The evolution of SCBA

The biggest barrier to firefighter safety is undoubtedly smoke. The need to provide crews with the ability to breath, manoeuvre within a building freely and interact with colleagues has shaped the development of breathing apparatus over time. Even in today’s advanced world, firefighters and crew face new and unexpected challenges. MSA Safety – safety equipment innovator – has published a whitepaper looking at how modern-day Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) must evolve.

The whitepaper is based on views explored at an industry roundtable, attended by fire safety decision-makers across first responder and industry. Discussion highlighted the top five key themes that must form the very foundation of firefighter safety in the future. A recent study by the University of Lancashire found that firefighters under 75 are three times more likely to die of cancer than the general population.

Keeping firefighters safe: we have all seen the images on TV of firemen and women fighting flames. The design, performance, reliability and ease-of-use of modern breathing apparatus directly affects a firefighter’s ability to enter a building, search for, find, rescue and evacuate trapped individuals. The safety industry has a duty of care to constantly look at ways breathing apparatus technology and best practice might be enhanced or improved. At the start of every fire station shift, lives are at stake.

Great design: simplicity and purpose are key. This is a guiding principle that has been in place for many years. An SCBA user may be a fully retained professional firefighter or a part-time volunteer. Whatever apparatus is provided, it must be fit for purpose: simple to put on and easy for the wearer to focus on the job at hand. From including users in the development of SCBA to improving in-team communications, simplicity is the word to remember.

Ergonomics: one size does not fit all. Today’s serving firefighters span people of all genders, shapes and sizes. This means breathing equipment must be designed to allow a good fit for all wearers and all potential uses.

Delivering expectations: highlighting value during procurement was highlighted as an important consideration in SCBA. Focusing on firefighter needs and total cost of ownership will keep both purchasers and firefighters happy and safe.

Decontamination after use: we are all much more aware of health and safety in general today, and the long-term effects of firefighting must be considered. Proper cleaning of equipment and removing carcinogenic deposits will make a positive impact. For MSA Safety, designing in the ability to allow breathing equipment to be thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated after use was a key part of the development brief for its latest SCBA solution.

Jason Traynor, General Manager, Global Respiratory Protection and Fire Helmets at MSA Safety, comments: “As a manufacturer of SCBA, it is so important for us to work closely with industry partners when we develop new equipment. Our mission is to send people home safely at the end of each day, and this is paramount when it comes to firefighting. The discussions we had during the roundtable were uniquely insightful, and made very clear the key elements of importance for next generation SCBA. From improved fire scene communications and user centric product design, to future proofed purchases and a continued focus on simplicity, there is a real belief that firefighter safety can be dramatically improved.”

Want to know more?

Download the full whitepaper and sign up for MSA’s webinar at:

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