Mayday Monday: Out-of-Air Emergency

By Tony Carroll

December 3rd marks the 18th year since the tragic fire in Worcester, Massachusetts, that took the lives of six firefighters. During the fire, it is reported that some of the firefighters were operating in moderate smoke conditions without the use of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). When conditions changed, they were caught off guard and scrambled for safety, some going deeper into the building. We must use  SCBA whenever we are in a smoke condition. Our SCBA is what keeps us alive in the IDLH atmosphere we work in. Here are links to the NIOSH report and an article about the Worcester tragedy:

CDC: Download the NIOSH Report | Esquire: The Perfect Fire

Are you ready for an out-of-air-SCBA emergency? This month we add a new wrinkle to the Shake and Bake drill: half of the cylinders used in the drill will be empty. This will require the members to utilize a buddy breathing connection on their SCBA.

RELATED: Cold Storage Warehouse Fire: LEARNING from Worcester | Brannigan: THE WORCESTER TRAGEDY

Here is a review of the drill setup: Take four SCBAs and break them down into their parts: regulator, harness, cylinder and facepiece. Put all of the parts into a pile. Blindfolded members search for the pile, retrieve the needed parts and reassemble the SCBA. The drill is completed after the member dons and is breathing from the SCBA. The member without air must use their buddy breathing connection and connect to a member with air. Then exit the IDLH.

Please give this drill/skill a try. Don’t forget to send us pictures/videos of you and your crew performing the exercise. Send them to Thanks for your continued support. See you in 2018!!

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

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