I received an email from Aaron Mack, asking a question on rapid intervention.
I just started reading your book, Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services. This is something I’ve needed to dig into for a while as a firefighter.
One question. Pertaining the use of RIC on the fire ground, is there a document or such that states that RIC must be used at a working fire? I’ve been told by an NFA instructor that the need for RIC has “been tested in court”. My department leaders don’t believe in it but several of us have concerns on the lack of preparedness for a FF down and the misuse of ICS.
Thank you for your email. You bring up a good question.
Several lawsuits have been filed that allege that the failure to have a RIC on the fireground contributed to a firefighter death or injury, and constituted negligence. I am not aware of any jury verdicts on that point, nor any court decisions that definitively state that the lack of a RIC constitutes negligence.
The big question that is more important than whether a court has or has not made a ruling on rapid intervention crews – is whether in 2010 the standard of care that fire departments, chiefs, and incident commanders must meet, requires that a RIC be provided at working structure fires? I believe it does, and that any fire department or firefighter who doesn’t recognize that – is out of touch with the main stream fire service.
In terms of standards and laws, OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134), and in particular 1910.134(g)(4) requires compliance with two-in two-out at structure fires. So by law, there must be at least a two person team standing by outside a working structure fire. Admittedly not every state has to comply with OSHA regulations – but it certainly is evidence of what the reasonably prudent fire department or fire chief would do.
NFPA 1500 mandates the use of rapid intervention crews at structure fires, as well as compliance with two-in two out. In addition, both NFPA 1710 (career) and NFPA 1720 (volunteer and combination) require the use of RICs at structure fires. Again – it may not be law, but it is evidence of what the reasonably prudent fire department or fire chief would do.
It is hard for me to believe that in this day and age there are folks in leadership positions in the fire service – that do not recognize the need for rapid intervention crews. Good luck with trying to convince them. Hopefully it will not take a lawyer in the aftermath of a firefighter fatality, to teach your department leaders a lesson.