You Go, I Go: A Decision Making and Air Awareness Drill

Article and photos by Larry Wunsch

Today’s fire service requires firefighters not only to be mentally prepared through the learning of new skills but also to be physically fit to handle the challenge at hand when the alarm goes off. The following drill simulates some of the skills that firefighters must use and helps them to understand of the concepts outlined below.

From start to finish, a three-person group will have to work together to complete the drill.

Communications and Decision Making
Together, under the direction of the officer or lead person, decisions must be made to overcome the obstacles that present before them.

Balance, stamina, and physical conditioning all come in to play. Each firefighter has a limited amount of air that is to be used by the group as a whole to complete the drill. Smart breathing and proper lifting techniques are needed to conserve energy, which directly impacts air consumption. Awareness of your team member’s position as well as his/her air consumption plays a crucial part in decision making to complete the drill.

Equipment Needed

  • 24 wood pedestals

  • Three four-foot planks

  • Axe

  • 50-foot section of 2½-inch hose folded and taped for carrying

  • Roof ladder

  • RIT (rapid intervention team) pack with full bottle

  • Cold drinking water

Instructor Notes and Directions

  • The drill is performed by a three-person team.

  • Each team member mustbe in full turnout and on air while performing the drill.

  • Participants are advised to stretch before starting the drill to prevent strains.

  • Explain that if any one of the team members steps off the bridge, the team will have to move back to the last “shore” pedestal and start over.

  • Explain that participants must decide what order the three items will be carried back to the home shore.

  • The Rit Air bottle can be used to supplement the air needed by the team to complete the drill. Buddy breathing is also available.

  • Make sure that there is plenty of water for fluid replenishment.

  • An officer must watch for step off.

  • If any team member runs out of air, the team has failed the exercise.

  • Because of the odd number of staff at the outer stations, one person from station one can filter in to make a second team with outer station personnel.

The course is laid out by placing 24 pedestals in a straight line 48 inches on center. One four-foot plank is laid on the first pedesta, which is called the Home Shore Pedestal. On the other side of the course, place the three items to be brought back to the Home Shore (roof ladder, ax and hose, and RIT pack).

Make sure all three firefighters have full air bottles and go on air at the same time at the start of the drill. The team will work together placing the planks in series to create a bridge down the course. Remember: If any of the team members steps off the bridge during the drill, the team starts over back at the last shore pedestal.

Firefighter 3 will pick up the last plank and hand it down to Firefighter 1 for placement on the next pedestal. Working together, the team will advance the bridge down the course to retrieve one of the three items.

Placement is important. In this picture, the firefighter placed the plank too far forward, meaning that the planks will be in this position all the way down the course because of the equal distance of the pedestals. This placement will be hard to straighten out until you reach shore. A course monitor should adjust the pedestals to the correct position should they become out of position after the team goes by.

Once the team reaches the far shore, Firefighter 1 will retrieve one of the three items and will take the number 2 position for the return trip back. This sequence will give each firefighter a different position in the line for each of the three trips. (A trip is considered from the Home Shore Pedestal down the course and back again.)

In this picture, the team selected the item (ax/hose combination) to take back to the Home Shore. The number 2 position is a place to carry the items and conserve on air.

Balance is also important. Stepping off the bridge will make the whole team start back at one of the shore pedestals, which in turn will take more team air consumption.

Lift with the legs. A knee bend stretch is a good idea before starting the drill. There will be 96 knee bends in this exercise. The drill is completed when all three items (roof ladder, RIT pack, ax and hose combination) have been brought back to the Home Shore.

In this picture, the team demonstrates the use of the buddy breathing system, which is also available to the team for this drill.


This exercise should take about 30 minutes, provided there are no restarts. At the end of the drill, air bottle pressure should be recorded, for the firefighter’s use only. It is important that team planning take place before the start of the drill to decide which item should be brought back first. A good air mask seal and conservation of energy is extremely important to conserve air. It is best not to let other firefighters preview the exercise. We want all firefighters to be exposed to the same conditions so as not to have an advantage on team decision making. Again, if any one firefighter steps off the planks other than on shore, a restart from the last shore pedestal must take place.

Larry Wunsch is a battalion chief with the Fond du Lac (WI) Fire Department and director of the department’s training program. He is a Wisconsin-certified Level III instructor, holds a degree in fire science, and is the secretary of the Northeast Training Officers’ Association.

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