National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: SCBA Emergencies and Live Fire Training

Part of our initial training as firefighters is the process to effectively and efficiently don our personal protective equipment (PPE) and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Unfortunately, it is easy to become complacent and miss steps in this donning process because our minds may be drifting to that Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) atmosphere that we are about to enter. We are probably thinking about possible victims, hoseline selection, location of fire, crew integrity, etc. and just running on "auto pilot" when it comes to donning one of our most important pieces of equipment, our SCBA.

In this week's featuerd firefigher near-miss report, the firefighter stated that he did not turn his bottle all of the way on and this had become a habit for him. How many of us have fallen into this habit? As you read this report, think about what changes you or your organization have made since this report was submitted in 2006. What preparations and training have taken place so everyone is ready for that unexpected SCBA situation? What discussions have you had in reiterating the importance of completely turning your SCBA bottle on?

"During a live fire training exercise in an acquired structure, firefighters were participating in interior firefighting under controlled live fire circumstances.The firefighter involved was the backup person on the attack nozzle when he ran out of air.The firefighter maintained composure, turned to his officer, and told him that he had no air and proceeded to exit the building. The firefighter stated that it took him about 5 seconds to exit the building while holding his breath. The firefighter stated that he knew there was a window above him if he could not find the door. He was about to exit the building through the window when he saw the door and exited through it. The firefighter was not injured and his crew withdrew from the building behind him."

Our safety as firefighters starts with the basics and we can never become complacent in properly donning and using our protective equipment. We need to remember our initial training and practice those basic steps before entering any IDLH atmosphere. We must use our SCBA and wear our PPE the right way on every call and in training evolutions. You will play the way you practice!

A live burn at an acquired structure provides the setting for this week's report. Outdoor, practical, hands-on training increases as the weather gets warmer. Although this week's ROTW event occurs on a drill in an acquired structure, the event and its consequences can easily carry over to the incident scene. Consider the following questions for discussion:

  1. What behaviors contribute to "fireground short-cuts" like the one described in this week's report?
  2. What actions/practices do you take to ensure you and your crew are prepared to enter an IDLH?
  3. When was the last time you conducted a hands-on SCBA emergency drill? How realistic was the training?
  4. How soon do firefighters in your department remove their SCBA after fire extinguishment?
  5. What is the CO level and chemical composition of the post extinguishment atmosphere they are working in?  

Submit your report to today on a similar call you have run. For more on the value of firefighter near-miss reporting, CLICK HERE.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.


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