SCBA Familiarization

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.


1 Comment

1 Trackback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

background image Blogger Img

Marques Bush

Firefighter Basics launched in February 2009 after Founder/Editor Marques Bush was looking for a way to express himself and share his experiences with brother and sister firefighters. Shortly after founding the site Marques spoke with several trusted friends and ask them to come on board and contribute also. Firefighter Basics is a dedicated group of firefighters who strive everyday to practice what they preach about Training, Safety, and Tradition.  We can be reached at

FE Talk: Humpday Hangout

Recent Posts
Words Matter September 4, 2015
Freelancing August 27, 2015
Ultrahazardous August 25, 2015
Aggressive Destruction August 24, 2015
Estimating The Stretch August 21, 2015
Chris Walker
Words Matter
I've attended research burns, attended UL, NIST, and ISFSI lectures, and have been reading the research since the beginning. I agree with the few assessments above. In fact- I recently watched the four new ISFSI videos and they seem to concur with what your post says. They are emphatic that rescue is our priority. The…
2015-09-06 02:20:45
Korey Maves
Words Matter
I completely agree with what you're saying. Like John Vanatta, I as an instructor in Wisconsin, recently attended an 8hr Modern Fire Attack/SLICE-RS class and a 4hr Train the Trainer on the topic. It was presented by DC Forest Reeder, and he basically said everything you've said above. I've been casually observing what Kerber has…
2015-09-05 04:02:13
John Vanatta
Words Matter
Dave, I don't know why that is the "default response". I am not a regular ISFSI member, and I have no reason to defend or attack them as an organization. Maybe my response was poorly worded, or there is a misunderstanding. The instructor from my class did not mince any words-rescue is the priority, use…
2015-09-05 00:35:00
Words Matter
Thank you for your comment John. I'm happy to hear you got the message clear by attending the class, but there are an estimated 1.2 million firefighters in the USA. They are not all going to be able to attend the class. Many will learn from people like you who attended the class and bring…
2015-09-04 23:49:29
Dave LeBlanc
Words Matter
Just curious....why is the default response when someone disagrees with what ISFSI puts out that they have not read/studied/learned enough?
2015-09-04 22:39:25

Follow Firefighter Basics

FireEMS Blogs eNewsletter

Sign-up to receive our free monthly eNewsletter