Do you know your SCBA? Really, REALLY know it? I do…mostly, I’m ashamed to admit I could know the numbers and pressure levels a bit better. Being part of a few training classes has really opened my eyes to some of my deficiencies. Some of the basic tasks of this calling I’m not as proficient as I thought. Granted, if I told the recruits that they could pump water from the East coast to the West coast and they would most likely believe me. But if they challenged me to prove it I would be hard pressed to demonstrate it. As a rule I avoid making claims that I cannot prove or defend.
So when one of the recruits challenged me in a race to don an SCBA, I accepted. The challenge is to turn on the bottle, don the face piece, start air flow and have all equipment properly worn. Of course I had to handicap it in my favor. I told him the only way I would race him is if we put flash hoods on backwards first. I won.
With that in mind today’s drill is SCBA familiarization. This floated to the surface after watching the recruits struggle with the maze confidence course. There is nothing life threatening in the maze, and calling it a maze is a stretch. It is a chance for them to work through a search, negotiate some obstacles and become more familiar with their equipment. Some obstacles require the removal of the pack, some just sliding the pack into their armpits and there are also some entanglements but nothing that should be too difficult to work through. The recruits had a difficult time, which is to be expected. We also ran a couple of seasoned guys through during that same time and a couple had SCBA issues that I can only attribute to lack of familiarization with the equipment, but they did make it through without “dying”.
My opinion on training is that it should be harder than any expected reality. Anyone can kneel down and don a bottle and harness. Try to make it harder.
Start with all necessary equipment laid out in front of you however you like, some guys kneel on their gloves etc… The standards I used for a successful finished product in this drill are; Mask on flowing air, pack on your back fully opened cylinder with straps adjusted and seat belt on, 2nd PASS activated, gloved hands in the air.
The levels I had the recruits do are as follows.
1. No restrictions
2. Gloves on
3. Gloves on and a flash hood on backwards.
4. Gloves and reversed hood on, equipment messed with.
For the “Equipment messed with” the instructors would go around and rearrange the layout, randomly tighten straps, buckle the seat belt, turn the bottle or even the harness around. For the recruits that were really good we would tangle lines and straps.
Good luck to you, and stay safe.