By John “Skip” Coleman
I asked this question many years ago in the Fire Engineering Magazine version of Roundtable, yet it is so important and still such a significant question that I am going to run it past you again.
Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) manufactures sell us a device that we can’t use. According to the National Fire Protection Assocation (NFPA) Standard 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, 2007 edition Section A.188.8.131.52: “The NFPA, ANSI, IAFF and most SCBA manufacturers do not recommend any form of buddy breathing”… including using some devices that can be purchased (for extra money) for SCBAs.
I looked at the user’s guide for the SCBA that my previous department uses and it states (and again, I paraphrase) “These appliances are designed for single wearer use. Any other use of this apparatus voids the warranty.”
I’m not quite sure what that means, but I do know that if you do use these devices (in my opinion including transfill or quick fill systems) 1) you are now using the device in a manner other than single wearer use (As with the transfill, a firefighters connects his transfill to another firefighter’s transfill to provide more air to the receiver – at that point you are no longer in the “single wearer” mode); 2) you are doing something that is not approved by the manufacturer and a whole bunch of acronyms (see the second paragraph above); and 3) your local or state workers compensation bureau may not cover any injury you may incur because “you broke the rules”.
That brings me to this months question: Does your department teach and allow buddy breathing and the use of transfill or quickfill systems on your SCBAs? Register and log in to the Fire Engineering Web site and leave your comments below.
John “Skip” Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), and Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008).