By Ray McCormack
How much gas is left would depend on the amount you start with, and how quickly you use it up. Every firefighter's personal gas tank varies due to demand, capacity and efficiency. We can always spy a view of remaining air via the remote gauge, but your gas tank is not always so easily readable or reliable.
Roaming around the fireground uses up your air supply at different rates, depending upon the intensity of the performed tasks. It might seem correct to equate the two usages: air and gas; however not all fireground tasks require an air supply, but all require gas. Your personal gas usage is very important to you and your crew, and your capacity does not have to remain static, it can be increased before hand to limit rapid consumption.
Everyone's gas capacity diminishes over time. How long of a time period it takes is measured in minutes and years. Some firefighters run out of gas quickly while others take the long slow ride to diminished capacity. How do we maintain output while keeping a healthy reserve? We can always work smarter instead of harder, that helps a bit. We can make use of tools and techniques that lessen fatigue, and we can train our bodies for the work we do.
Your air supply is reduced as your demand increases; your level of air consumption even when increased does not increase your physical work capability, that is already predetermined by your fitness and recovery rate. I am not one to hammer anyone about fitness; however those are the facts. If you have a small gas tank or you rapidly deplete whatever your capacity is, you need additional capacity so that you can work beyond any artificial ceiling you've created for yourself.
While we should be concerned about our air supply when we turn that valve, a bigger concern is our capacity to work and finish the tasks at hand. If you are out of gas soon after climbing several flights of stairs, you need to do something about that. If you think that time-outs are something you can call for because you are winded, it's not going to happen, and if it does there should be consequences. Maybe the best consequence is that you get a wake up call and commit to a more efficient and capable you.
No one is telling you to do anything except to make sure you have the capacity to work when the time comes. Your air supply is there to help you gauge your level of need, listen to your rhythm of use and monitor how quickly the bell tolls for you. Realize that your tactical safety is based on every breath you take, ensure that you keep them coming with an enlightened commitment to physical capability.
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