As the Chief Safety Officer for Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R), my main area of concern is fire fighter safety. One way we can enhance the safety of our firefighters is by improving protective equipment. Maybe the most important part of our protective equipment is the compressed air tank breathing system we wear on our backs. PF&R is currently in the process of training all of our fire fighters to wear the newest version of our Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). The latest version has state of the art features such as a ‘heads up display’ allowing the fire fighter to visualize the amount of air left in the SCBA cylinder. The new safety and comfort features should greatly enhance fire fighter safety and keep us in compliance with national standards for fire fighting and terrorism response. These components were purchased with funds awarded to PF&R by the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
Simply purchasing the new SCBAs isn’t enough – all members must be trained to be proficient in the use of the new system and demonstrate that proficiency before the new SCBAs can be used. This training takes place in two parts; first off - a video program that introduces the new features and outlines the differences between the old and new SCBAs, and second of all - a ‘hands on’ training session with each member of every crew in Portland to thoroughly familiarize them with their new ‘lifeline’. This training takes many hours to accomplish and in fact eight weeks have been dedicated to the switch over.
Like I said earlier, protective equipment is only one part of the safety equation. Next time I will discuss the importance of the company officer using risk/benefit analysis in making fire ground decisions.
February 23, 2010