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  1. #1
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    Default NFPA 1404 and Air Management

    An article in the new issue of Fire Engineering discusses NFPA 1404, which sets forth the standard for air management. According to the article, nder NFPA 1404, a firefighter is supposed to exit the IDLH environment BEFORE their low air alarm goes off, and if it goes off while a firefighter is in an IDLH environment, it is to be treated as an event comparable MAYDAY situation.

    Does everybody here comply with this? Is this realistic for departments that operate with 30 minute bottles?


  2. #2
    Let's talk fire trucks! BoxAlarm187's Avatar
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    A couple of the guys on my shift recently attended a class taught by some brothers from Seattle, and they brought back to us that Seattle treats ALL low-air-alarm situations as maydays. Apparently there was a lot of resistance to air-management from within when it started years ago, but now it's the norm for them.

    Perhaps some of our northwest brethren can chime in?
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  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber mtnfireguy's Avatar
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    Buckle Up, Slow Down, Arrive Alive
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    EuroFirefighter Batt18's Avatar
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    The Seattle system of SCBA air management is founded on the British System that was developed in the 1950s by the London Fire Brigade following several life losses of firefighters. This system of SCBA air management has been incorporated into the risk-based approaches adopted by fire departments across the world. It has saved countless firefighter lives.

    It does call for firefighters to exit the structure before their 'low air alarm' operates. This means 30 minute cylinders are becoming less viable. Firefighters must learn to adopt a new culture that calls for strict management in the operational use of SCBA whereby crew members work closely together to coordinate and monitor their air supplies. This ensures -
    • Turn around times (TATs) are calculated
    • A dedicated SCBA entry control officer responsible for air management
    • Monitoring of all firefighters through SCBA accountability
    • The relief of interior crews is more easily managed in advance of requirements
    • Rapid Intervention (FAST) Teams are more aware of interior crews situations
    • Overall control of SCBA wearers is more effective and safer

    The reference to 'Air Management' in NFPA 1404 has been a long time coming but its adoption will see major advances in firefighter safety and I am sure this standard will develop further in this particular area of firefighter safety in the years to come.
    Last edited by Batt18; 02-23-2008 at 03:41 PM.

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber Edward Hartin's Avatar
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    Post Air Management Works

    We have been following this practice for over two years. We began this practice while using 30 minute cylinders. Since implementing an air management policy we transitioned to 45 minute cylinders providing increased work duration, but this was not due to problems with air management while using 30 minute cylinders.

    Air management need not be complex, our policy is less than one page long and outlines the critical elements of the process (see below).

    POLICY STATEMENT


    It will be the policy of Gresham Fire and Emergency Services, that members will maintain an awareness of their air supply while working in hazardous atmospheres. In addition, the last 1100 psi of that air supply shall only be used in the event of an emergency that interferes with normal egress from that hazardous environment.

    Each member has an individual responsibility to ensure his or her own safety by regularly checking the pressure remaining in their SCBA cylinder while operating in a hazardous environment. Supervisors operating in a hazardous environment (i.e. company officers) have two additional responsibilities: 1) Ensure the safety of all members of the company or crew by maintaining awareness of the air status of each person they are supervising. 2) Ensure egress with sufficient time to avoid low air alarm activation inside the hazardous environment.

    Activation of the SCBA low air alarm in a hazardous environment shall be treated as a serious condition. Members experiencing this condition must immediately notify members of their crew and supervisor. Supervisors must notify command that the crew is exiting the hazardous environment. If a supervisor feels that the crew cannot immediately exit the environment then the supervisor must declare an emergency traffic radio message identifying who (i.e. which company) has the emergency, where they are located, and ability to egress the hazardous environment (or assistance needed).

    Supervisory personnel located outside the hazardous environment (i.e. Command, Division or Group Supervisors) shall check air status whenever asking for a report on conditions. Supervisory personnel should ensure that sufficient resources are available to provide for continued tactical operations while complying with this policy.
    Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE

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    OK, I'm going to vent......a dedicated SCBA control officer....I am all for safety but where exactly do I get all these folks from ???: Incident Commander, Safety Officer, Accountability Officer, RIT, and of course someone to put out the fire ! We staff a 3 person engine 24/7 backed up by vollies (2nd piece is 5 to 10 minutes behind us typically). On a working fire it is all we can do to lay in with a supply line and then choose between fire attack or primary search. Its great that the NFPA and the Ivory Tower types are looking out for our safety and I truly believe in RIT and dedicated safety officers on scene but when are we going to accept the fact that unless your in a big city you cannot comply with all of these standards. We are told that we could be held accountable to NFPA in court regardless if it is adopted by our community but when you tell the city council this they say we are not an NFPA community. OK, I'm done now, I think I feel better ???!!!

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    EuroFirefighter Batt18's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcl312 View Post
    OK, I'm going to vent......a dedicated SCBA control officer....I am all for safety but where exactly do I get all these folks from ???: Incident Commander, Safety Officer, Accountability Officer, RIT, and of course someone to put out the fire ! We staff a 3 person engine 24/7 backed up by vollies (2nd piece is 5 to 10 minutes behind us typically). On a working fire it is all we can do to lay in with a supply line and then choose between fire attack or primary search.
    I hear your concerns.

    Without getting into a debate about other relevant standards (ie; 2 in/2 out) I can confirm that the British system has effectively adapted their 'air management procedure' to operate 'effectively' with a single 4-person engine on scene.

    I believe this is where the concepts of SCBA Air Management are heading in the US as our risk-based tactics gradually come into alignment.

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    MembersZone Subscriber Edward Hartin's Avatar
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    MCL312,

    Nothing in NFPA 1404 requires a dedicated BA Control Officer, simply that members know how much air they have and exit the hazardous atmosphere before the low air alarm sounds.

    While I agree with my esteemed colleague from across the pond that the British system of BA control provides a higher level of accountability and control, simply making members and their supervisors responsible for tracking air status and exiting prior to low air alarm activation is a simple step in the right direction and requires no more staffing than we already have.

    Cheers,
    Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE

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    MembersZone Subscriber mtnfireguy's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hartin View Post
    While I agree with my esteemed colleague from across the pond that the British system of BA control provides a higher level of accountability and control, simply making members and their supervisors responsible for tracking air status and exiting prior to low air alarm activation is a simple step in the right direction and requires no more staffing than we already have.

    Cheers,
    Amen Brother
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  10. #10
    EuroFirefighter Batt18's Avatar
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    Chief Hartin is correct that NFPA 1404 mentions nothing about a dedicated entry control officer. At this time there is no requirement for such a role, according to the current standard.

    That doesn't mean it is not a good idea and the Chief also points out that 'a higher level of accountability and control' is achievable where the concepts of 'air management' are expanded further.

    simply making members and their supervisors responsible for tracking air status and exiting prior to low air alarm activation is a simple step in the right direction and requires no more staffing than we already have.
    It most certainly is a step in the right direction. But this is (hopefully) only the beginning. A solid foundation for 'air management' relies on -
    • Stringent protocols of when, where and how SCBA is to be used
    • Entry protocols (PPE safety checks and minimum cylinder pressures)
    • Regular checks of cylinder contents and estimation of 'turn around' time
    • Exit before low-air alarm actuates
    • Structured deployments and assignments (at least a buddy system)
    • Designated 'entry' points
    • Control of SCBA wearers becomes more complex as the number of wearers grows
    • Planning and coordinating relief crews ahead of time
    • Providing RIT crews with detailed information (a picture) of interior ops
    • Discouraging/Preventing freelancing
    • Masks to be worn prior to entry and removed after exit
    • Recording and monitoring air supply of all wearers
    • Calculating approximate times of exit of crews in cases of communication failures
    • Rapid Deployment procedures for emergency deployments under limited staffing

    All these factors will increase the parameters of safety and cannot possibly be handled effectively by Incident or Sector Commanders alone. An Entry Control Officer/s will ensure that increased accountability of wearers and advanced 'air management' procedures will create a safer environment within which to work.

    The guys in Seattle have started the ball rolling here and you should embrace these more advanced concepts for the next revision of standards and procedures because there is a big return in 'safety' for very little outlay or effort.

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    I thought that when your low air alarm went off it was time to take your mask off... If you don't have it knocked by then you better get more lines!
    I am a complacent liability to the fire service

  12. #12
    EuroFirefighter Batt18's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoFF View Post
    I thought that when your low air alarm went off it was time to take your mask off... If you don't have it knocked by then you better get more lines!
    ChicagoFF - You are a complacent liability to the fire service!

  13. #13
    Forum Member DrewOnFire's Avatar
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    Seattle also changed over to 45 minute bottles after implementing their air management system. Wonder why...

    With a 45 minute bottle, I see the air management system as a good policy. Therefore under the new air management system a low bottle alarm acts as a significant event, great. I would support this policy in my department, if we had 45 minute bottles.

    For a department with 30 minute bottles I feel that this doesn't provide the service advertised to our customers. We want the initial interior crews to be able to make knockdowns, fire control, primary searches. Think with a 30 minute bottle, leaving before the bell goes off sells us short.
    Drew Lyman,
    "Dear Chief, much has happened since we talked last..."

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    Time to resurrect this thread.
    I just attended the Manage your air seminar, air management is here to stay. Whether you like it or can afford it it's here to stay. In the long run we might save a few lives.

    I'm preparing to present this to my dept. Does anybody have a powerpoint template that I could flagrantly plagerize, or at least get ideas from? Any links to photos or videos used in the seminar?

    Thanks for any help.
    Bill Miller
    LT333

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    Chicago FF I like your sarcasim, I do believe we do need to police ourselves so we don't get ourselves or our company in way over our heads because lets face it most of us are understaffed and that may be what the underlying probelm is. I know and the guys i work with on a regular basis what most of the limitations are as far as who can manage their air and who can't and I plan for that. Many of us seem to let pride or just the task assigned to get in the way of common sense sometimes. A good example is if you are the first line in and you get most of the fire knocked check with your guys and see if they need to rotate positions on the line or even get relieved because we all know that some positions will work harder and consume more air than others. They still did their job by getting the line in place and got water on the fire they just did,'t get it completely out, which unless they are going to do overhaul also to get spot fires it's not completely out anyway. Sadly policies are written because something bad happened in the past and this is just another one of those.

  16. #16
    Forum Member MemphisE34a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrewOnFire View Post
    Seattle also changed over to 45 minute bottles after implementing their air management system. Wonder why...

    With a 45 minute bottle, I see the air management system as a good policy. Therefore under the new air management system a low bottle alarm acts as a significant event, great. I would support this policy in my department, if we had 45 minute bottles.

    For a department with 30 minute bottles I feel that this doesn't provide the service advertised to our customers. We want the initial interior crews to be able to make knockdowns, fire control, primary searches. Think with a 30 minute bottle, leaving before the bell goes off sells us short.
    This is completely off topic, but......

    We really don't advertise to customers. We respond to victims. We really need to remember that. I could care less what image the public has and expects from watching ER, Backdraft, Ladder 49, Rescue Me, and all the other public safety based television series.
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrewOnFire View Post
    Seattle also changed over to 45 minute bottles after implementing their air management system. Wonder why...

    With a 45 minute bottle, I see the air management system as a good policy. Therefore under the new air management system a low bottle alarm acts as a significant event, great. I would support this policy in my department, if we had 45 minute bottles.

    For a department with 30 minute bottles I feel that this doesn't provide the service advertised to our customers. We want the initial interior crews to be able to make knockdowns, fire control, primary searches. Think with a 30 minute bottle, leaving before the bell goes off sells us short.
    How many times have you been at a house fire that you couldn't put out with a 30 min. bottle? I have never changed bottles for a house, or two flat, or three flat. How often are you not able to accomplish the listed tasks without running out of air??? Maybe you need to work on that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Whocares View Post
    How many times have you been at a house fire that you couldn't put out with a 30 min. bottle? I have never changed bottles for a house, or two flat, or three flat. How often are you not able to accomplish the listed tasks without running out of air??? Maybe you need to work on that.

    To make such a generalized blanket statement you either:

    A) Respond to only very small buildings

    Or

    B) Respond to only very small fires

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    Quote Originally Posted by jakesdad View Post
    To make such a generalized blanket statement you either:

    A) Respond to only very small buildings

    Or

    B) Respond to only very small fires
    And what is the normal fire YOU respond to? The towering inferno? Warehouses? Airplane hangers?

    Yes, the vast majority of the fires I respond to are in houses, two flats, three flats, etc. I put my mask on when I get in. From that point I have, what, 15 or 20 minutes of air. If you don't have the fire pretty much knocked after 20 minutes, well, I don't know what to tell you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Whocares View Post
    And what is the normal fire YOU respond to? The towering inferno? Warehouses? Airplane hangers?

    Yes, the vast majority of the fires I respond to are in houses, two flats, three flats, etc. I put my mask on when I get in. From that point I have, what, 15 or 20 minutes of air. If you don't have the fire pretty much knocked after 20 minutes, well, I don't know what to tell you.
    So lets say, using your example, that you have "15-20 minutes of air" like you said. And on this particular fire you are on the lower end of your estimate....15 minutes.

    And you have the "fire pretty much knocked after 20 minutes"...

    What are you doing for the remaining 5 minutes it takes you to finish "knocking the fire"? Holding your breath?

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