All right, I have been having an awesome time learning more, in bits and pieces on our work nights at the TVFD. And on February 2nd, I got to learn about handling an air tank.
Now at the station we call them cylinders...
As our friend (-slash-Lieutenant) Mookie puts it, "bottles are for babies, cylinders are for firemen."
Now the first question that came to my mind at first (and I'm pretty sure this is a commonly asked question) was "how heavy are these things?"
Well the answer is, it depends on how much air pressure is inside. The ideal pressure is 4500psi, and there's a little gauge at the bottom of the cylinder which shows how full it is. The one I practiced on was just a little lower. Not ideal but I guess not crappy either.
If you want an easy answer on how heavy it is to lift, imagine how your school backpack feels when you've got your laptop and one (or two) hardcover textbooks in it. It's heavy enough to work on your back muscles but not heavy enough to make you fall over; which makes sense given that we're supposed to be able to run into a blaze with them on our backs.
PUTTING IT ON
Not as easy as it sounds. But thankfully it's not too difficult either.
One way you can put it on is the same way as a backpack (one strap on first, then slide your arm into the other), but that can be very cumbersome with all those loosened straps dangling around hitting stuff.
One way our friend Dan showed us is to have the bottom of the cylinder facing away from you (upside down basically) and then lift it over your head onto your back, sliding your arms into the shoulder straps before tightening them.
Its emphasized that the waist strap, that buckles like a seat belt, is the one you want more weight put into (than the shoulder straps).
This is something that we cannot stress enough. I guarantee one of our higher rank guys like Fire Chief will chew you out of you screw this part up.
When we're done using a cylinder, taking it off, putting it away for some other guy to use later... you have to loosen the straps ALL THE WAY OUT.
Here's why; say a skinny guy like me gets strapped in to go in and fight a fire, then comes back to the station and puts it back without loosening it. And then let's just say Mookie (who's tall and built like a freakin' Viking), on the way to another scene, tries to put that same one on but it doesn't fit him 'cause it's too tight for his torso! Well guess what? Now he's pissed off and taking an extra couple minutes fumbling with the straps, loosening them so they'll finally fit him.
When you're responding, every second counts. And when it comes to strapping into a cylinder, you want to be able to just buckle up and cinch it tight once.