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. My current position as Fire Academy Instructor has really opened my eyes to some of the basic tasks of this calling that I may be lacking adequate skills in. Granted, I could tell the recruits that I 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. I don’t generally talk about things I don’t know or that I cannot demonstrate.
So when one of the recruits challenged me in a race to assemble and don an SCBA, I accepted. The challenge is to mount the bottle, attach the lines, turn on the bottle, don the face piece and start air flow. But 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 there. It is a chance for them to work through a search and negotiate some obstacles. Some obstacles require the removal of the pack, and there are 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 is that training should be harder than any expected reality. Anyone can kneel down and assemble 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 seatbelt 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 seatbelt, turn the bottle or even the harness around. For the recruits that were really good we would tangle lines and straps.
I wish I had pics, maybe I do….
Good luck to you, and stay safe.