This week a new design in SCBA was field tested by firefighters here in the metro-Washington, D.C. area. Its unveiling marks a significant change that can affect firefighter operations and stress. Unfortunately, some people seem to be stuck in "tradition" and much like mammoths caught in the La Brea tar pits, their narrow-mindedness keeps them from seeing the potential that this new tool has.

A firefighter from Engine Co.25 in Washington, D.C. completes a ladder evolution while wearing MSA's new SCBA. (Mark Brady photo)
"A firefighter from Engine Co.25 in Washington, D.C. completes a ladder
evolution while wearing MSA's new SCBA. (Mark Brady photo)"

The Prince George's County fire department training grounds were the scene for the new 'flat pack' style SCBA field testing. Firefighters from neighboring departments went through a number of evolutions while wearing their current style of SCBA. They then repeated the same evolutions with the new prototype. These test weren't a staged introduction for immediate SCBA use, but were designed to give additional information to the designers for redevelopment.

The development is funded by a DHS grant awarded to the IAFF. The IAFF selected MSA to build a new SCBA to replace the current single-cylinder system we use now. Lighter, with a very slim profile, the new SCBA design will still have to have additional redesign and testing before being made rig-ready. Unfortunately, some firefighters have already rejected the new SCBA.

Take a look at how it played out on some various fire service websites and pages,

"very nice but can we get it in a scott at some point in time? if not then i will keep to what i trust!"

"ill stick with my compost bottle.. at least i know it work and dose what i need it to do.."

"I'll stick w/my Scott bottle."

"so where am I going to pack that into the truck? they look like they are going to take up space!"

"but, now we have to change the seats in the trucks to accommodate to the new packs, and the fill stations are gonna change."

"i don't like the looks of it"

"Every thing we use on our rigs will have to be changed!! I'll stick with my ISI"

"They'll have to redeisgn the rigs to accomodate the new style now.It's a conspiracy to keep the design staff employed."

"If it requires a major refit, it ain't gonna happen..."

"Maybe the edges will be beveled so things that might otherwise catch on them will ride up and over so the FF won't be entangled as much. But how would we fit square "bottles" into the round holes of the current design of spare SCBA storage spaces on the rigs?"

And my personal favorite,
"My only question so far is the possible plastic chemical tranfer to the air and its affect on the body. Estrogen similarity of plastic chemical(?) and how it would affect males? Plastic under pressure transfer to air and cancer? Any studies out there on these issues?"

Right. SCBA cancer-related death. I guess that gets you a official LODD ruling as well.
Current and future SCBA go through a wall breach evolution (Mark Brady photo)
"Current and future SCBA go through a wall breach evolution (Mark Brady photo)"

It's only a small sampling, but it is concerning. Not so much concerning that a small number of comments don't reflect the greater number of firefighters; but concerning that in this day and age there are men and women going to fires with such a narrow mind. The majority of our current tools and technology used on the fireground today came about by many years of invention, research, test and retest. We enjoy their benefits because key people had the vision to see past naysayers and skeptics. When I started some 20 years ago, a leather strap was my safety when riding on the backstep. A few years later we had man-saver bars. The Scott SCBA that some of the folks above endear, were steel bottles and had a huge regulator attached to the chest strap. MSA's had a facepiece with only slightly more visibility than a child's Halloween mask. Even with the 'new' tools we have during my last years, there was still room for improvement. I don't recall anyone griping that we would have to get rid of Halligan bars when the Rabbit Tool was developed.

If you have someone in your house who has a narrow mind when it comes to making your job better, work with them to try and see the reality of the matter before them. This new SCBA isn't on the market yet; it's still being developed, tested, redesigned. It doesn't mean that you'll have to buy all new apparatus or face some government enforcement making you purchase it. It's a tool, a new one that as far as we know right this minute - is not on the job.

I wonder how many high-rises these commentators have in their first due area...

Flat Pack SCBA Field Testing, Mark Brady, Chief PIO, PGFEMS

Read more of Backstep Firefighter and other bloggers at

Views: 120

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of My Firefighter Nation to add comments!

Join My Firefighter Nation

Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on June 2, 2010 at 1:02pm
It looks like the flat pack could be easily incorporated into a "pocket" on the back of a turnout coat, thus eliminating a separate harness. When it's empty, you have a pull tab that is accessed from over the shoulder.
I think that it has great promise. Maybe even consider a "front mount" vers ion.
With regards to early comments; they don't surprise me.
Sometimes I think that the reason this job is still so dangerous is because we have a culture that is very resistant to change. I mean "safety" is still a bad word or at least one that't spoken too loudly.
No; we prefer the romanticism of fire and death; you know...the way it's been for the last 250 years.
"Square peg in a round hole" kinda sums up how the fire service thinks of change.
Comment by on June 1, 2010 at 11:26am
"Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up."

— James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

FireRescue Magazine

Find Members Fast

Or Name, Dept, Keyword
Invite Your Friends
Not a Member? Join Now

© 2021   Created by Firefighter Nation WebChief.   Powered by

Badges  |  Contact Firefighter Nation  |  Terms of Service