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I have been watching the Air Management acceptance grow and there seems to be a very definate intrest and understanding of it's importance. What is the best way to get an air managaement program started and how do you take that into practice on the fireground?

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Hey Bobby, Thanks for the question.

The first place to start is to get an understanding of what air management really is. In essence air management requires firefighters to do three things.

1. Know how much air is in your SCBA
2. Manage that air as you go
3. Exit the hazard area BEFORE the low-air alarm activates.

People seem to dig into the first two no problem. The third one is a new requirement of NFPA 1404 and where we start to have the discussion. We know this is a major change from the way people operate. If people want to know more about the idea of air management they can search for our articles in the magazine.

The way to put air management on your firegound is to train the firefighters. Teach them how to read their gauge, talk to each other about air, and make the time-to-exit decision in order to be out of the IDLH before the low-air alarm rings. Once they have some practice in training they are ready to move the idea to the fireground. WIth the support of the IC and the command staff you are trying to achieve an "alarm free fire."

NO Low-air alarms and NO PASS alarms.

Imagine a fireground that does not have bells, whistles, vibra-alerts going off all the time. This is how our fireground is now and we have converted many fire departments through training. Once a fire department switches to an air management philosophy they do not go back. We have seen this with large municipal departments, small all-paid departments, combination, and all volunteer. We even have a few that are "fire only" (no EMS) departments on board.

Glad to answer any questions about the subject. There is also more info on our website.

Phil Jose, "The Seattle Guys"
All instructors regarless of the program they are teaching should include a brief discussion on the importance of air management, scba use and limitations, and refer to the many fine articles written by the Seattle Guys for further reference. If each instructor took that extra time within their programs to pass along this message as well as their intended message more members would be aware of the need to practice this life saving skill.
Hey Bobby (the Moral and Spiritual Leader of the Fire Service) Halton.... How are you bro?

To add to what has already been said, let me say that it begins with a philosophical decision that, as much as is reasonably possible, you are not going to allow anyone on your fireqround (or yourself) to breathe smoke. Smoke poisons, smoke asphyxiates, smoke disorients and smoke kills. Don't breathe smoke! If you can get that simple concept, movement towards reasonable air management is not all that difficult.

Once you establish as a department policy that the unecessary breathing of smoke is not going to happen on the fireground, the implementation of the ROAM is a solid, core principle to build around. Phil addresses this well in the previous post.

It is clear to me that much of what inhibits making the changes necessary to counter inadequate air management policies is a leadership issue. Many of those in charge know full well that what they are requiring or allowing their people to do is putting them in harms way. Whether through ego, incompetence or fear of not being "beloved", they refuse to enforce changes that will save their firefighter's lives. Asphyxiation rates on the interior are increasing. Firefighter cancer is increasing. And still many cling to old practices that are obviously inadquate and pretend everything's OK. Or, sadly, that only the aggressive or "tough" firefighters do things the old school way. Such ridiculousness rings very hollow when the bagpipes begin to play or the call comes from the hospital that it's cancer. There is nothing "old school" about doing knowingly stupid things.

We believe the tide is turning with the great work being done by many committed folks across the country. John Lewis and Rob Moran are examples of this. The great work being done by Fire Engineering has been invaluable to getting a message out that has been difficult but needed.

You either make the determination to manage your air, or it will manage you.

To teach air management properly we must start at the academy, we time how long it takes to put on your gear but not how we perform in SCBA. With a simple digital air gauge we can conduct comparative testing based on each firefighter. Consumption rates vary and are based on numerous factors. We must compare apples to apples. The academy and required in station training is a perfect opportunity to evaluate each person and have a way to gauge progress. Air is free it is one of the only things they haven’t found a way to tax so why not use it. As a note wearing it on your back with it off does not protect your lungs it only hurts your back!!
To take it a step further we need to change our reference, firefighters who train in a small smoke houses or respond to working house fires tend to gauge their air management on this experience. This is a hard lesson we should have learned by now. We need to train in large acquired structures, this gives the firefighter the hands on skill necessary to make the right call on when they have to exit.
I agree with Frank. It needs to start at the academy. Now! not later. It's great that some departments are coming up with air management programs but not all are. There is great information out there on the most important piece of equipment we use and still today we don't know its capability, why, because we weren't taught from the beginning. Mr. Halton said it. How many of us know how much air is in our bottles? What exactly dose your guage tell you? Few of us know. Mr. lewis you are correct, it's up to our instructors to teach us the proper use of our equipment. It is also our own responsibility to know our equipment.
I to believe in the gospel of air management and think it should start in the academy, but that is just the begining.
I see too many instructor doing drills with out air. They believe that putting a pack/mask on without hooking up the regulator and doing company drills like stretching hose, searching and RIT operations is adequate. It is not! This equates to a false sense of security and does not help the firefighter judge his air consumption at all. Firefighters must train using air, after doing this for a while they become much better at judging their work time and more importantly their exit time. I know this means we will have to change out our cylinders when we drill but oh well.
We also need to keep our people skilled in SCBA emergency procedures like the low profile and quick release manuvers, I've taught at fire departments that have never heard of these before "Very Scary Stuff"
To keep em safe we must spread the word.
Wow, what a great discussion! The Seattle Guys definitely advocate teaching air management from day one. The SFD teaches all new recruits according to the ROAM during drill school. The great thing is that these FFs and those that come behind them will think that the ROAM is the way we always did it. For them to do otherwise would be a massive change in their approach to the IDLH environment.

The other approach is to get the "veterans" online. We did this systematically by first introducing air management techniques as a training topic unto itself. Then we transitioned to make it part of every drill that includes the SCBA. If we do a primary search drill the ROAM is part of the objectives. RIT drill same thing. Hose advance, ditto. It is part of the lesson plan and part of the safety message at every turn.

When we teach outside of the SFD environment we use a 4-step process. Step 1: Put the SCBA on the apparatus. Step 2: Put it on your back. Step 3: Put your facepiece on. Step 4: Manage your air.

Phil, "TSG"
Sounds awesome and fits what we always say to people in our classes. You can impliment air management at no cost, with no new equipment, at any level in the FD. We also see that once the light goes on for air management it doesn't go out. It may come on slowly as resistance keeps pressure on the dimmer switch but eventually people get there. If you have any questions or ideas for another drill don't hesitate to ask. We have a lot of experience inducing panic:) Truthfully though Air Management, properly practice, induces calm.

Phil, "TSG"
Can you explain further the purpose for turning on and off your bottle? There has to be a better way to teach Air management. ie. different breathing techniques. I would hate to see a firefighter get jambed up and start to turn on and off his bottle. You said it your self induced panic. Add the smoke,darkness and unfamiliar surroundings in real life and have a firefighter rip off his mask because he can't turn his bottle back on?

I do not think a ff in a "low air" exclusive situation has a need to turn the bottle on and off. The bottle on/off technique is applied as an emergency procedure for a regulator stuck in the open position. This will seem like your bypass is fully open and will result in out of air quickly if the flow is not regulated at the cylinder valve.

I remember a drill we did that simulated a team entering to locate a "downed ff." We had them follow an 1 3/4 line through some debris etc and told them that the ff "last know location" was at the tip and we had a report of a partial collapse. This was in the beginning of our air management days and was a real eye opener. When the teams reached the end of the line they found a wall breach prop and the tip was just beyond that. By and large once the team was at the end of the line and focused on searching for the downed FF they completely forgot to manage air. This resulted in MANY low-air and out-of-air situations. It also resulted in team members turning around a** over teakettle to exit when the low-air alarm activated. No communication, no teamwork, and several got lost on the way out. Talk about panic and trouble. Like I said, a real eye opener and really the beginning of our passion for making sure our folks didn't experience it for real.

That being said I guess I would phrase a question like this. What is the goal of the "air management" portion of the exercise. I believe you said to teach them what "out-of-air" feels like. So, now that they know that running out sucks, how are you teaching them to avoid the situation in the future?

We have several drills available on our website feel free to peruse and use same. Once you take a look I would be glad to answer any questions about them

I think the biggest lesson I have learned and try to pass on to my students is good decision making. If you have a good idea about where your air is throughout the task, knowing whether or not you can complete another task based upon your air consumption AND get out before the bell rings is the key to good air management. I try to impress upon students at the state academy the need to check air status before starting a new task.

Recruits/Probationary FF's are easy. I think that the 'feeling' of running out of air, case studies of FF's who have run out of air, or a class from TSG's is the only way to reach veteran FF's. It's our job as trainers to help everyone understand the benefit they will gain in managing their air. After that, its up to them.



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