A number of years ago, as a firefighter assigned to Rescue Company 1 of the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, our company responded to a second alarm in a seven-story, brick, “H”-shaped multiple dwelling. It was at this fire that a simple yet often overlooked procedure almost caused serious injury. What happened was a result of what a layman might call laziness but what I will call “improper donning procedure.”

At this incident, I never bothered to use the waist strap of my SCBA. The straps and their clips and buckles were flapping around until they became entangled in the springs of an old mattress left in the public hallway on the fire floor. A few tense moments as fire conditions worsened forced me to fight myself out of a situation I never should have experienced.

The following is the lesson learned: The SCBA used by my department, as well as the units worn on the February 1996 cover of Fire Engineering, are Scott 4.5. They are designed to have the bulk of the weight on the user`s “center of gravity”–the waist. This gives the wearer better mobility and reduces fatigue. If the SCBA is improperly worn, two parts of the waist strap can invite trouble: the two thumb clips, designed to adjust both straps, and the male end of the center clip, designed to mate with the female clip to fasten the strap.

I urge firefighters and fire officers to review what should be a simple and basic procedure. n

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