10 Ways You Should Think About SCBA Comfort

You may think the comfort of a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is subjective, but it’s really not. Here are 10 obvious — and not so obvious — ways firefighters should judge the comfort of their SCBA.

1. Realistic Movement

The SCBA feels nice on your back, right? When you tried it on in the training room, it felt good. When you did some light work during the evaluation it didn’t feel bad, did it? Try donning the SCBA and make some actual fireground movements. Bend over and twist. Reach. Run. Judge comfort on the full range of motions with other tools and on-air, not just light work in a training room.

2. Air Delivery

An SCBA is meant to deliver air when you probably wouldn’t survive without it. Let that sink in for a moment. You probably would not survive without it. The first thing to think of when it comes to this issue of comfort is how comfortable you are with the delivery of that air. It’s more comfortable not to wear any SCBA at all. But would you still be comfortable running into a smoky hallway without it? No, you wouldn’t, because you are shopping for safety, and that outweighs the discomfort.

3. Notifications

Does your SCBA notify you if you have a debris-induced failure limiting your air? Maybe something like drywall filler got inside your system and started to plug airflow through the reducer or plug the filter. Maybe this happened during a cylinder change when you were in a rush. What if I told you that not every SCBA is made equal and only a few SCBA models come with a built-in backup pressure reducer that would take over in that situation, AND NOTIFY YOU that you were starting to have a problem with airflow? Is that comforting?

4. Automatic Mayday Signals

Many SCBA sold today come with an integrated Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) yet not all PASS are designed to work the same. NFPA 1982 Standard on Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS) defines a PASS device as “a device that continually senses for lack of movement of the wearer and automatically activates the alarm signal, indicating the wearer is in need of assistance.” The “automatically activates” portion of this definition is referring to an audible alarm signal at a minimum 92 decibels, approximately as loud as a lawnmower, which is sufficient to notify other firefighters in the area, but what about notifying Incident Command? In addition to local annunciation, an SCBA should also send an automatic mayday signal to the outside in the event you go motionless or you were to become pinned in a way that prevents access to the radio mayday button. Uncomfortable? Definitely. Does that make you feel just a little more comfortable as you approach that hallway?

5. Size and Durability of Components

During the evaluation of SCBA, what if you saw the inside of the SCBA and the size/durability of the components? Would that make you feel more comfortable when smashing yourself through a small opening during a profile move?

Learn more about the 3M™ Scott™ Air-Pak™ X3 Pro SCBA

6. Financial Comfort

What is the real cost of an SCBA? Notice the word cost and not price. The right SCBA might not be priced lower than everyone, but over the course of its life, it will cost you less to own. Does it make you feel comfortable knowing that you made a decision that the next 15 years’ worth of firefighters and officers will thank you for when their budgets get pinched even tighter? You may not care about budgets in your job, until they start cutting other resources you need to fulfill mandatory SCBA overhauls.

7. Unnecessary Mandatory Overhauls

Who wants to replace components just for the sake of replacing components? You have enough to worry about with your job, let alone worrying about whether you performed a manufacturer-mandated rebuild to the SCBA. Invest in SCBA designed to stand the test of time. Choose a manufacturer that has some of the finest technicians in the industry working on your equipment, just in case something goes wrong. With simple tests performed by a 3M Scott certified technician every year, as required by NFPA 1852 Standard on Selection, Care and Maintenance of Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Appartus (SCBA), our SCBA just keep working.

8. Recertification of Technicians

Speaking of our technicians, isn’t it comforting to know how often they have to recertify with us? We audit them annually, we host annual service summits, they recertify regularly, and we are constantly making sure they are up to speed and staying best-in-class with proper tools and education.

9. Air Consumption

Have you ever stopped to think where the air is going when your low air warning device activates? How critical is that air? Would it make you comfortable knowing the air from the Vibralert is maintained inside the breathing path rather than dumping directly into the ambient atmosphere? Our SCBA works efficiently so that you can work effectively… and safely.

10. Extensive End-User Network

Back in 1977, Dr. Keith Slater, in his paper entitled “Comfort Properties of Textiles” identified three different aspects of comfort:

1. Psychological
2. Physiological
3. Ergonomic

Although this paper is over 40 years old, it is still being cited today as a model of comfort for personal protective equipment (PPE). Although all three of these aspects are critical, psychological comfort is frequently overlooked – particularly when considering new equipment or new manufacturers.

Would you feel comfortable knowing that the local fire organizations around you likely use a 3M Scott Fire & Safety SCBA? How about the national fire academies and the state/local fire training schools? Does their trust in 3M Scott Fire & Safety make you feel comfortable?

You should take comfort knowing that our SCBA are reliable, trusted, durable, and easy to use. That’s what the U.S. fire service deserves and that’s what 3M Scott Fire & Safety builds for you. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact our health and safety specialists today.