SCBA Considerations - Part 3: Restrictive Area Techniques

We pick up this series discussing the aspects of getting through tight or restricted areas while wearing an SCBA Every firefighter needs to be thoroughly familiar and confident with the specific piece of breathing apparatus that they will use...

In a very extreme circumstance, a firefighter may have to resort to removing the SCBA from their body to facilitate clearing an obstacle. A firefighter must be very cautious when removing the SCBA as it further complicates the nature of the situation that the firefighter is presented with. The SCBA should not be removed from the firefighter's back unless absolutely necessary.

To remove the SCBA in a constricted area or if heat conditions dictate a firefighter be as low as possible, the following steps can be followed:

  1. While lying to the side, the firefighter will have to loosen the shoulder straps and remove the waist belt of the SCBA
  2. The firefighter should next "roll" out of the pack by rolling over to the left. By going to the left will allow the firefighter increased freedom of movement. (see photo 7)
  3. To further facilitate freedom of movement, the SCBA should be rotated so that the cylinder valve is facing away from the firefighter. All straps will need to be placed in a neat organized manner on top of the SCBA. to facilitate an easy redonning.
  4. The firefighter should then move with the SCBA. in front of them, but keeping it close to their body to protect it and prevent the facepiece from being pulled off. It is imperative that the firefighter makes certain that no holes or elevation changes exist in the floor as they move forward. When clear of the obstacle, the firefighter can redonn the SCBA by laying out the straps and rolling back into the pack.

The fireground is a very dynamic and dangerous environment. Every firefighter from the most seasoned veteran to the greenest rookie can experience a problem with their SCBA.Emergency procedures should be second nature to all firefighters. As with all aspects of firefighting, practice and training prior to an emergency will only increase a firefighter's chance for survival. 

Jeffrey Pindelski is a 16 year plus student of the fire service and currently a Battalion Chief with the Downers Grove Fire Department in Illinois. He previously served for 12 years as a Firefighter and Lieutenant on the Truck and Heavy Rescue Company. Jeff is a staff instructor at the College of Du Page and also instructs courses at the Downers Grove Fire Academy. He has been involved with the design of several training programs dedicated to firefighter safety and survival and is the coauthor of the text R.I.C.O., Rapid Intervention Company Operations.