Happy New Year! Welcome back to Mayday Mondays. Thank you all for your continued support throughout 2019. In 2020, Mayday Mondays will continue to highlight members who have made the supreme sacrifice, honoring their legacy by learning from their incidents. 2020 will also see a continued emphasis on the things that are really killing firefighters, fire service survival topics such as air management, highway safety, and fitness for duty and firefighter rescue topics like getting air to the down firefighter, below-grade and above-grade rescue techniques, and other removal tactics. All of the posts will have one guiding characteristic…the basics, because firefighter survival starts with the BASICS. Let’s get started.
This month we remember a firefighter from the Summit Township Fire Department in Michigan. As the officer in charge of the first engine, Captain Scott Thornton and his partner were searching for the location of the fire. During this search, he ran out of air in his SCBA and even tried to “buddy breath” with his partner. Unfortunately, conditions worsened and he was not able to make it out of the building. One of the recommendations from the NIOSH report is:
Recommendation #8: Fire departments should instruct fire fighters on the hazards of exposure to products of combustion such as carbon monoxide (CO) and warn them never to remove their face pieces in areas in which such products are likely to exist.–NIOSH F2005-05
Several times during the search for the fire, Captain Thornton removed his regulator from his face piece in order to smell the smoke to determine what might be on fire. This may have caused him to breath in products of combustion and affect his decision-making. Members are reminded to leave the regulator in place and use other methods to determine what is burning. The SCBA is a life-safety device with an “end of service life.” We must use air wisely and try to make it last as long as possible. One of the best ways to make it last is to know the limitations of the equipment.
How long will the SCBA air supply last? Back in July of 2019, we learned how much air you could get from an SCBA when doing very little. That month’s skill/drill was to sit still and breath off the bottle until empty. I am sure some of you were able to double the rated time span of your SCBA cylinder. This month, we will raise the energy level. With all of your turnout gear donned and SCBA in service, get on a treadmill, and time how long it takes for you to exhaust your supply. No treadmill? No problem. You can also do this skill/drill by playing basketball, walking around a track, or just about anything that raises your level of exertion. Make sure to time the evolution. Compare these times to the July 2019 skill/drill.
What can we learn from this month’s skill/drill? You can control how long you can make the air supply last. By controlling your breathing, you can get more out of the cylinder. When faced with a stressful situation, concentrate on your breathing to manage your air. Please give this skill/drill a try and report back to us at mayday.Monday@dc.gov . Ready? Go!
Tony Carroll is a battalion chief with the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.