Throw Back to Basics: Air Bags

By Brian Zaitz

An air bag is one of those pieces of equipment that sits on the apparatus, is only checked by opening the compartment, and not trained on until after an event where they were needed. Air bags, while not routinely used for extrication, are a critical tool in the extrication cache.


Although not complex, it is important to routinely review and drill on the operation of air bags so when they are called for, your crew’s operation is effective and efficient.

When getting your air bags set up, here are few things to remember:

  • Never stack the air bags more than two high. Because of their design, they become extremely unstable and ineffective beyond that point.
  • CRIB, always crib as you go. A box crib provides the structural stability and integrity to support access from the air bags. When cribbing, build only up to three times the width of the of the base (as per Federal Emergency Mnagement Agency guidelines).
  • Mark your bags, and know both the lift height and the lift weight of the bags.
  • Use colored or marked hoses. This ensures the correct bag is lifted during the operation.


Air bag operations are relatively simple. However, the time to review them is not on the rescue scene. Next time you drill or check out your apparatus, take 15 minutes and train on the air bags. 

Download this drill as a PDF HERE


Brian Zaitz is a 14-year student of the fire service, currently assigned as the captain/training officer with the Metro West (MO) Fire Protection District. Brian is an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC as well as instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy.  Brian holds several degrees, including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelors in fire science management, and a masters in human resource development. Brian is currently and accredited chief training officer and student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.



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