From Gary Graf of Engine House Training, LLC

Removing your SCBA should be a last resort in any situation; however it is still a skill all firefighters should be able to complete. By training to remove and don our SCBA in limited visibility it increases skill and knowledge associated with the usage of the equipment. We need to remember that if we are placed in this situation the first attempt should be to make the opening bigger before proceeding; if trapped in this area summon help early by calling a “Mayday”.

First the Firefighter should identify the restricted opening that will not allow them to proceed with their SCBA donned. The area on the other side of the opening should be checked for victims and to ensure the integrity of the floor. After checking the floor, place your tool to the side of the opening so it can be retrieved after making it through.

Loosen the right shoulder strap and remove your arm from the SCBA, followed by
loosening the waist belt and unbuckling. The last step in removing the SCBA should be to loosen the left shoulder strap and removing your arm; when you remove your arm, grab the left shoulder strap with your left hand and don’t let go. By always having the left strap in your left hand you are maintaining a good contact with the line supplying air to your face piece regulator. Slide your SCBA through the opening, bottom of the bottle first. While keeping your grip on the left strap, extend your arm into the opening followed by your helmet. Next position yourself to bring your shoulders through the opening while maintaining contact with the left strap of the SCBA. As your hips enter the opening position yourself to rotate as needed to allow for your pockets to pass through the widest portion of the opening. Once you have cleared the restricted opening re-don your SCBA starting with the left and followed by the right shoulder strap; lastly connect your waste belt and tighten all straps.

The opening used in the pictures was 16” x 16”; it is a tight opening however with
proper techniques and practice even a bigger firefighter will be able to complete this exercise. Just remember that removing your SCBA in a smoke filled building should only be done as a last resort and may warrant a “Mayday”

Now, go train and give it a try!

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If your air supply line is on the left, you should NEVER remove your arm from that shoulder strap, and hold on to it for dear life. This is a very basic skill taught to firefighters in "Boot Camp" in NY. I've personally never had to use this technique in a situation other than the training ground, but, I wouldn't hesitate to use it. Another technique we use for high rise is a "hot" bottle change. A more advanced skill, but still taught in Intermediate FF. While one flight down from the fire floor, you control your breathing and take a deep breath and hold it. The hot bottle change takes less then 30 seconds to do. If you have the C.B.R.N.E. packs from Scott, you can have it finished in 10 seconds. And you never lose your mask, or have it fill with smoke. Not all situations require a may day call. You might have a firefighter on the other side to assist in getting you and your partner back in line, and out of a jam. If not, yeah call a mayday.
Good point. Which ever strap your regulator is on is the one that you should remain in contact with. That is your life line and you must treat as such.

I realize you're talking about high rise hot bottle changes, where you're essentially using the floor below the fire the same way as you use the front yard at a house fire. However, there are departments that teach this technique as appropriate for IDLH atmospheres. I couldn't disagree more.

IDLY transfills are much safer, quicker, and are more reliable in reduced visibility than hot zone cylinder changes.

Why take a spare cylinder into an IDLH atmosphere when you can take an entire SCBA or RIT SCBA and a transfill hose?

With the advent of Universal Rescue connectors and transfill hoses, IDLH cylinder changes should quickly become obsolete.

If you're in trouble, you should never delay in calling a MAYDAY. The first tool a properly-equipped RIT takes in is a RIT SCBA or spare SCBA and transfill hose to add "on air" time to the distressed firefighter.
Ben, I agree with you in theory. Believe it or not, near my combination department, we have mutual aid companies that have air packs that are not fitted with transfill capabilities.

We did a class last winter and they didn't realize they had integrated PASS alarms: the batteries just needed changed out. It is just a matter of resources and training. They are great guys and want to learn. We are trying to do more with them.

But in most cases I agree. But, I still think that there should be some proficiency with cylinder changes. You never know when a transfill with malfunction, be damaged or other situations where a cylinder change may need to be done.

Thanks for the comments,
Unfortunately, our packs are not up-to-date either as we still currently use MSA Ultra-Lite II's which still utilize the waist-belt mounted regulator with no transfill capability. However, I am planning to at least try to practice some of these techniques.

Sadly, this isn't something that is normally discussed here, much less practiced at all. Thank you for another great post and subsequent discussion.

I understand about folks that are forced to use outdated SCBA by their economic circumstances.

With the standard positioning of the URC, it's one of the best-protected parts of the SCBA. We've had them for around 10 years (MSA MMR 4500s and then MSA Firehawk 4500s), have done lots of training and typical fireground ops, and the only problems we have had are slight leaks that have been repaired due to a factory recall. The leaks didn't stop the transfills, they just wasted a minimal amount of air volume.

The real-world application is that if the downed firefighter is pinned or otherwise in a situation where the URC isn't accessible, it's going to be very unlikely that you'll be able to change the cylinder at all, let alone quickly. There are two additional options here.

1) Retrofit the SCBA with a SABA connection. You can take a SABA line to the downed FF and hook him up to an essentially limitless air supply, as long as you can get a cascade, a single H cylinder, or a SABA cart within 300 feet of the low-air SCBA. Lots of departments are installing the SABA connections to dual-use for confined space or hazmat decon as well as FF rescue.

2) Practice 2nd-stage regulator changes. There will be situations where the facepiece-mounted regulator will be accessible and the URC and cylinder connection will not. In those cases, a 2nd SCBA or RIT SCBA can be used for a very quick regulator change - usually 5 seconds or less. Yes, the downed FF will get a little smoke in the mask. If the choice is a little smoke or no air, it's a pretty easy choice.
If you are forced to use a doffing technique with single waist-mounted regulators, the low-pressure hose is very vulnerable to being dislodged, cut, or entangled when crawling through the opening.

I wouldn't relish the though of having to make the doffing choice with the old-style waist-mounted regulators, inlcuding the MSA Ultra-Lite IIs.
Excellent points and a great option to a hot change over.

Another option if you have SCBA retorfitted with SABA connections is to put a SABA pigtail on your RIT SCBA system, much like SCUBA divers use an octopus with a safe second instead of the old technique of buddy breathing. Having used the old belt mounted regulators for years, the key in this whole scenario is training. An intimate knowledge of your equipment, day/night, dark/light, rightside up/upside down, in your sleep knowledge so that you can be prepared to deal with whatever situation is thrown your way. Sort of like practicing tying knots one handed behind your back, not that we want to make a regular practice of it, but when that is the only option is not the time to figure out if you can do it. BTW, if that is a standard wall in the picture, and those are 16" OC wall studs, the opening is actually more like 14 1/2 inches wide.

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