Drills, Firefighter Training

The SCBA Tug: Ensure You Are Connected

Photos by author

Some self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) manufacturers are designing their cylinders to have a quick connect for the cylinder to be attached to the high-pressure hose feeding the reducing block. This quick connect allows for a faster change time between cylinders and to make the process easier. Most SCBA cylinders will have a threaded valve that will screw right into the high-pressure hose, making an airtight connection. It does take a few turns to make the connection and this process does add a bit if time. There is also a potential for cross threading if done in a hurry or in an improper manner. The threaded type of connection ensures that you have an airtight and locked connection.

SCBA quick connect
(1)
SCBA connection
(2)

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The quick connect as shown in the two pictures has one inherent problem, namely the possibility of the connection not snapping in correctly. The lights and sound may activate, indicating the connection, only to have the valve pop back out once the cylinder is opened. Ensure that your connection is made by pulling back on the cylinder valve, as an attempt to pull it back out. If connected properly, it should not come out.

The majority of SCBAs also have a mask-mounted regulator (MMR) that connects the low-pressure air hose to the face piece, which allows the firefighter to breathe. The MMR is a technological advancement in the SCBA, replacing the belt-mounted regulator of the older generation of SCBAs. In photo 3 below, you can see one type of SCBA MMR connected to the face piece. The MMR is connected correctly to the face piece and you can see that there is no gap between the MMR and the face piece receptacle.

SCBA mask-mounted regulator connected to a face piece
(3)

In photo 4, you will see an improperly connected MMR to the face piece. You can see a gap present between the MMR and the face piece. The problem that can occur here with the MMR is that air flow will be initiated upon inhalation by the firefighter, but the connection is not complete. The MMR will pop back out once any physical movement occurs. There have been times in training and an emergency scene where the MMR has popped back out due to a faulty connection. To ensure that the connection has been made correctly, pull back on the MMR to try and pull it back out. If connected properly, it will pull the face piece with the MMR. 

Improper connection SCBA MMR to face piece
(4)

A simple training drill is to practice the changeout of a SCBA cylinder as well as donning and doffing the MMR from the mask.     

Equipment needed: SCBA, spare cylinder, face piece

Goal: To practice and become familiar with “the SCBA tug.”

Drill:

  1. Check in the SCBA to make sure that it is in working condition.
  2. Change out the cylinder. Put a new cylinder in and, once connected, tug back on the connection to ensure that it is connected
  3. Don the SCBA on the back of the firefighter, open the cylinder fully, and go on air.
  4. When connecting the MMR to the face piece, start the flow of air by breathing.
  5. Take one hand and tug on the MMR away from the face piece to ensure that it is connected to the mask.
  6. Once done, doff the regulator and shut down the SCBA.
  7. Repeat as necessary.

Key points:

  1. When connecting a quick connect or snap-in cylinder, gently pull back on the connection to ensure it is connected.
  2. When connecting the MMR to the face piece, tug back on the regulator to ensure a connection.
Mark van der Feyst

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1999 and is a full-time firefighter in Ontario, Canada. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States, and India, and at FDIC. Van der Feyst is a local level suppression instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy. He is also the lead author of Residential Fire Rescue (Fire Engineering Books & Video).

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