Mayday Monday: Air Management

Firefighter air management emergencies

By Tony Carroll

Welcome back to the latest edition of Mayday Monday. I know for some of you, March has come in like a lion. Hopefully it will get better from here.

This month, we highlight a recently released NIOSH report about a fire in North Carolina. In April of 2016, a firefighter who was low on air became separated from the hoseline while exiting the structure. After assisting with the fire attack, the member reported to his officer that he needed to leave. He began to follow the hoseline and was even assisted by another member, but did not make it out in time. As one of the contributing factors in this line-of-duty death, the NIOSH investigation included inadequate air management training.

Here is the link to the report (PDF): NIOSH F2016-07

This month’s practice includes two air management exercises.

1) Don your self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and do nothing until it runs out. Maybe watch TV or do something on the computer. Record your start and end time. You may be surprised at how long the air supply will last.

2)  Don your SCBA along with full PPE and walk on a treadmill. Pick an easy speed (maybe 2.5-3 mph). Record your start and end time.  In addition, record the time your low air alarm begins to sound.

RELATED: Humpday Hangout: Air Management and Crew Accountability | The Rule of Air Management Q & A | SCBA: The Air Management Conundrum

What do you do with the results? These exercises illustrate the capabilities and limitations of two important firefighting tools: First, the firefighter, and second, the SCBA. There is a limited amount of air in an SCBA. How can you make the most of it? It’s time to develop your air consumption skills. Get started in March 2018.

Please send in pictures/videos of you and your crew working on these air management skills to Thanks for visiting and see you in April.

Tony Carroll is a battalion chief with the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.

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Mayday Monday: Resolutions for Firefighter Survival

Mayday Monday: Out-of-Air Emergency

Mayday Monday: Entanglement Hazards

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