Air Management And Rope Assisted Search

Information (estimates) compiled by Brett Johnson and Scott Eckels during B-Shift’s Rope Assisted Search drills.

While doing the search drills at the Outlet Malls, it was realized that using the 30 minute bottles generally allows for about 7-8 working minutes when following the new concepts of the air management policy. Times were checked and marked against progress, and there was enough similarity between each crew to draw several conclusions.

Using the concept of ‘thirds’ when applied to air supply (one third to work, one third to get out, and one third reserve), it is the goal to be out of the building before the low-air alarms start to sound. The IC of the drills (Johnson) would call for the first air check at the 5 minute mark of work, the next check two minutes after that, and the third check one minute after that. At the 5 minute mark nearly every crew was at the 3000PSI mark….the LT’s relayed the pressure of the lowest member of their crews. But just 2 minutes later, at the next check, the crews were reporting a pressure of about 2000PSI. This marked decrease in pressure coincided with the crews being in the midst of the toughest part of the search: body temps increasing, 6-7 minutes of hard work, etc. The third and final check showed that most crews were right at the 1800PSI mark, indicating that it was time to leave the building. 

Only a couple of times did someone exit the building after their low-air alarm started sounding, reminding us of two things: make sure that you are reading your guages correctly, and remember the amount of work it is going to take to leave the building. 

One more glaring nuance came to light: if there are going to be anywhere between 1 and 3 air checks with every crew, that’s a lot of new radio traffic. It was also noted by Lt. Johnson that there would need to be someone solely dedicated to air management and keeping track of the different companies. 

As the other shifts do their training at the mall, we are looking forward to learning more about this concept and how it relates to our department. Hopefully we can confirm or change the initial findings and shape future operations and policy through this information sharing process. One more note: it is the direction of the department to move to 45 minute bottles at the next opportunity….thus changing the working times for the companies. New training and information gathering will have to take place when we get those bottles to apply the same concepts to the new equipment.

~ by littlehippie on January 11, 2009.

3 Responses to “Air Management And Rope Assisted Search”

  1. Great findings and nice work on adding this to the drill (All shifts will particiapte in this too). Get the word out on air management…we are moving in that direction..and this information is an OUTSTANDING way to prove that we need to move to the 45 minute bottle.

    Basically speaking…by moving to 45 minute (1800L) bottles we will have a full 30-minute bottle to work before having to exit the building. This is a lot of work time for most fit firefighters…I challenge each of you to know what that time is.

    I look forward to A and C shift conducting this drill and seeing what we get for results.

    Thanks for getting this out…nice work B-shift.

  2. Because I am new to the whole air management concept and trying to learn what the accepted practices are, I went to talk to Chief Auston after we completed this drill. Chauffeur Dell asked me if the work times were flexible based on the building and having “thinking” firefighters. Chief Auston said it was acceptable to adjust work times based on the tipe of building (i.e. 2 story, frame SFD vs. a strip mall of big box). As long as the crew, and ultimately the officer, is taking into account the type of building and making sure the members have enough reserve air for travel time and any problems they encounter on the way out of the building.

    Air management seems to be a philosophy of awareness of the situation and air needed. Yes, it seems to be somewhat awkward to have to check air frequently but it is important for our members’ safety. I think as it becomes more of a habit and part of our culture (like wearing seatbelts) it isn’t going to be a big deal at all and will be come second nature. Rumor has it we are moving up on the list for the SCBA grant that will get us SCBA’s with heads-up dispays which will help too.

  3. Looking at Lt. Rettmer’s response, I just want to clear up a what 45 minute bottles do for the firefighter. First, you need to have a bit of background information. 30 minute bottles have 1200 liters of air or 45 cubic feet of air. 45 minute bottles have 1800 liters of air or 66 cubic feet of air. Are you with me still? Now come the awareness part, NFPA states that Firefighters who are working aggressively will breath approximately 100 liters of air per minute. If you remember the air management data that Lt. Johnson’s produced at the rope assist drill, he stated that members were burning through their working air in about 7-8 minutes. Although this is not rocket science, we can use his experience and data to show that to be true. Let’s break down the air in basic priciples; principle number 1 is, 30 minute/1200 liter bottles do not last 30 minutes. Principle number 2 is, working air for firefighter is approximately 900 liters-the last 300 liters is called “FF’s emergency air”. Priciple number 3 is, firefighters breath approximately 100 liters of air when working aggressively while on air. Principle number 4, working firefighter on air will breath through their “working air-900 liters” in 9 minutes; if you have a full bottle to start with. This matches what Lt. Johnson observed during the rope assist search, where he was able to validate that firefighters were going through their “working air in about 8-9 minutes. Back to what Lt. Rettmer stated above;”Basically speaking…by moving to 45 minute (1800L) bottles we will have a full 30-minute bottle to work before having to exit the building. This is a lot of work time for most fit firefighters…I challenge each of you to know what that time is.” Here he is not saying you have 30 minutes to work with, what he is saying is that with the 45 minute bottle, you have 1800 liters and 66 cubic feet of air in a full bottle. Divide 1800 by 4 and you have 1350 liters of “working air” and 450 liters of “ff emergency air”. So, in reality, you have about 450 liters more “working air” if you are breathing 100 liters per minute. How is this so, well in your 1200 liter/30 minute bottle you remember you have 900 liters of working air and 300 liters of ff emergecy air. In the 1800 liter/45 minute bottle you remember you have 1350 liters of working air and 450 liters of ff emergency air. 1350 – 900 = 450 extra liters of working air. This means that if you are working at a breathing rate of 100 liters per minute you would have about 4 extra minutes of breathing time before your low air warning devices begin to go off. Don’t be confused about how the bottles are labeled in minutes, that is a false indicator. We need to transition into thinking in liters, so that you have a true indicator to work off of. On a side note, we have the air management SOG approved and it will be rolled out in late November or early December. I want to thank all those who have contributed to the process, expecially FF/PM Todd Lewis who became the lead person with this process. Additionally, a training standard has been developed to help us all understand what we need to know regarding the “Personal Escape Filter/PEF”. Training on both the Air Management SOG and PEF will be rolled out together. I know this was a lengthly disortation, but I felt it was necessary to use this forum to reach our team. Thank you Oren.

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