resource. Depending on the jurisdiction response criteria may be extremely unique. Some places assigned the latter due unit to act as the FAST, some places assign only special units the task, and in some places, there are only a few select units that carry out the responsibilities. At the end of the day the responsibilities of the FAST are to search and rescue any firefighters in distress.
The FAST team requires several tools that allow them to execute these rescuing operations. The tools range from a variety of hand tools, a stokes basket, search ropes, and some saws. These tools aid in the crew accessing and removing the firefighters they are rescuing. Most of the time it seems that this dedicated team end up standing around. However, it is vital for these teams to prep the building by “softening” it. The phrase “softening the building” relates to literally softening the egresses of a structure. After completing a 360 of the structure, it is beneficial for the team to see what they are dealing with and develop their own understanding of the building. Some simple things the team can do to soften a building include:
- setting up ground ladders for potential rescue/egress points,
- removing bars from doors and windows,
- removing gates/fences to open up access to the operational area, etc.
In the even the crew has adequate manpower to split in half, it may be beneficial to set up the one team on the AB corner and the other on the CD corner. This allows for the company to have a continuous awareness of the ever-changing conditions of the incident.
In area that all units a responsible for the duties of a FAST team, it proves to be beneficial to the operation. It allows the incident commander to simply assign the duties to any unit that is not being actively used or that is not tactically staged. This creates a more fluid decision-making process when things have the potential to become chaotic. The specific unit approach creates a dependency on those resources. Should there be an incident in a county that had only a few specific companies responsible for a FAST team then; the incident commander may find themselves waiting for that one unit to arrive from further compared to a latter due engine or truck that may be designated the FAST team. Whether or not these teams are proactive depends on the training of the officers and the department. It may be even taken deeper to each firefighter. Do you want to just show up and be outstanding or be proactive and continuously benefit the operation? If you were caught in a deteriorating situation, wouldn’t you want half of the work done for you to get out of a building. If units on scene aren’t softening the building them you have the potential to find yourself working thought pandora’s box, making your way to a window, removing bars from the interior, and potentially performing a window bailout compared to getting out on to a ladder.
Always seek continuous improvement because everyone depends on each other. You can attend training classes, seminars, or even watch some youtube videos to develop your own awareness of these types of operations. The round table approach is beneficial because it allows you and our crew to discuss potential operations in a similar manner sports teams view post game footage. The FAST team discussion is one that has to be constantly addressed to continuously evolve company tactics and awareness.