At times, a fire department finds itself with outmoded equipment. Although the equipment may be functional and too good to discard, it is no longer primary equipment and you cannot get much for it. So it sits on the shelf in the stockroom and collects dust.
By evaluating and anticipating your department’s needs, by using a little imagination, a few dollars and supposedly useless equipment, new equipment can be developed to fit a department’s requirements—confined space rescues, for example.
A few years ago our department rescued an individual who had been overcome by fumes in the bottom of a well. The well had an inside pump, so a person wearing SCBA could not get past the pump. The SCBA had to be removed and passed down once the rescuer got by the pump. The top of the portable ladder had been tied to a 4 X 4-foot crossbeam for getting up and down the well. The bottom of the ladder did not touch the bottom of the well, so every movement on the ladder caused it to sway. You can imagine how awkward and unstable it was to restrap the SCBA on in this position. If the diameter of the well had been smaller, there would not have been enough space for the rescuer and the SCBA tank.
Some departments tie a rope to the SCBA and lower it down with the rescuer. This restricts operations due to the mask hose length, and coordinating the movements of the rescuer with those controlling the rope can be difficult.
After analyzing what had happened and what could happen, we looked over what we had for spare equipment and primary equipment and considered our needs. We needed some type of self-contained breathing system that was small, flexible, easy to work with and reasonably priced.
In our stockroom, we had some 15minute SCBA that had been replaced by 30-minute ones on the trucks. The 15minute SCBA were operational, but now were secondary equipment. On our rescue truck is a two-tank cascade system for filling SCBA, running air tools, etc. The truck also carries an air chisel set with 12 and 50-foot hoses. The set has its own regulator and, like the hoses, has a quickcoupler air connection.
We took one of the 15-minute units, removed the tank holder and altered the harness so a person could wear just the regulator and mask. The hose from the SCBA regulator was then fitted with an adapter to take a quick-coupler stem. What could be done now was to snap the SCBA regulator into one end of the 50-foot air chisel hose, attach the other end of the hose to the air chisel regulator, and mount the chisel regulator to the truck’s cascade system or individual SCBA tanks. This gives 50 to 60 feet of reach depending on how close the truck can get to the incident, and a total reach of 60 feet using individual SCBA tanks.
Since SCBA regulators will function until empty, pressures low enough to stay within the limits of the air chisel hose can be used. The older inline alarm bell can be placed ahead of the air chisel regulator to warn when the air supply is running low. Hookups to switch from one tank to another can be designed to fit the needs of individual departments and their available resources.