Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

We received the following posting to our website... We hope it inspires others to make Air Management a part of business as usual on the fireground...

I attended your lecture at FDIC and read your book cover to cover in 3 days. Amazing. Within a week, our fire department agreed to implement an air management policy I created from the main points of your book. We hope to continue to push your lessons throughout our county. Thanks brothers!

Air Management Best Practice

Policy: To ensure that firefighters have the best opportunity to escape from IDLH environments without running out of breathable air, and to prevent the inhalation of carcinogenic and deadly smoke and toxins.

To strive towards compliance with NFPA 1404 (air management)

Rationale: Today’s furniture, plastics and other materials burn much hotter and are carcinogenic. One breath can kill a firefighter instantly or later in the future.

Most firefighter deaths inside structures occur as a result of a firefighter running out of air.

Procedure: The Fire Department adopts the “Rule of Air Management”. The rule states as follows:

“Know how much air you have in your SCBA and manage that air so that you leave the hazardous environment BEFORE your low air alarm activates.”

1. Firefighters will check their air before they enter the structure

2. Firefighters will take at least one breath of air before they enter structure, thus testing their SCBA

3. Firefighters will consider a low air alarm as an emergency, just as with a PASS alarm.
– A low air alarm should signal a lost or trapped firefighter

4. Firefighters will check their air at intervals during the operation.
– Officers/leaders will ensure that no bell sounds during operations
– Officers/leaders will take momentary breaks to have all persons check their air and report on air.

5. Each firefighter will ensure that 75% of SCBA’s air is utilized for entry, work and exit. 25% of SCBA air shall be reserved for emergencies to the firefighter.

6. Line Officers/Interior Crew leaders will notify exterior operations that their team is at 50% air. Exterior Operations will begin to mobilize a replacement crew, with the time factor depending on the length of time to reach the replacement point of the interior crew.

7. Firefighters WILL leave the structure before the low air alarm activates. This accomplishes 2 goals:
- Firefighters will have reserve air in case of an emergency occurring while they are leaving the area, such as getting lost, disoriented or trapped
- Low air alarms will signal a firefighter in distress and will stop being ignored as a nuisance alarm.

** If a low air alarm sounds, check on the firefighter**

8. Engine company firefighters should carry 35 – 50 feet of search rope to be able to search off of a hose line, when reasonable, to investigate a low air alarm.

9. Firefighters should check remaining air pressure every 5 minutes or less, depending on work load.
– If the work intensive a task is, as performed by a single firefighter, the more frequently checks have to be made
– The department will use similar terms to describe air levels:

• Full, ¾ full. ½ full, ¼ full (aka “time to leave”)

10. The amount of air remaining for the company equals the lowest amount of air in any single firefighter’s SCBA.

11. Leaving the IDLH area: Determining the amount of time to dedicate to exit. Depends on factors:
– How long is company from entry point
– How long did it take to get to our present position, and will that time increase due to lower visibility, tired firefighters, changed conditions?
– Who has the lowest air pressure remaining and how long will it take him to get to the low air alarm (note: not to the point of expending that air!)

12. Roles of Incident Command/Operations

Maintain situational awareness:
– Ensure sufficient manpower to replace firefighters low on air
– Obtain progress reports from crews, especially those using SCBA
– Identify those persons/crews low on air
– Start priority rescue for persons/crews low on air
– Ask line officers for CARA Report (see next slides)

13. Roles of Line Officers/Interior Crew Leaders

Manage air supply brought to fire-fight
- Maintain 75% of each firefighters air for entry, work and exit
- Notify exterior operations when the lowest team member’s air reaches 50%
- Reserve 25% for emergencies
- Rotate personnel to conserve air of working firefighters
- Provide timely progress reports to IC
- Determine whether entire team should exit (or just 2 members?) Best Practice: Entire team.
- If a team member works into their reserve air and their low-air warning bell begins to ring in the hazard area, the officer/crew leader shall report over the radio to the IC their unit signature, their location, that a team member’s low-air warning bell is ringing, and an estimation of how close they are to the exit.

Provide progress reports to Incident Command
- Utilize CARA

• Conditions: what do you have?
• Actions: what are you doing?
• Resources: what do you need?
• Air: what is the current status of your team’s air

Engine 1 has a heavy smoke condition with moderate heat on the 2nd floor (CONDITIONS) advancing an 1 ¾ hand line (ACTION), requesting immediate ventilation and assistance with primary search (RESOURCES); our air is at 75% (AIR)

14. Roles of firefighters

• Do you have your RADIO (R)
• Do you have the proper EQUIPMENT (E)
• Have you checked your AIR (A)
• Do you know your DUTIES (D)
• YES? Go! (Y)

Before exiting the vehicle, each firefighter should be asked if they are READY!
- Use common hand signals

• Firefighters should be trained in easily recognizable hand signals, including:

§ Full air, ok to enter (thumbs up)

§ Three quarters cylinder remaining (two fingers, five fingers)

§ Half cylinder remaining (five fingers, then closed fist)

§ Need to go now (pointing to exit repeatedly)

15. Overhaul: Firefighters will always wear SCBA while present in the IDLH atmosphere, even where fire has been extinguished

b>Brad Pinsky

Ride to the sound of the guns!

Mike, Phil, Steve and Casey - The Seattle Guys

Views: 87

Policy Page


Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to

Fire Engineering Editor in Chief Bobby Halton
We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our policy page. -- Bobby Halton

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail

FE Podcasts

Check out the most recent episode and schedule of

© 2021   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service