SCBA Endurance For Fireground Survival

The use of self-contained breathing apparatus is an essential tool of the trade in the modern fire service with which we all must know our limitations in its use.


Imagine yourself sitting steadfast at the kitchen table of the fire station when suddenly the overhead speaker begins to relay the message: "House fire, 227 West 49th Street for Engines 1, 2, 4, Truck 3, Medic 4 and Battalion 1." As the company officer of Engine 1 you know the task before you presents a great deal of stress and work for you and your skeletal staff of two firefighters.

As you begin to approach the subdivision of the involved residence you see a large column of thick velvet like smoke billowing above the tree line, an obvious working fire awaits. Upon arrival, you dismount the apparatus to be met by several frantic residents who tell you there are occupants trapped inside. Your heart pounds feverously as you provide instructions to your crew and incoming units. On scene personnel immediately deploy the necessary tools and a protective hoseline to the front door as your perform a quick 360 size-up of the residence, upon your return you join the supportive cast of the second due company to initiate an aggressive search and rescue operation.

Despite your most noble of efforts, you and your crew are only able to complete a partial search of the residence in which no victims were found. Your low-pressure alarm begins to ring out signaling a need to exit the residence. You and your crew quickly exit the residence to replenish your air supply. Upon exiting, you notice a fireground of skeletal crews performing a multitude of task to support the rescue and suppression effort. Unfortunately, it appears you and your crew will need to reenter to complete the search and rescue operation.

The aforementioned scenario is commonplace across the fire service, and the question of what we can do and should do continues to stifle the best of us. As firefighters, fire officers the like, our training, desires, and adrenal surges push us to the limits in each of these scenarios.

The reality is, we have limitations, and we can only do so much. Our bodies are accustomed to high workloads under stressful conditions, but we still have limitations. As trainers, we must provide our members with an understanding of what these limitations are in a safe and controlled training environment to ensure their safety. Pushing ourselves beyond our personal limitations to overcome physical shortcomings presented by minimally staffed fire grounds ensures our death and injury rate will remain unchanged.

This training program has been designed to proactively identify your member's limitations and capabilities in the use of self-contained breathing apparatus while performing eight common tasks routinely performed on the modern fireground.


The use of self-contained breathing apparatus is an essential tool of the trade in the modern fire service with which we all must know our limitations in its use. This endurance course is designed to identify the limitations of the wearer in a safe and effective training environment; although this program is not scientific in nature, it is a very basic program to measure the capabilities and limitations of our members using very basic tools and equipment which are readily available to most fire departments.


Due to the physical nature of this exercise, it is strongly recommended that all participants have a baseline physical (as required by N.F.P.A. 1582 or equivalent). Due to the physical nature of this exercise, no member shall be allowed to participate if a known medical condition exist which may contribute to further injury or risk. The objective of this training program shall be to identify the participant's personal limitations and physical capabilities in a safe and effective training environment.


Prior to performing any type of endurance training it is strongly recommended that a medical standby crew be on-site to provide medical evaluation and treatment in accordance with local EMS protocols. Medical standby crews shall consist of at least two BLS trained personnel with the necessary tools and equipment. ALS trained personnel with transport capabilities are preferred.

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