Firefighters Test SCBA 'Flat Pack'

Firefighters in Prince George's County, Md. this week got the chance to test out a new SCBA "flat-pack" prototype.

The device relies on pressure-vessel technology, which is intended to make breathing apparatuses smaller, lighter and more efficient than the single-air cylinder design of conventional SCBA.

The flat pack design uses a special high-temperature lining in place of the conventional aluminum liners currently used. The linings are braided with Kevlar and wound with pre-impregnated carbon fiber. The entire array is inside a soft, flexible cover, which allows the design to flex horizontally and vertically at the connection points, according to a press release.

The IAFF has received more than $2.7 million from the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate to design the new device. The IAFF selected Pittsburgh-based MSA to manufacture the prototype.

The training took place on May 18 at the department's training academy in Cheltneham, where the SCBA was rigorously tested.

The firefighters were joined by a dozen other firefighters and four law enforcement officers from Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.

"We're proud to be part of this important project to improve a piece of equipment that is so vital to firefighters (here) and the rest of the world," Prince George's Fire Chief Eugene Jones said.

Participants went through several evolutions with traditional SCBA and then repeated the same evolution with the flat pack SCBA. After each evolution, the first responders completed an evaluation form describing the pros and cons of each type of SCBA.

IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger said this type of testing will help ensure that the new flat pack prototype is ready for the fire ground when its eventually deployed.

"This is one of the most significant health and safety projects the IAFF has ever undertaken, and this new SCBA technology will improve the safety of firefighters on the frontlines."