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  1. #1
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    Question Conserving air on SCBA

    I got to gear up in a SCBA yesterday. We are using the Scott 4.5 SCBA system. After I donned my gear and SCBA, I ran up and down a 5-story staircase and used half the air bottle. (We use "30 minute" air bottles).

    Realizing that was bad...I tried again later (with a full bottle at 4500PSI) and ran up and down a 6-story (yes, 6...not 5, this time) staircase and came down at 3100PSI. I compared to some other friends and realized that they still had more air than me.

    I've asked some others for advice with nothing really helpful.


    What are some helpful ways to conserve air?

    Also...I've always wondered...if you ran out of air completely (even after using your bypass valve)...would you just feel as if you were suffocating?

    How many flights of stairs should one be able to run using a 4500PSI bottle?

    Thanks


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    I think its all up to the individual him/herself,some say in through the nose out through the in check! Dont know about anyone else but thats what works for me, hope it helps.

  3. #3
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    A 45 minute bottle will never last 45 minutes if you're exerting yourself. Estimate a bottle to last about half its rating. Things you can do to help extend your bottle time are keep in excellent cardiovascular health and don't smoke. If you're trying to make your bottle last as long as possible, you can try skip-breathing. But that's rather difficult to do while you're running stairs.

    Ask your explorer coordinators to do some bottle drills sometime. I remember we got geared up in full PPE with air packs and just walked around the exterior of the fire station until we used up 1000 psi of air. Then we did exercises (jumping jacks, push-ups, etc.) and used up another 1000 psi (in a much shorter time). Then we took a break and drained our air down to about 1500 psi. We slowly geared up again and then just sat down. Then we were told to make the bottle last as long as possible. We sat as still as possible and did skip breathing. You'll also get to experience the low-air alerts (HUD & Vibra-Alert if equipped). As your bottle empties, you'll get to feel how breathing becomes more difficult and then how the face piece sucks in when there's no air left.

    Experience this and remember if this ever happens in an IDLH environment to keep your face piece on. You'll pass out and use less air before you suffocate, thus giving you a little longer where you might be able to be rescued. If you breathe the IDLH air, you're exposing yourself to horrible stuff with superheated and toxic gases. Remember that with proper training, you should NEVER allow yourself to be caught in a situation like this.

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    Could you explain "skip-breathing" please?

    Also...once you run out of air...you say you'll feel the facemask sucking in? I'm assuming you'll feel as if you're suffocating and can't breath. How can you ensure that when something like that happens that you don't panic? I'm assuming that the natural instinct would be to pull off your mask.

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    I learned quickly what it feels like, you should to. The face mask will pull in, the valve shuts off. Put your mask on, and when you do a seal test, putting the palm of your hand on the opening and sucking in, it's the same effect you'll get from no air left. You can't breathe in...at all. You can attempt a makeshift filter with your coat while in the house if you can get out quickly, other then that, pay attention to the HUD. They made us sit in a room and let our tanks deplete, we couldn't just pull the entire mask off, just the regulator. Ask if you can wear a bottle, and deplete it in the house, to get the feeling.

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber tajm611's Avatar
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    Cardiovascular health.

    Breathing in through you mouth and out through your nose. Some will disagree but I find I use more of the air I breathe in.


    You need to train and get you vo2 max up.
    ‎"I was always taught..." Four words impacting fire service education in the most negative of ways. -Bill Carey

  7. #7
    Forum Member GTRider245's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BridgeportFireExplorer View Post
    Could you explain "skip-breathing" please?

    Also...once you run out of air...you say you'll feel the facemask sucking in? I'm assuming you'll feel as if you're suffocating and can't breath. How can you ensure that when something like that happens that you don't panic? I'm assuming that the natural instinct would be to pull off your mask.
    Skip breathing- short breath in, short breath in, long breath out. Takes some getting used to.

    Like the others said, no two people will be the same. Your size, lung capacity and overall fitness level will dictate how much and how fast your will use a tank.

    In reference to the running out of air question, most guys who run out of air dont die from suffocation. They die from inhalation burns and injuries. Any one of us would take that mask off if there was nothing left to do.
    Career Firefighter
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

  8. #8
    Forum Member FiremanLyman's Avatar
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    Skip breathing- a little more info; Take a normal breath in, hold it for as long as you would take to exhale, take a second shorter, smaller breath. Hold it, and exhale.

    Somewhere there was a study that this was bad for your heart. I don't know about that, or even if it actually saves that much air. BUT it does force you to THINK about your breathing, and if that slows your breathing down, great.

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    On a side note, its not really safe to run up and down stairs in turnouts while being packed out.

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    also the more you wear you pack and the more fires you go in the more comfortable you will feel in it. thus using less air.

    As others have stated do more pt and then do some more pt.

    I read an article a year or so ago that said skip breathing actually uses more air because as your body feels the need for more O2 your heart speeds up thus using more O2 and your breathing increases.

    training is what kicks in during low air situations. the training divison has done their job when they transform your basic human reactions to the reactions they want you to preform. kind of like reprograming a computer.

  11. #11
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    As others have said, spend more time wearing the SCBA. You will learn to be more comfortable in the mask and use less air as you become more comfortable. Also, wear it while doing excercises or station chores and then while sitting still to get an idea how long it will last under different conditions. Don't be afraid to let it run empty while you are in a clean atmosphere so that you know what it feels like.

  12. #12
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    I have found I can conserve air by not getting all excited. Try to maintain a sense of calm.

    We use ISI packs, they have a nice little switch on the face piece that allows us to go from ambient air to bottled air with the flick of the switch. I have found I can conserve air that way as well.

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber tajm611's Avatar
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    It also helps to conserve air if you never plan to go interior, am I right?
    ‎"I was always taught..." Four words impacting fire service education in the most negative of ways. -Bill Carey

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    I have found I can conserve air by not getting all excited. Try to maintain a sense of calm.

    We use ISI packs, they have a nice little switch on the face piece that allows us to go from ambient air to bottled air with the flick of the switch. I have found I can conserve air that way as well.

    You shouldn't have any problems with your air supply.

    Looking in from the outside you should never run out of air.

    One has to be operating inside a structure and performing hard firefighting work to be using up air thus there would be a need to try to conserve your air supply.


    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  15. #15
    Forum Member CGITCH's Avatar
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    I have been taught skip breathing, and ten count breathing, which hasn't been mentioned. I know it isn't very popular but we were taught it just to know. Basically take a breath, try and count to ten, and exhale. You couldnt be able to use this technique when working since you keep yourself from breathing basically. All it can do is if you are down to try and extend that time as much as possible. Being in high cardiovascular condition and not smoking are about all you can do. Although my old man smokes cigars like its his job, and in his latest SCBA test, the physician said he had the best lungs on the department. I too use a lot of air, although I now use less since I have gotten more comfortable in a pack and have gotten used to that feeling. I also found to make sure you have that pack strapped on well when going interior. It likes to roll off and cause even more strain on you when crawling, especially when using metal tanks.

  16. #16
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    Working hard, (dragging hose, chopping etc) my 30 minute bottle lasts me anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by tajm611 View Post
    It also helps to conserve air if you never plan to go interior, am I right?
    Yeah,you NEVER have to flip the switch! T.C.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    I have found I can conserve air by not getting all excited. Try to maintain a sense of calm.

    We use ISI packs, they have a nice little switch on the face piece that allows us to go from ambient air to bottled air with the flick of the switch. I have found I can conserve air that way as well.
    why would you be wearing your facepiece if the ambient air is safe to breathe? Thats wasting air, not conserving it.
    Proud East Coast Traditionalist.

  19. #19
    Forum Member PaladinKnight's Avatar
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    Also...I've always wondered...if you ran out of air completely (even after using your bypass valve)...would you just feel as if you were suffocating?
    OK... you slept through class didn't you? Or did your instructor not do his best to scare the hell out of the guys when he covered SCBA and Fire Behavior?

    If you had the benefit of my class, I spend about eight hours doing my best to provide the truth about this very subject. If I don't give you that and cause you to re-analyze your decision to be a firefighter, then I let you down. I'd rather make a guy change his mind than have him freeze up or die because we failed him or filled his head with how great he can be. You pull your own guts up from within yourself, not from anything I can give you. I can only train you, but you have to pay attention.... so pay attention now.

    No two individuals will react the same as they use their air supply, nor do they react the same when they realize they are about to run out.

    Under no circumstance do you ever remove your facepiece. Ok... easier said than done. But if you are out of air, and unconscious, and someone gets to you quickly, we stand a good chance of bringing you back depending upon what you are exhibiting at that time; e.g.: cardiac arrest, unconscious w/ reduced pulse rate...etc. But if you pulled that mask off, we have no chance to fix your scorched or severely damaged lungs, thus you will be DRT (dead right there).

    Here is the stark reality. Firefighting is dangerous.

    It can kill you real fast, or real slow. We read alot about the real quick deaths from collapse, flashover, backdraft, falls, crashes, etc.

    What we do not read often enough is the slow ones.

    The guys from my generation will tell you that they started dying the day they became a firefighter; e.g.: iron lungs. The stuff we breathed and absorbed 25-35 years ago is killing us off now that we are in our 40s, 50s & 60s; cancer, cardiac, stroke.

    As others have advised, get use to that SCBA. Practice every chance you get doing ordinary tasks around the station, watching TV or even using the station computer and surfing the WWW. 'Quick walk' or 'jog' a half-mile in full turn-out. Don't run all out! Not good to fall or overheat while training.

    Even doing this, it will not compare to the pucker-factor when you're interior and the big-bad fire is licking your butt. Until you get comfortable using your equipment, you will not trust it. But when you do begin to trust it, you must trust yourself, the training and your instincts more. You have to use your brain.

    OK... I've been there and done that...

    I was lucky to survive a collapse in 88. I had no way out by myself. I can tell you that I wanted to pull my facepiece real bad as I realized I was running out of air. I was trapped for 9 minutes before they got to me. I used more air during those 9 minutes than any 9 minutes before. We're talking the bells and whistles were all going off.

    Before I passed out, I saw the crew coming toward me, but it didn't click right then... it was like a dream due to the hopoxic state that I was already in. I woke up in the back of an ambulance after they had broken 4 ribs from pounding on my chest.

    Was I scared? Hell yes, but I didn't have much time to think about it. I was more scared when I thought about it afterward.

    Did I ever go back in? Yes, but it was tough the first couple times. I'm not going to blow a bunch of smoke and tell you that I got over it quick. I spent 6 months in a burn unit so I was a bit apprehensive once I got back on the line. Anyone that has ever been through that crap will be lying if they tell you they got over it pretty quick.

    I've worked with alot of guys that woke up with night sweats and flashbacks from their personal nightmares. Vets know what I mean. Did I think differently about them afterward. No, they are just as mortal as I am... I still go through some of those issues. Today we call it PTSD (post-tramatic stress disorder). Back then you were told to suck it up, but only because you would be drummed out if you didn't.

    Enough about me and my mistakes. About you now.

    If you are a vain individual, too bad. I suggest you quit looking in mirrors. It is hard to look cool if you get burned and scarred. It is also hard to look cool if you're dead.

    From your own words, I can tell that you are already worried about how you measure up. You better get over that right now. This is not a race between you and the other guys. This is a race with yourself. Only you can decide where this takes you and how good you can be. Anything that you might be a little deficit in can be overcome by being better in other ways. Being smart will carry you further than being able to make a bottle last. Learning from others (the old dogs) mistakes and experience will help. Paying attention to where you are and the little details is important.

    Get all of the experience you can on the bottle before you really need it. Learn to skip breathe; some guys can make it work, some can't. This depends on how quick you get rattled, or if you remember it when it counts. Breathe in through your nose and exhale out your mouth. Learn how to control your bypass valve. Be able to do it in the dark. While you can look at your HUD, it is only a guide to what you have left, and not a guage of how long you have left. If all hell breaks loose, the HUD doesn't mean squat... your ability to stay calm and think clearly is the only thing that will dictate if you will survive, or will have any chance. Hopefully, your scene commander is in tune with his crews and feels what you feel and can read your mind.

    When you go interior during a bad one, you will know if you're in trouble... hopefully. Some guys never see it coming. You have to take care of you first, then your partner, then everybody else. If you don't get a little concerned about being inside, then you did not listen to me or the other guys around here. But that doesn't mean you spend alot of time thinking about it if you do..

    When you get that little tingle from the tips of your toes to the back of your head, you know you might be a bit concerned. If you have never felt that before, get ready, it is coming. If your butt muscles tighten (butt-pucker), then it is most likely due to the fact that you went past concerned and have reached fear. And that might be a good thing if you then rely on all of your skills and training.... and most importantly, your brain.

    Knowing your limits and how long you can stay on air while performing taxing jobs will give you some idea of how long you can stay in, or survive if you get to the worse case.

    Train, train and train some more. Since you decided to do this job, you better plan on becoming the best you can. Your life depends on it.

    Now back to our regular programming...
    HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

  20. #20
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    If this was your 1 st time fully geared on air dont worry about it. I did the same for the first 4 or 5 times, then my times fell into normal range. First couple of times your excited, nervous and scared, which uses up more air. Make sure that face piece is very tight.
    I had my low air alarm go off in a HazMat tech class. I still had enough time to go through simulated decon and properly remove my level A suit.
    Don't freak.

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