Firefighter University

Firefighter University
By Ret. DC John G. Riker

With the exception of death and taxes there are few absolutes’ in life. There is no guarantee that when firefighters enter a burning building they will come out alive. The obstacles firefighters face and dangers they encounter to often prevail over their dedication to duty. The answer is to be as well prepared as possible to react to any situation.

The SCBA has proven to be a reliable piece of firefighting equipment. Engineered and built to withstand the harsh conditions of the fire ground, break downs, and malfunctions are a rare occurrence.

Often firefighter SCBA training consists of what to do in the event the face piece becomes fogged or the harness gets tangled on an object. In all of these events air is still available to the firefighter. A simple adjustment of the by-pass valve or shoulder strap could easily remedy these situations.

But what can be done when there is no air remaining. Years ago, firefighters were taught to remove the low-pressure hose from their regulators and put it under their coats. The clothing that they wore was intended to filter smoke and allow the firefighter to breathe the air that was trapped next to their body. With many of the SCBAs in use today, this procedure is no longer an option. A new procedure was needed. The maneuver, outlined here, is designed to give firefighters a fighting chance to survive in a smoke-filled atmosphere. Here are the steps to remember when no air is being delivered to the facepiece:
1. Don’t panic. Stop all other actions. Concentrate on the procedure. Work quickly. Even during training, firefighters who suddenly lost their supply of air found it difficult to remain calm. Many members ripped off their facepiece to take a breath. The only way to overcome this problem is by training.
2. Drop to the floor. Dropping down helps you get relief from heat, improves your visibility, and helps you focus. This action may also alert other firefighters to your problem.
3. Activate PASS alarm. Call for help immediately by activating your PASS alarm. Should you fail to gain control, a single breath of toxic atmosphere could render you unconscious, resulting in a delay in your discovery. It was also discovered that wearing the PASS alarm on the back of the SCBA made it difficult to reach. The PASS alarm should be readily accessible and activated at the first sign of any emergency.

4. Position your facepiece close to the floor, and remove the regulator. Place the facepiece opening down on the floor. The only remaining air in a smoke-filled room is at the floor level. Do not remove the facepiece. It offers some protection and aids your visibility.

5. Cover the facepiece opening with a Nomex® hood or gloved hand. Folding your hood or placing a gloved hand over the opening of the facepiece will act as a crude filter against smoke particles. If possible, signal a mayday according to your department’s operational procedures. Give your location, name, and company identification.6. Place the covered facepiece opening directly on the floor. The firefighter must maintain this position throughout the escape.

7. Leave the hazard. Get to an area where you are able to breathe.
8. Contact your officer; report your condition and location.

When a firefighter depletes their air supply there is little time to think it through. Reactions must be instinctive. This can only be accomplished through training. The “No Air Maneuver” was designed to give a firefighter a fighting chance, one more breath, a few more seconds to be rescued. There is no one answer for every fire ground situation. This procedure may help you escape in the event of an emergency. To have no procedure means you have less of a chance to survive should your SCBA malfunction.