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Thread: Helium Usage

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    Default Helium Usage

    I usually make jokes and use sarcasm, but this one is serious.

    I am experimenting with using Helium in SCBA cylinders. My theory is that most fire fighter fatigue comes from excess weight. I figure that if we can make the fire fighter lighter by filling him with helium, he will be less fatigued.

    The only problem I can't seem to overcome is the funny voice on the radio.

    What do you guys think?


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    Forum Member FiftyOnePride's Avatar
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    Can't Helium Inhalation become fatal, or at least cause dizziness and one to become unconscious?
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    I don't see how you could go wrong with this idea.

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    Forum Member FiftyOnePride's Avatar
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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium#Production_and_use

    Although the vocal effect of inhaling helium may be amusing, it can be dangerous if done to excess. The reason is not due to toxicity or any property of helium but simply due to it displacing oxygen needed for normal respiration. One must be aware that in mammals (with the notable exception of seals) the breathing reflex is not triggered by insufficient oxygen but rather excess of carbon dioxide. Unconsciousness, brain damage and even asphyxiation followed by death may result in extreme cases. Also, if helium is inhaled directly from pressurized cylinders the high flow rate can fatally rupture lung tissue.
    I like the thought though, if it were not for this.
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    Originally posted by FiftyOnePride
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium#Production_and_use



    I like the thought though, if it were not for this.
    Thanks for this post. I didn't think of this.

    What if I chemically bonded the helium with oxygen? Would I get the properties of both? I am thinking of something along the lines of helygen.

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    Disillusioned Subscriber Steamer's Avatar
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    Helium is used in a mix with oxygen (Heliox) for technical diving operations up to certain depths. It eliminates issues with the nitrogen narcosis, but also will cause some other issues. Over 300 feet, it can lead to a "high pressure nervous syndrom" due to helium's tendency to increase nerve conduction. I'm not sure if this could happen over a period of time at atmospheric pressures. High pressure nervous syndrom's a condition that is simply a violent shaking that can be incapacitating. Helium also conducts heat about 5 or 6 times faster than nitrogen, so divers at least, are at greater risk for hypothermia. That could be an advantage for a firefighter though, especially during the summer months.

    There's also a mix called "Trimix" where something like 15% Nitrogen is added to reduce the nervous syndrome issue

    As for the voice issue, there are descramblers available to divers that make their speech understandable.
    Last edited by Steamer; 04-30-2005 at 06:08 PM.
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    Forum Member FiftyOnePride's Avatar
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    There was also talk on that linked page of a "trimix, an air mixture of helium, oxygen, and nitrogen, is used in deep-sea breathing systems to reduce the risk of nitrogen narcosis (high pressure nitrogen having a narcotic effect on the brain), the bends (a very painful and possibly debilitating condition that occurs when nitrogen comes out of solution in blood and collects in joints), and oxygen toxicity at high pressures."


    Perhaps that would work? I really don't know.
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    Hey George, why'd you pick the Volunteer forum for this nonsense?

    Edit: Never mind...I see now that you are belittling a young Jr.
    Last edited by WTFD10; 05-01-2005 at 12:03 AM.

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    Originally posted by WTFD10
    Hey George, why'd you pick the Volunteer forum for this nonsense?

    Edit: Never mind...I see now that you are belittling a young Jr.
    No, I'm not exactly belittling anyone. But how pathetic is it that a person could belong to a FD for a little more than an hour and not have been told that we don't use oxygen in SCBA? This particular member has posted idiotic posts in the very recent past.

    BTW, I absolutely learned something today. While I was trying to point out the idiocy of the "oxygen" thread, I had no idea that heliox and trimix were real substances. Their application to mid-depth and deep sea diving are very interesting. Thanks to Steamer for this fascinating information.

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    George, the funny part is that there are still people in this thread who thought you were being serious.

    Need we bring back the "Natural Gas" fire suppression thread?
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Originally posted by nmfire
    George, the funny part is that there are still people in this thread who thought you were being serious.

    Need we bring back the "Natural Gas" fire suppression thread?
    That was the whole point. It's unbelievable.

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    If the department switches their tactics to big water during suppression operations, then I think serious consideration would be given to the divers' tri-mix.(Disclaimer here...kids; don't try this at home)
    When the media keeps referring to the tank thingies on the backs of firefighters as "oxygen" tanks, then I can understand the misconception.(Disclaimer here...kids; the air contained in self-contained breathing apparatus tanks contains about 19% oxygen, I believe) Apparently, they were unaware that "oxygen" tanks will explode when exposed to extreme heat. And its release will accelerate combustion.
    Good information, Steamer.
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    Originally posted by nmfire
    George, the funny part is that there are still people in this thread who thought you were being serious.

    Need we bring back the "Natural Gas" fire suppression thread?
    Awww Damn, I was just about to ask how we integrate the Helium delivery with our new Natural Gas handlines. You guys are mean.
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI


    No, I'm not exactly belittling anyone. But how pathetic is it that a person could belong to a FD for a little more than an hour and not have been told that we don't use oxygen in SCBA? This particular member has posted idiotic posts in the very recent past.

    Would you believe I was an explorer for about 2 years and still didnít know what a halligan bar was? Donít criticize the kid for not knowing something. This is what makes people not ask good questions. This only leads to more problems.

    Iím all in favor of smacking a dumbass explorer upside the head when deserved, but I feel this was a genuine question.

    Perhaps he came here for help because he canít get help from his department. Iíve been there, itís not fun. Maybe someone at his station likes to Ďpoint out the idiocyí of his other questions. Now *thatís* the way to keep a youngster interested in the fire service.

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    Would you believe I was an explorer for about 2 years and still didnít know what a halligan bar was?
    That's a sad statement for your Explorer Post, your department, and yourself. In 2 years, you never once picked up a basic firefighting book and read it? As a fellow firefighter I can only say "Thanks for putting forth the effort".
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Actually, the main hazard of oxygen in cylinders on the fireground is twofold.

    First, oxygen is the ultimate oxidizer. Oxygen will dramatically intensify any fire atmosphere into which it is introduced (see: oxyacetylene torch). Oxygen can also cause certain hydrocarbon substances to spontaneously ignite. Oxygen can also collect in clothing and turnout gear, causing them to ignite in a fire atmosphere.

    Secondly, oxygen can cause an altered mental state in fire fighters who are inhaling a 100% oxygen atmosphere. I am familiar with one incident where this mistakenly occurred many years ago. It was like there were a number of drunken fire fighters. Hyoperoxygenation in a person for a non-medical reason is not a good thing.

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    Originally posted by Bones42
    That's a sad statement for your Explorer Post, your department, and yourself. In 2 years, you never once picked up a basic firefighting book and read it? As a fellow firefighter I can only say "Thanks for putting forth the effort".
    My post is the most dysfunctional group I was ever a part of. We had 3 different groups of advisors within my first year. I wanted to learn, while the advisors just used the explorers as an excuse to get out of doing station chores and had no interest in the group. I came to the station whenever we were allowed. Then the advisors told us to stop coming to extra events. We are now only allowed at the station twice a month for meetings. Would you believe I got yelled at for GOING TO A FIREFIGHTERíS FUNERAL? How about loosing door code privileges because I came in to watch training tapes? We had no books. I tried everything I could to learn but opportunities to learn kept on being revoked.

    Our station is in city hall. I get questioned every time Iím seen there. Did I mention Iím also a city employee, and resident?

    I was active with public education, tours, and fundraising. Now they donít even want to see explorers.

    If I didnít love the fire service, I would have been gone long ago.

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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI

    First, oxygen is the ultimate oxidizer.
    Hence the name "oxidizer"....

    I think you may be on to something, George....if a balloon can float with just a couple of pounds of pressure, what happens with an SCBA bottle pressurized to 2216 psi? Firefighters would float off into the stratosphere. Think about it! We could virtually eliminate the need for aerials!
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    Originally posted by dmleblanc


    Hence the name "oxidizer"....

    I think you may be on to something, George....if a balloon can float with just a couple of pounds of pressure, what happens with an SCBA bottle pressurized to 2216 psi? Firefighters would float off into the stratosphere. Think about it! We could virtually eliminate the need for aerials!
    YEah, but before we did that, we would have to make sure that ALL apparatus had enclosed cabs.

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    Be careful George or the PC police will get you for using the term Helium. In the future either use Personium or He/Herlium.

    Come to think of it Herlium is a good term for what the PC'bs makes me want to do.

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