Canadian Firefighter Magazine

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Back to Basics: October 2011

A mayday firefighter’s air supply is an important area of concern. While conducting a nine-step assessment, one RIT member checks the air-cylinder gauge on the back.

September 29, 2011
By Mark Van


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A mayday firefighter’s air supply is an important area of concern. While conducting a nine-step assessment, one RIT member checks the air-cylinder gauge on the back. The air-cylinder gauge gives a true indication of the amount of air left, while the chest gauge may give a faulty reading due to damage to the SCBA. The RIT firefighter who is checking the air-supply status also needs to check the condition of the SCBA to make sure there is no damage to the cylinder, the air lines or the face piece. If there is no damage, the air supply can be easily addressed by connecting the RIT air pack to the universal RIT connector on the back of the SCBA, or by changing the SCBA over to another one.

It is important to stress that if the mayday firefighter is not breathing, a grab-and-go operation needs to take place. Wasting time changing or augmenting the air supply takes time away from addressing the mayday firefighter’s breathing problem. The purpose of augmenting or replacing the air supply is to buy time to allow the RIT members to do their jobs.

CFF-Oct2011-B2B1  
 Photo 1: Connect a single hose from the RIT pack to the SCBA to crash-fill the air from the RIT pack into the SCBA, equalizing the two bottles.
Photos by Mark van der Feyst
 
CFF-Oct2011-B2B2  
 Photo 2: Positioning one RIT firefighter in front of the mayday firefighter and one behind makes the process more effective.  
CFF-Oct2011-B2B3  
 Photo 3: The rear RIT firefighter inserts the new regulator on the mayday firefighter the same way he would don the regulator himself.
 
CFF-Oct2011-B2B4  
 Photo 4: If the mayday firefighter’s face piece has been compromised, two RIT firefighters will quickly need to replace it.
 
CFF-Oct2011-B2B5  
 Photo 5: When removing the mayday firefighter, keep the RIT pack in his lap.


 

The most efficient way to augment the air supply is through the RIT connection on the back of the SCBA. The connection is universal, meaning that any brand of SCBA with this connector can connect to a RIT kit of any brand. As seen in photo 1, a single hose from the RIT pack is pulled and connected to the SCBA. Once the connection has been made, the air from the RIT pack is crash-filled into the other SCBA, equalizing the two bottles. Depending on the length of the rescue operation, multiple RIT packs may be needed to keep equalizing the cylinders. The SCBA on the mayday firefighter will never be 100 per cent full due to the equalization process, so numerous fillings may be required.

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If there is no RIT connector on the SCBA, or if it is damaged, then an SCBA changeover is warranted. Two firefighters perform this operation, which results in the mayday firefighter breathing from a new SCBA. As shown in photo 2, the two RIT firefighters position themselves so that one of them is in front, facing the mayday firefighter, and the other is behind the mayday firefighter. The RIT firefighter behind the mayday firefighter lets the mayday firefighter lean back onto his lap. This positioning allows the RIT members to function effectively. The front RIT firefighter gets the RIT pack positioned and ready by ensuring that it is opened fully and that the regulator is ready to go, and passes the new regulator to the rear RIT firefighter. To do an SCBA changeover, the SCBA and the RIT pack must be the same brand so that the regulator will fit properly into the mayday firefighter’s face piece.

Next, the front RIT firefighter positions his gloved hand onto the regulator of the mayday firefighter, and the rear RIT firefighter ensures that the new regulator is close to the face piece. When both RIT firefighters are ready, they change the SCBA by exchanging the regulators; the front RIT firefighter removes the regulator and the rear RIT firefighter replaces it with the new one. The new regulator needs to be placed very close to the face piece before the existing regulator is removed – this reduces the exposure time. The rear RIT is positioned in a way that enables him to mimic the action of putting on his own regulator (see photo 3). The purge valve should be opened to prevent contaminants from entering into the face piece during the changeover, and to ensure that the mayday firefighter is breathing immediately after the regulator is inserted. Once the changeover takes place, RIT members need to needs to make sure that the mayday firefighter is breathing by closing the purge valve and listening for air exchange.    

If the face piece has been compromised, it is not possible to conduct a changeover and a face-piece changeover will be required. This process is similar to the changeover process described above. Two RIT firefighters are required and are similarly positioned: one in front and one behind the mayday firefighter. As seen in photo 4, one RIT firefighter removes the old face piece and the other replaces it with a new one. The front firefighter prepares the RIT pack with the new face piece connected and ready to go, and the rear firefighter removes the helmet and pulls back the flash hood. The rear firefighter then places his gloved hand on the lens of the face piece to hold it to the face of the mayday firefighter, while pulling the netting of the face piece over in front with the other hand.

Once both RIT firefighters are ready, the front RIT firefighter positions the new face piece in front of the old one so that the new one can be applied as soon as the rear RIT firefighter removes the old one.

The purge valve should be opened to push away contaminants in the air from the face of the mayday firefighter. Once the new face piece is on, the flash hood and helmet are put back on and the mayday firefighter is prepped for removal.

The RIT pack needs to be secured to the mayday firefighter for the removal process. The mayday firefighter’s lap is the best place for the RIT pack (see photo 5); this allows the pack to sit between the mayday firefighter’s legs and be clipped to his SCBA waist belt. At this point, the mayday firefighter is ready for rapid extrication.   


Mark van der Feyst is a 13-year veteran of the fire service. He currently works for the City of Woodstock Fire Department in Ontario. Contact him at mark@FireStarTraining.com


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