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Wearing an SCBA at Crash Scenes?

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  • Wearing an SCBA at Crash Scenes?

    Received this question from a Firehouse member. What are your thoughts?
    - - - - -

    Recently a group of firefighters in my area got into a discussion about whether or not someone on the scene of an extrication should be wearing a SCBA. Not necessarily the person doing the work, but at least a firefighter or two assigned to fire suppression on the scene in case something goes wrong.

    The leading argument against this practice seems to be that a situation will never occur where someone needs SCBA on an extrication run. People seem to thing that only happens on CHiPs or Emergency 51. I personally feel that we should be in a position to protect our own "just in case."

    What are your thoughts on this subject?
    - - - - -
    My Reply:

    The argument for PPE clothing being worn by extrication personnel isn't much of an argument anymore; we need the protection at crash scenes. Wearing an air pack is a different issue.

    Let's define "wearing an air pack". If this means the guy on the standby handline has his SCBA backpack on, cylinder turned on, and his facepiece right with him, ready to don in a moment, then Yes, I see that done frequently. If wearing an airpack means that the standby guy is actually 'on air', then No, that is not the way it is normally done.

    I prefer to have the standby firefighter ready but 'off air'. In Texas, the heat is so oppressive that we can't have someone all bunked out for any length of time; they'll melt. Most crash scenes have predictable risks and the Hollywood explosions are not the norm.

    One guideline that I always remind myself of when I am considering what is appropriate for standby protection at a crash scene is that if the scene is so unstable, so unsecure, so dangerous that I need a firefighter on the standby hoseline in full PPE plus SCBA donned, then what am I doing here! Sounds like we haven't made the scene safe first before we committed troops into the hot zone.

    Crash with no fluids and electrical system shut down on all involved vehicles = deploy dry chemical extinguisher(s)

    Crash with leaking fluids( antifreeze, engine oil, tranny fluid) underneath vehicle and electrical system shut down on all involved vehicles = deployed and charged handline or dry chemical extinguishers

    Crash with leaking vehicle fuel (gasoline/diesel) = deployed and charged handline

    Crash with fire = deployed and charged handline
    Ron Moore, Forum Moderator

  • #2
    Ron~ Our standard SOP on MVC's is very similar to what you stated, if there is no immediate Fire Risk to the Rescue Crew or EMS workers we deploy one FF with gear and an extinguisher, if we are doing an Extrication and there is a fuel leak we deploy a two man charged line to protect the Extrication Crew....
    IAEP Local 152
    "You stopped being in charge when I showed up"


    • #3
      Hey Ron, been awhile. Tough question. Some "Rescue" Companies would say that's the responsibility of the "Engine" Company. First of all, safety is all of our responsibility! As a former Battalion Chief, we developed SOP's similar to yours. Every incident has at least two FF's in packs ready off air and a Dry Chem on standby. A dry line was also pulled to the scene (manpower willing). One thing we seem to have somedays is "tunnel vision". We all get it sometimes. But, every accident has a chance to turn into a vehicle fire. I would rather have two FF's need to cool down then alot more warm up fast. Regarding your temperature issue down there, again, manpower willing, rotate the FF's in SCBA.

      Good to be back in the Forum's and reading your work and comments.


      • #4
        My comapny has an SOP saying that when ever you have a vehicle extrication going on there should be a handline pulled, charged and with a member on it. Which I think is great just in case.


        • #5
          Oh and about the SCBA. I do not feel that the person on the handline needs an SCBA on and breathing air. I do feel there is a need for that person on the luine to have the back on...but not breathing air.


          • #6
            Agree with all those in regards to fire protection having the pack on ready to go, but as others stated, not the facepiece....


            • #7
              I like Ron's SOP for chosing appropriate level of protection. A dry chem or pressurized water can (with foam) will stop incipient fires in their tracks. Unless you're standing in a pool of gasoline, and we got other issues to make safe!

              Having the pack on your back if you pull a line is a good idea.

              *BUT* you need to train your crews to partner properly in this situation.

              If you need that nozzle opened, you don't want someone fumbling to put their mask on. Even if you train "Catcher's Mitt" style donning, that's still don mask, put helmet on, now let's do something.

              (Catcher's Mitt style is you don the mask, adjust the straps, and then take the mask off so you're not on air and have a better view of what's happening -- if you need to don it again, you hook the webbing behind your head like a Catcher's mask and pull the facepiece over your face. Not all SCBAs can do this, but it works well with Scott style face pieces and has you spending time adjusting straps earlier at a more convient time during the incident...like in the truck while enroute!)

              So, you've made a decision based on risks & resources to pull a line and put two people on it. They've got the packs on, and they've adjusted their masks for quick donning, but now have them hanging.

              Fire -- team gets repositions if neccessary and nozzle man hits the fire right away. Probably no need to open up all the way, even if you did, plant yourself Big Paulie style and go to town. Backup man puts his mask on, moves up to nozzle position. Nozzle man becomes backup, throws his mask on, and now the team can work the line and advance in to mop up any remaining fire.

              It can work slick but you need a team that's drilled to do this so they don't fumble or have the other member act unexpectedly.
              IACOJ Canine Officer


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