Firefighters at Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) will be breathing better soon. New components for their self-contained breathing apparatus – purchased with an award from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program – are being put into service.
The upgraded components include a new Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) that will sound an alarm if the firefighter is stationary for 18 seconds. The PASS alarm volume increases at 4-second intervals until it sounds a full alarm at 30 seconds, allowing firefighters to quickly find their downed colleague.
Additionally, a new "heads up" display allows firefighters to quickly track how much air is left in their air cylinder. The new safety and comfort features should greatly enhance fire fighter safety and keep PF&R in compliance with national standards for fire fighting and terrorism response.
Simply purchasing the new SCBA components isn't enough. All members must be trained to use the new system and demonstrate that proficiency before the new SCBAs can be used.
Training is taking place in two stages. First, a video program introduces the new features and outlines the differences between the old and new SCBAs. Second, a "hands on" training session with each member of every crew familiarizes them with their new "lifeline". Training takes many hours to accomplish; it will take eight weeks to complete the switch over to the new devices.
The new SCBA components were purchased through a grant from the AFG program. Funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Administration, the AFG is a competitive grant program to meet firefighting and emergency response needs. The AFG award provided 80 percent ($448,500) of the funding, and PF&R provided the 20 percent ($112,125) matching funds.
February 24, 2010