One Revision to NFPA 1001 You Need to Know About and Train For FeaturedWednesday, 19 December 2018 00:00 Written by Super User
Guest blog written for Action Training Systems by Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.)
Pop quiz: What is signified by the low-pressure alarm on your SCBA sounding?
If you answered, "I have 5 minutes of air left," consider yourself to officially be a fire service "dinosaur."
That low-air alarm—official name is the End-of-Service-Time Indicator (EOSTI)—has been a feature of SCBA in the fire service since the first units appeared on fire scenes more than 5 decades ago. But it's now "caveman" technology in the world where the current generation of SCBA is more a "Land a Rover on Mars" technology.
Today's SCBA provides firefighters with more than just a supply of breathing air. Most units on the market today have:
* Head's Up Display (HUD) that visually displays information and system condition status to the SCBA's user (e.g., available air pressure or current rate of air consumption by the user).
* Rapid Intervention Crew/Universal Air Connection (RIC UAC), commonly known as the "buddy breathing" connection.
* Bluetooth-enabled electronics that provide wireless connectivity between devices for improved configurability, data transmission/retrieval, firefighter safety and fireground accountability.
* System integrity alarm technology that gives the SCBA user visual and audible alerts that their SCBA's electronics are in jeopardy due to the elevated temperature (Safety Tip: If your electronics are at risk, so are you. Either make the environment cooler or get out!). With adjunct systems, these systems can also notify the incident command of such an impending event. And yet firefighters continue to die because they simply did not know how to manage their air supply.
NFPA 1001: Standard for Firefighter Professional Qualifications
When I reviewed the most recent edition (2019) of this foundational standard for the fire service the one that caught my attention was this new verbiage for Section 4.3.1 in Chapter 4 (Firefighter I):
4.3.1* Use self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) during emergency operations, given SCBA and other PPE, so that the SCBA is correctly donned, the SCBA is correctly worn, controlled breathing techniques are used, emergency procedures are enacted if the SCBA fails, all low-air warnings are recognized, respiratory protection is not intentionally compromised, and hazardous areas are exited prior to air depletion.
If you didn't click on the above link about the firefighter line-of-duty death (LODD) above, I suggest you scroll back up and check it out because it has direct linkage to what I'm about to tell you.
Breaking down Section 4.3.1
Good, you're back! So, like all those football analysts on TV and the Internet I'm going to "break down" Section 4.3.1 so that we can see what a firefighter REALLY must know, and the skills they must be proficient at, to truly meet this part of the standard. Because the failure to do so can possibly result in their death or serious injury (Yes, it's that big a deal!).
Now, NFPA standards already provide us with the tool for doing such analysis: Job Performance Requirements (JPRs). For the full explanation on what JPRs represent and how they're constructed, you can find that in Annex B, Explanation of Professional Qualifications Standards and Concepts of JPRs, of NFPA 1001.
Use self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) during emergency operations, given SCBA and other PPE:
1. The SCBA is correctly donned [and] the SCBA is correctly worn. The firefighter must know how to use all the features of their assigned SCBA (Like the ones listed earlier in this article). In the words of a former chief of mine, "Doing something for the first time under emergency conditions usually results in an outcome that is nothing less than exciting."
2. Emergency procedures are enacted if the SCBA fails. This includes developing proficiency in using their Emergency By-Pass Valve to continue breathing as they leave an IDLH (immediately dangerous to life and health) environment. It includes knowing the different ways that they can receive breathing air from a fellow firefighter or give breathing air to a fellow firefighter (That's where that RIC UAC really comes in handy!).
3. All low-air warnings are recognized. SCBA manufactured since 2012 must have an EOSTI (low-air alarm) that is set to alarm at 33 percent of the full cylinder pressure. A firefighter must know how their assigned SCBA alarms/sounds when the EOSTI has been triggered and respond appropriately.
But technical competence is only part of the equation. How many times have you heard this during a training exercise, when your low-pressure alarm activates:
* "Relax, you have plenty of air left"
* "You have plenty of air to get through the evolution"
* "Don't worry about it, you are safe, this is training"
Too many. And each time it happens it reinforces a low regard for air supply versus consumption as we teach both entry-level and incumbent firefighters. Air supply and consumption should be at the forefront of every training session when using an SCBA.
4. Hazardous areas are exited prior to air depletion. A firefighter's EOSTI should NEVER alarm/sound while they are still in the hazard area. Period.
If you've used 66 percent of your air (setting of the low-air alarm at 33 percent) to get into the hazard area and do work, you'll likely not have enough air to safely leave the hazard area and still undergo gross decontamination if necessary.
Firefighters must be proficient at donning their SCBA and facepiece, beginning to breath cylinder air, and then noting their available air supply (psi). Then dividing that number by two to obtain their "time to leave" threshold (e.g., 2200 psi to start, divided by two equals 1100 psi which would be the air pressure used to determine their time to leave the hazard area).
Be smart and be safe. Use half of your available air supply to enter the hazard area and do the assigned work. Before you reach your "time to leave" threshold, inform your boss (e.g., company officer, division or group supervisor) that you're approaching your 50 percent of available air so that they can make provisions to replace you or have the entire crew exit the hazard area.
Today's SCBA manufacturers provide detailed instructions and downloadable videos to accompany their products. It's not enough for firefighters to "watch and learn" when it comes to critical life support equipment, and that's what your SCBA is critical life support equipment. It's vitally important to have your firefighters put their hands on the SCBA to demonstrate tasks and to ensure they master them.
Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an active instructor for fire, EMS, and hazardous materials courses at the local, state, and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master of science degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. Since his retirement in 2007, he has continued to be a life-long learner working in both the private and public sectors to further develop his "management sciences mechanic" credentials. He makes his home near Charleston, W.Va.