Manage Your Air

Jordan Ponder with the Blast Mask

Sponsored content from Paul Conway Fire

By Jordan Ponder

“Fire on the first floor is under control,” your officer radios into incident command as you continue maneuvering the nozzle aggressively. Water splashes across the ceiling and off the walls hitting your gear. It took a while to find the fire but it was a quick knock down. You stand by holding the nozzle while crews check for extension. Time passes and then you hear…*Ding* It starts slow and then rapidly *Ding* *Ding* *Ding*. Your low air alarm is sounding. “That you?” Your officer is not happy. Your department policy clearly states you must exit an IDLH structure before your low air alarm sounds. Now you are unintentionally breaking that policy. Reluctantly, you hand the line off and head outside. As you leave the hot zone you approach the chief. His demeanor says, “SO…WHAT HAPPENED?!”

You tell him, “I didn’t manage my air.”

Managing your air is a lifesaving responsibility of all firefighters. Failure to do so, means reduced working time and/or exposure to the hazards of the fire scene. This is why pioneers like Captain Mike Gagliano, Captain Steve Bernocco, Captain Casey Phillips and Battalion Chief Phillip Jose with Seattle (WA) Fire Department (“The Seattle Guys”), have authored books and toured the country to show how critical air management is. (add footnote Their practical principles have restored the emphasis back to firefighter air safety and have influenced departmental policies in order to continue protecting you.  

Making your bottle last takes skill, knowledge and the ability of your heart and lungs to work together for extended periods of time. During an Indiana University study of 56 firefighters, researchers discovered that firefighters during high stress situations can operate at or above their maximum heart rate for 30 minutes or longer. One of the factors contributing to this dangerously prolonged heart rate is wearing your SCBA and face piece. These pieces of equipment decrease your heart and lung performance by 14.9%. This research shows that to manage your air you need to train your health.

Jordan dons the BlastMask

Gallery: Shields/Frontispieces

Training health means improving your safety by limiting risk of injury and reducing the chances of cardiac-related LODDs. With Firefighter Dynamic Performance Training workshops, you and your department will learn how to replicate the critical duties of every fire scene training your body as well as your heart and lungs how to perform efficiently under these conditions. Using affordable and versatile equipment, you’ll learn how to build unconscious movement efficiency for yourself and for your brothers and sisters improving air management ability. Air Management is integrated into all our training cues to train quality respirations while active. It is this shared emphasis that makes Firefighter Dynamic Performance Training workshops fit so well with The BlastMask™.

RELATED TRAINING: Air Management Drill | The Rule of Air Management Q & A

The BlastMask mimics the conditions firefighters must contend with while on air.

The BlastMask™ is an awesome training innovation your department will benefit from. Created by Lt. Justin Dickstein and Captain Collin Blasingame of the Garfield (TX) Fire Department, The BlastMask™ allows you to build your heart and lungs by mimicking the challenges you experience wearing your SCBA and face piece. Training under this deficit will improve your air management time. My favorite feature of The BlastMask™ is its ability to train conscious breathing. Our SCBA chest straps encourages shallow breaths which waste air.  This type of breathing is unfortunately, habitual for many without their SCBA. Instead, breathe from your diaphragm or from your belly. By training this way, you are replacing poor habits with good ones. With The BlastMask™, you’ll experience it slightly moving during exhalation which keeps you focused on your respiratory habits.

Managing your air is essential for your safety. In order to improve your ability to manage your air take a cue from the air management innovators using principles from The Seattle Guys, workshops from Firefighter Dynamic Performance Training and The BlastMask™.  

The BlastMask

Jordan Ponder is a Captain of the Milwaukee Fire Department assigned to Engine 30. Additionally, he is the Lead Peer Fitness Trainer for the MFD where he has been training firefighter health for over 12 years. Holding NASM-CPT, ACE, PFT and multiple of modality certifications, he is also a professional bodybuilder with the WNBF. Jordan is also the Director of Firefighter Dynamic Performance Training which supplies free safety training equipment for fire departments for conducting workshops for their members. To contact Jordan Ponder, email

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