Fire Fighting in Canada

Techsmart: Breathing Easy

Breathing air becomes a precious commodity on the fire ground. For firefighters who find themselves inside a structure with too little, the consequences can be dire.

September 10, 2013 
By Olivia D’Orazio

Breathing air becomes a precious commodity on the fire ground. For firefighters who find themselves inside a structure with too little, the consequences can be dire.

The new NFPA standards for SCBA are expected to come into effect this fall. Some highlights from the 2013 edition of NFPA standards 1981 and 1982, as outlined by Scott Safety, include:

  • Increased facepiece lens durability through two additional tests, which will measure facepiece performance against high temperature, flame and radiant heat;
  • New voice intelligibility requirements that will eliminate the subjectivity of the testing and enhance overall intelligibility using new test protocols:
  1. Speech Transmissibility Index (STI) for improved repeatability and reproducibility in the test results,
  2. Mechanical communication performance test protocol,
  3. Amplified communication performance test protocol;
  • End-of-Service Time Indicator (EOSTI), or low air alarm, will move from 25 per cent to 33 per cent of the cylinder’s operating pressure;
  • All PASS devices will have a universal sound, regardless of the manufacturer.

All SBCA manufacturers are working to apply the new standards to their products, but Scott has gone beyond the 2013 standard, adding new features to its packs to make working on the fire ground safer and more comfortable for firefighters.

Scott’s new facepiece features voice amplifiers, making communication easier on the fire ground.
Scott’s new SCBA packs, which were designed to meet the new NFPA standards, better consider a firefighter’s comfort; for example, the packs feature swivel points on the straps, making it easier for a firefighter to reach above his or her head. 
Photos courtesy of scott safety

“The comfort and weight management is important for firefighters,” says Jeff Emery, senior marketing manager.


“They carry a lot of weight, between turnout gear and SCBA – anything you can do to ease that [weight] reduces the risk of stress injuries.”

Scott added a swivel point to the straps on its SCBA Air-Pak X3 to allow for better comfort when a firefighter reaches up or climbs a ladder. The weight of the pack also sits lower on the waist to better prevent stress injuries.

Deputy Fire Chief Arjuna George with Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue, and a columnist with Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly, says the comfort of an SCBA pack definitely affects performance on the fire ground.

“Firefighters’ fatigue and stress levels during an operation are huge for health safety,” he says.

“Time for rehab can be drastically shortened because they’re not exerting as much. And, with the advances in personal protective equipment, we’re allowing our members to work easier.”

The hoses and wires on Scott’s pack are hidden in the shoulder straps of the pack to reduce the risk of snagging. The cylinder connection is available in either snap-change or CGA, and a rescue drag loop has also been sewn into the pack, allowing for easier and faster rescues.

Scott also fitted the gauge console with an indicator light for air supply, compliant with the 2013 standards. This enables all members of a team to quickly assess one another’s air levels.

“As a captain, you can scan the members of your team and see if you’re good to keep going [into a structure] or if you need to hurry out [of the structure],” Emery says. “It creates better awareness among the team.”

The facepiece, meanwhile, is now available with a voice amplifier that meets the new standard. The amplifier can be mounted on either side of the facepiece and has an on/off switch to conserve the battery.

“Communication is key in pretty much everything we do,” George says.

“Voice amplification helps; when you’re talking through a mask, you sound like Darth Vader – but with a voice amplifier, it’s clear, even through the mask.”

For more information on Scott’s new air packs, visit .

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