The Evolution of SCBA and Training Innovations

Sponsored content from Paul Conway Fire

By Jordan Ponder

Interspiro Spiromatic S8

It’s amazing to think about how the fire service has grown. With innovative equipment like the Spiromatic S8 and its unique capabilities, we are truly in the golden age of protecting firefighters. However, the benefits of innovation that we are experiencing have not come easy.

Imagine the years before self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Conducting aggressive interior attack and rescue operations without compressed air would leave you exposed to the elevated heat, carcinogens, and increased risk of asphyxiation. It amazes me to look at the historical photos in my training academy, see all the beards and mustaches and think that this would operate as their filter. “Dampen your beard kid! We’re going in for a rescue!” This was firefighting for so many years! Fast forward to 1945, when the SCBA was introduced to the fire service. It offered improved performance, lung protection, and extended firefighting operations. The fire service had to be ecstatic when this was introduced, right? Wrong! According to Rob Evans of the NFPA and his article, “50 years of SCBA: Innovations to breathing apparatus most significant development in fire service,” “it was a chore…to convince the fire service” that the SCBA had a place in firefighting. This is shocking considering how imperative SCBA are today. It wasn’t until many years later than things began to move more quickly, thanks to NFPA 1981, that we have come to understand and use SCBA the way we do today.

Ironically, change happens very slowly in the fire service. Firefighters crave predictability, sustainability, and familiarity. However, innovation is about maturing the norm with enhanced approaches. This was the case with SCBA many years ago, when the idea of wearing SCBA met resistance because they weren’t “the norm.” That resistance was overcome by those who persevered to educate and train others about the benefits of this innovation.

Jordan Ponder performing firefighting exercises

Today, we continue to look at new innovations, whether its equipment or the way we train. Why? Because firefighters are 1,450-percent more likely to get injured than the general public. Some would say, “Well, it’s a dangerous profession.” Although this is true, the leading cause of firefighter injuries on the fireground is not directly associated with the sensationalism of the fire scene. Fifty-four percent of all firefighter injuries at fires occur from slips, falls, strains, and sprains. These are not from a building collapse or thermal burns, but from operating in an environment that isn’t catered to us and the over lengthening, over use, and tearing of ligaments and tendons. These are injuries that can be reduced with proper health and fitness training. This training is an innovation in the fire service, which needs innovators to pave the way. Are you someone who sees the need for firefighter fitness in your department and are willing to do something about it and help usher in something great?

Jordan Ponder performing firefighter physical fitness training

Over the last 13 years, it has been my honor to help my fire department improve its health and wellness. As a full time firefighter, I have had the privilege in assisting my department reduce its firefighter injury claims by 57 percent, saving the city of Milwaukee $1.3 million in injury-associated costs. It has been my pleasure to be a part of the many innovators in our department who have help achieved these results. I’d love to share the principles and approaches I’ve used within the fire service by training others on how to perform, implement and sustain a Firefighter Specific Movement Based Training program alongside Firefighting Dynamic Performance Training. Learn how you can make affordable and versatile equipment replicate the needs of firefighting in a way that transfers to the fireground. Be an innovator in training to fit the needs of firefighters! E-mail me at with any questions you may have or for more details on how to develop a program for your department.

Jordan PonderJordan Ponder is a Captain of the Milwaukee Fire Department assigned to Engine 30. Additionally, he is the Lead Peer Fitness Trainer for the MFD where he has been training firefighter health for over 12 years. Holding NASM-CPT, ACE, PFT and multiple of modality certifications, he is also a professional bodybuilder with the WNBF. Jordan is also the Director of Firefighter Dynamic Performance Training which supplies free safety training equipment for fire departments for conducting workshops for their members. To contact Jordan Ponder, email

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