SCBA hazard alert from NIOSH

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued special respirator users’ notices to all fire departments that warn of possible failure of clamps used to secure the breathing tube to the facepiece of selfcontained breathing apparatus. There were two incidents reported to the agency in which breathing tube separation was the cause of one firefighter death and one nonfatal injury.

These notices were part of the NIOSH program of investigating reports of problems with respirators certified by NIOSH and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Since the release of the hazard bulletin on April 21. 1089, these agencies have received numerous requests for more information on the incidents reported in the notice. NIOSH has reviewed each and every request and is issuing this additional bulletin to assist SCBA users in this matter.

The clamps used (see photo) on the SCBAs involved in the incidents are commonly used by nearly all manufacturers. The NIOSH recommendations, therefore, are applicable to all SCBA apparatus using these clamps to secure connection of SCBA parts.

The clamps, made of metal with dual retaining teeth and lips, have a low profile and ordinarily are capable of securely connecting the parts affected. However, with continued reuse, the clamps may become worn and distorted. Therefore, NIOSH is recommending that all SCBA users immediately and regularly inspect these clamps for wear and distortion on all equipment as a regular maintenance check.

All SCBA manufacturers offer specific maintenance instructions regarding use of the clamps, usually specifying the tools to be used for disassembly and reassembly . These instructions should be carefully followed by SCBA users.

Persons desiring further information may call the NIOSH respirator problem coordinator at (304)291-4595.

Plywood association warns firefighters

American Plywood Association (APA) warns that fire retardant plywood used for the past 10 years in the construction of roofs of multifamily dwellings can weaken and collapse after prolonged exposure to the heat of the sun. Weakening after 5 or 6 years, the plywood starts to sag and can collapse under the weight of snow—and certainly under the weight of firefighters.

An acid is produced from a chemical reaction in the fire retardant chemicals and the rays of the sun. The group is advising builders to refrain from using fire retardant wood until researchers at the National Forest Products Association laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin determine what chemicals are causing the deterioration.

Fire department officers should be made aware that firefighters conducting ventilation operations on these roofs could be placed at risk, and that extreme caution should be used when deploying their members on roofs built using this plywood.

Memorial day for fallen firefighters

On Sunday, October 15, 1989. after a private chapel service for the families of the 131 career and volunteer firefighters who died in the line of duty in the United States last year, a national observance will be held at the Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial at the National Fire Academy, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The ceremony follows the observance of National Fire Prevention Week proclaimed by President Bush.

Along with the families of these courageous heroes, the outdoor service is expected to be attended by fire service members and government officials from across the country. A plaque containing the name of each firefighter lost in 1989 will be dedicated that day. The ceremonies, as always, are open to the general public also. For additional information, contact Mary Ellis at (202) 646-2692.

Scholarship announced

The IAFC announces its 1989 fire management scholarship competition. Any active member of a state, county, municipal, community, provincial, industrial, or federal fire department is eligible. In the past 28 years, 500 scholarships, normally $250 each, have been awarded to help members further their education through college level courses in fire science, engineering, management, administration, and other related fields.

Applications must be received by August 1, 1989. Those evidencing need, desire, and initiative will be given preference. Winners will be announced at the annual conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Applications can be obtained by contacting the Scholarship Committee at the IAFC Foundation, 1329 18th Street NW, Washington, D C. 20036, or call Darlene Skelton at (202) 833-3420.

Studies and books focus on older buildings and earthquakes

Older buildings and the impact earthquakes may have on them are getting some attention from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA has developed several handbooks on the issue, which include information on the typical costs for rehabilitating different types of buildings, approaches to seismic strengthening of buildings, and both quick-screening and detailed seismic evaluation methodologies for buildings. Current studies focus on financial benefits and cost-benefit analysis of such rehabilitation.

For more information on the available publications, write to FEMA, Earthquakes and Natural Hazards Programs Division, 500 C Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20472.

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