Drill of the Week: Blind Bottle Change

Familiarity with your SCBA is critical at all times, but even moreso when searching for and rescuing a downed firefighter. Not every fire department has SCBA that have buddy breathing fittings or fittings that allow firefighters to fill a bottle via supplied air without needing to doff the SCBA harness. Chief David Andrews, of the Edgewood (PA) Volunteer Fire Department, developed an SCBA familiarity drill that sharpens members’ abilities to change SCBA cylinders in zero-visibility environments where a RIT may be activated.

In order to make sure that all members are comfortable with the SCBA, Chief Andrews developed the blind bottle change drill. This drill is done in two phases: at a table, then in a smoke-filled room.

For the first phase, the firefighter is at a table and must shut down the SCBA, change the bottle, then return it to in-use status while blindfolded.

The second phase of the drill takes place in a smoke-filled room. An SCBA is placed on a practice dummy and hidden in a smoke filled room. A crew is assembled and placed in RIT Team status. At the sound of the PASS device and low air warning, two members of the team enter the room to search for the downed firefighter . When located, the other two members, staged at the entrance with a spare SCBA bottle, enter. The first two team members start removing the soon depleted bottle as the other members approach. The spare bottle is passed to the first two team members to complete the changeover.

The two that brought in the spare bottle attempt to locate a second means of egress due to command reporting deteriorating conditions. The downed firefighter is removed via the second means of egress. Andrews’s fire department uses a room on a second floor and remove the downed firefighter via ladder.


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