Throw Back to Basics: Down Firefighter Air Supply

A firefighter gives emergency air to a down colleague during a training evolution.

By Brian Zaitz

You have been assigned to the rapid intervention crew (RIC), one of the most important and underappreciated tasks on the fireground. Ideally, this task goes the entire incident without activation and the crew goes home complaining that they “missed” all the action. Unfortunately this is not always the case and RIC is sometimes needed. When they are needed, there is no time “try and figure it out”–this is a time to execute your training and experience. One of the most important tasks associated with a Mayday or RIC rescue is the establishment of a secure air supply to the down firefighter.

Typically the RIC takes pre-established bag, usually containing a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinder, mask, various connections, rope and possibly small tools for disentanglement. The focus of this training bulletin is to explore the options for getting air from the RIC bag to the down firefighter. The first is a full-mask exchange; this is typically done if the SCBA mask is compromised or cracked. The downfall of this is that down firefighter has a temporary exposure to the immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) environment, but, once secured, the RIC mask provides a secure and stable air supply for the extraction process.

Another option is a simple regulator swap; this involves removing the regulator and swapping it for the RIC bag regulator. The advantage is that is a simple maneuver and allows the down firefighter’s SCBA to be fully removed if necessary for the extraction.  Again, there is a partial exposure to the IDLH, but it does again provide a secure air supply.

Both of these previously mentioned methods take the down firefighter‘s SCBA out of play. While this is an option, it may not always be necessary, especially for a simple low-air emergency or a firefighter who is just disoriented. Another method that keeps the firefighter’s SCBA in play and provides no exposure to the IDLH is the use of the universal RIC connection found on the SCBA. Here the RIC bag SCBA cylinder is connected and air supply is established. Again, air supply is established to the downed firefighter.

As stated earlier, the time to learn these options is not on the fireground. These critical skills must be practiced and perfected so if and when the Mayday is called the operation is efficient and effective to save our own.

Download this training bulletin as a PDF HERE (3 MB).

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.



No posts to display