No, this isn’t about some sixth grade love note. This is about how well YOU conduct a check-off and inspection of apparatus; about how well you look at your equipment before you place a check on the sheet, indicating the item is present and ready for service. It’s a short story about how a person made a mistake and placed an unsafe piece of equipment on a truck; how two other apparatus operators DID NOT do an adequate check/inspection of equipment and allowed an unsafe piece of life safety equipment to be available for use by firefighters.
A few weeks ago, I was conducting a training class with a hazardous materials team. The class moved from the classroom to the training ground. Time to work on practical skills and conduct fun training evolutions! Then, something weird showed up on the equipment tarp. The item on the tarp was something I hadn’t seen in about 15 years. One of the face pieces on the 4.5 SCBA units was a very old piece not approved for firefighting use. The old, outdated piece has a nylon headnet with only two tightening straps, no nose cup, and…..NO EXHALATION VALVE!! So, this face piece will melt onto your head under high heat conditions, will fog over and obstruct your vision, and (without an exhalation valve) will lift your face seal every time you exhale. Oh boy, I feel safe now! Here’s what was found:
Here’s what should have been placed on the truck. Note the fire retardant headnet for use in high heat conditions, four tightening straps to assist with maintaining a good face seal, nosecup to prevent fogging, and exhalation valves.
The face piece was inadvertently placed on the truck during an equipment reload after a significant haz mat response. Rather than wait for the usual equipment to dry, someone dug into a box of old masks and pulled this one for use. It was attached to a regulator and the SCBA was returned to the truck. No one noticed the unusual item attached to the SCBA. The next two shifts, the apparatus operators visually confirmed an SCBA was occupying the appropriate space and placed a check in the box. Did the operators verify headnet straps were fully extended and the face piece was clean? Doesn’t appear so. Did they confirm air was in the cylinder? Don’t know.
When conducting daily or weekly apparatus inspections, every item must be properly inspected. If it has an engine, run it. If it contains pressure, inspect it, and record the pressure. If it has straps, verify they’re extended and ready for the next user. Life safety equipment must be given a thorough check! Don’t assume everything is okay because the piece of equipment is in the correct location. The daily or weekly check is conducted to confirm equipment is present and in proper working condition.
Apparatus operators, are you conducting adequate checks on your equipment during periodic inspections? Company officers, are you occasionally checking behind your normal and back-up apparatus operators concerning equipment checks? Do it! The safety of you and your crew depend on it.