The Department of Homeland Security, Science & Technology Directorate, Acquisition Support & Operations Analysis, Office of Standards identified a critical flaw in first responder Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) facemask facepiece lenses. S&T funded “live burn” studies and laboratory tests conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Studies found that firefighter’s SCBA facepiece lenses may melt when exposed to intense heat.
The identification of this flaw resulted in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) issuing a safety alert to 1.25 million U.S. firefighters in July 2012, recommending all SCBA facepiece lenses be inspected before and after each use. As a result, NFPA’s safety alerts based on S&T studies protect frontline responders from critical injury or death.
A Self- Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is a critical component in the personal protective equipment (PPE) used by today’s firefighters. This equipment is essential for allowing firefighters to operate in hostile fire ground environments. However, in recent decades there have been significant shifts with the environments encountered by structural firefighters and how they operate in those environments. For example, the modern fire burns hotter. While suits, helmets and respiratory gear allow firefighters to work in hotter environments, they also make them less aware of the heat. Most vulnerable are the lenses in this piece of firefighter PPE.
NFPA recommendations As a result of the study findings,
NFPA made recommendations to identify and remove degraded facepieces from service and to raise awareness of threatening conditions for firefighters. Specifically, these recommendations include:
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