Breathing Apparatus Grows More Useful with More Use
The Volunteers Corner
Self-contained breathing apparatus has become as much a part of a fire fighter’s essential protective equipment as his helmet, coat and boots. The more you use breathing apparatus, the more proficient you should become in its use, and the more proficient you become, the more you will use it.
This is as it should be, because a man getting air from a cylinder on his back can do a far better job in a smoky atmosphere when he is unhurried by a growing compulsion to get out for a breath of fresh air.
This is the reason progressive fire departments make it a standard operating procedure to relieve the first-in hose crew taking a beating in a smoky fire by sending in a crew with breathing apparatus. This gives the first crew a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to don masks before returning to the attack.
Brackets speed donning: The installation of brackets on apparatus to facilitate rapid donning of breathing apparatus is gaining in popularity. In some installations, the breathing units are held hy brackets at the back of seats so that men can put them on while riding. In other installations, the breathing units are bracketed to the sides of the truck body so men can back into them while standing on the ground.
If at least two ladder company men can arrive on the fireground with their breathing apparatus already on, they can more easily provide interior ventilation for engine companies. At the same time, hosemen who arrive with breathing apparatus on can take lines in and stay with them.
Where it is advisable to use a lifeline, it should be tied to only the first man, and then around his waist with a bowline. This knot will not slip and cause unwanted constriction if a heavy pull is made. Also, a bowline will not jam and can easily be untied if the leader has to free himself in an emergency.
Another advantage to using a bowline is that it is one of the basic knots every fireman should know—well enough to tie it blindfolded or behind his back. Conversely, every fireman should be able to untie it quickly. Thus, if the bowline is always used on a lifeline, a man won t waste time in blinding smoke trying to figure out what kind of a knot was used and how to release it.
Hope signals: When a lifeline is used, a set of rope-pull signals can provide an elementary communication system. The signals should be simple and easily memorized so that everyone will remember them. One system uses the word OATH as the memory key to the rope pulls with the following meanings:
The rope is tied only to the lead man. All others grasp the lifeline with one hand so they can follow but not be pulled down if the leader should fall. By not being tied to the lifeline, one or two men can quickly step up to assist the leader, go back for help or lpave the line for a moment to open a window or do some other job without upsetting the movement of the other men on the line.
When heavy work must be done, men will consume more air, and their air tanks will not last as long. Breathing apparatus is rated for time by the U. S. Bureau of Mines after a standard simulated work test. Therefore, the time rating is only a guideline. Big men will use more air than small men, and a man swinging an ax will need more air per minute than a man holding a stationary hose line. Be prepared to relieve men doing heavy work sooner than the rated time limit of the apparatus.
Low-air signal: A bell that sounds when a normal 4 or 5 minutes supply of air is left in a cylinder is a highly desirable feature. When busily engaged, firemen have a habit of forgetting to look at their air pressure gage. A bell lets a man know it is time to leave a building to replace his air cylinder. And as he leaves, he should slap one of the men with him on the arm so that his leaving is noticed.
An easy way to extend your air time is to delay coupling the mask hose to the regulator until you near a contaminated atmosphere. Conversely, as soon as you leave a contaminated atmosphere, uncouple the hose and breathe fresh air while walking outside.
When breathing apparatus are used, an air cylinder station should be set up on the fireground. Spare cylinders are assembled here so that every fireman knows where to go to have a spent cylinder replaced. Sometimes a truck-borne cascade system is taken to this station, or a small truck is used to shuttle cylinders from this breathing apparatus station to a firehouse with recharging facilities.