Air management

Questions and answers on the rule of air management


Captain Mike Gagliano and Lt. Steve Bernocco of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department answer questions from viewers of their recent webcast, “The Rule of Air Management (ROAM)”. Watch an archived version of this free presentation at www.fireengineering.com/webcasts.

1. We have received several questions about our book “Air Management for the Fire Service”. In short, it contains over 600 pages of comprehensive air management training, ranging from hands-on exercises to implementing ideas for services of any size or configuration. There are chapters on the overview and philosophy of air management, as well as simple descriptions of tactics. The book also contains contributions from some of the fire service’s greatest thinkers, including Alan Brunacini, Vincent Dunn, Dave Dodson, John Mittendorf, and many more.

Pennwell has agreed to give a 10% discount to people who watch the webcast. The code to use is IPG-AIR08. You can order the book online or call them at -800-752-9764 (toll free).

2. There were several questions about the new exhaust cartridges. We see no problem with having them as a “last chance” option. That’s all they should be. If firefighters use them as part of their normal air management strategy, then they become something we would not approve of. Things like “cheats” and filtering breaths are shortcuts that unnecessarily expose firefighters to carcinogens and provide a poor basis for an air management strategy. Adopt ROAM. Do it the right way. Vent cans are something that, if tested correctly, could provide much needed air when all else has failed.

3. Some instructors recommend that firefighters exhaust 50 percent of their remaining air or use the 1/3 method (1/3 in, 1/3 out, 1/3 reserve). These are well-intentioned solutions, but we believe they don’t provide the flexibility needed for a wide range of situations you face in the field.

You will rarely need 50 percent of your bottle to get out of a structure. ROAM helps handle those cases where you need that much air by training you to monitor your air gauge and make an appropriate decision about when to exit under any conditions. In larger structures, heavy debris, or intense conditions, you will obviously need to be more careful and leave earlier. In your typical house fire, 50% is far too early and will cost you a lot of valuable work time. The same applies to the 1/3 rule, although it is much closer to being reasonable.

We have found that firefighters can be trained to make their exit decision based on an overarching principle of not touching the bottom 25 percent. If the goal of air management is to knock on the door and ring your bell a few steps outside, that gives you something easy to assess your actions.

We don’t think firefighters should react like Pavlov’s dog to the ringing of a bell or some set formula that works on paper but not in the dynamic arena of fire. Use the ROAM. it works, and anyone can use it.

4. There were many questions about hydrogen cyanide. Please consult the Fire engineering magazine article, “The Breath of Hell” (March 2006). Also check out the Cyanide Poisoning Treatment Coalition website for great training material, all free: http://www.cyanidepoisoning.org/

5. The questions on the benefits of the jump breath were excellent. We detail some of the methods you can use in our book. The ones we describe in detail are:

  • Skip the breath. breathe with an extra breath
  • Counting the breath
  • Reilly’s Emergency Breathing Technique (REBT) – also called “buzz breathing”

They all work well depending on the situation and what you have been practicing. The bottom line is that unless you have kept your emergency stash intact, there will be nothing left for you to jump, count or hum. In our exercises, firefighters who kept their reserve intact were able to systematically make it last, using these techniques, for 30 minutes or more. Some are past the hour. This would increase the chances of the RIT reaching you exponentially.

6. The Yob video is available from the Seattle (WA) Fire Department. This is a three-part video titled “Firefighters Survival”. You can request this DVD by sending an email to [email protected] You can also download the video here: www.seattle.gov/fire/dvd/.

Tarver’s video may still be available by contacting the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department. We do not have the authorization to distribute it. The Abbot video is available on The Bravest Online: www.thebravestonline.com

7. We don’t think firefighters should be disciplined for working on their low air alarms. Remember that you are trying to undo many years of bad behavior from the ARA; for most of us old dogs it doesn’t happen overnight.

In Seattle, we have handled this situation more proactively. If you use your first bottle at a fire and go out before your alarm sounds, you have completed an appropriate duty cycle and can then change and work a second cycle. Then you go to rehab.

If, however, you are working on your lack of air alarm, you have now passed an appropriate duty cycle and are sent to rehab after one bottle. Nobody likes it.

You also have to deal with firefighters all over the facility checking with you to make sure you’re okay. Lack of air alarms are infrequent on our fire field now, compared to just a few years ago when everyone’s bell was ringing inside.

8. The question of whether we should practice, revise, etc. during the airwaves is pending. And the answer at all levels is YES!

Not to breathe air during the overhaul is foolish. Gases are at some of their most toxic levels due to slow, incomplete combustion, and cancerous particles are stirred all around you. This one’s not rocket science, gang. Do stupid things, and bad things will usually happen.

When it comes to training, we think you should practice because you are going to play as much as possible. Use air and practice ROAM in all your exercises. Make good air management policy an essential part of every drill you design. You will perform how you train or not, as appropriate.

9. Regarding the size of the bottle, we are in favor of the 45 minute bottle. We can tell that the 30-minute bottle is about to disappear. We encourage all departments making new purchases to change. The 60 is fine (we use them for our RIT), but we think the duty cycle given by the 45 is the best option.

The 45 lets you look all the way you’re used to with the 30, while still keeping that 25 percent intact.

Here’s the gist: No matter what size bottle you use, keep the last 25 percent in an emergency, then train like crazy to make the right decisions based on the equipment you have. . This last 25 percent is not to be used for normal operations and is for YOUR emergency.

10. In our high-rise operations, we generally fit two floors below the fire floor. This is where we also place our RIT / RIG teams.

11. We are big supporters of research lines or ties. They’re not the panacea some point out: in real fires they can be a tangled mess, burn out, and be a hindrance to other crews. They were not used in the Yob incident. Like any tool, they are invaluable if you have practiced with them and know their advantages and limitations. Having a line that leads you to safety is a great idea if you work it right.

No lines will help if you are breathing overheated air or toxic smoke. Make sure that whatever you do, your emergency stash remains intact when the worst day of your life comes.

12. Many questions were asked about new innovations in SCBAs, such as heads-up displays, pair breathing accessories, and alarms that signal various levels of air consumption. Here are some thoughts:

Heads-up displays are great as long as you know what you’re getting. Small flashing lights usually indicate an air range (like 75-50%), and this gap is very big when talking about your vital element. We suggest that you make checking your air gauge the first priority to find out your air level. This is what the ROAM advocates.

Breathing accessories are great as long as they’re options of last resort, not something you use as part of your standard air management program. You need to focus your efforts to make sure you don’t violate the emergency reserve; then breathing with friends will become something that will rarely, if ever, be used. If you’ve gotten to the point where you need to use pair breathing, then something has seriously gone wrong, much like with waste containers.

We want an alarm-free home. A little buzzer or something that alerts you to be at 50 percent or something like that would be nice. Again, we don’t want to be Pavlov’s dog. We should proactively check our own tune and not rely on a gadget to do it for us. Firefighters typically lack technology at the worst possible time. Put your fate in your hands and train yourself to take care of yourself.

13. A good question came up as to why the teams in Yob’s situation didn’t take him out of the fire. It comes down to the “false alarm mentality” that exists when you hear low air alarms going off all over the fire. No one pays attention to them. This is what happened here.

Thanks to everyone who watched the webcast. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions. You can get our information by email at manageyourair.com.

Seattle guys

Webcast sponsored by Sperian Fire