Pennington: The SCBA Regulator - Click it or Die

Lessons in firefighting can come from many places, just like many of the views that I write about. This one comes from a personal experience a few days ago as we trained the latest group of rookies in live fire conditions.

The stage was set for an evolution in coordinated fire attack. Two engines and a truck arriving within minutes of each other set to work through multiple tasks that are required as we arrive at a structural fire.

The first due engine made the stretch, established a water supply and prepared for entry as the first arriving truck threw ladders and prepared for vertical ventilation. A we progressed to the threshold of the front door, I noticed that one firefighter's did not have their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) regulator in. Stop!!

How many times have you done this same exact thing? I can tell you it has happened to me in my career and it is a lesson that needs to be learned early in our careers. With today’s smoke being more toxic than ever, we may never get a second chance to make this mistake. Benzene, carbon monoxide, Hydrogen Cyanide are names that we should all be familiar with as they are all present in today’s smoke.  These are just a small sample, but each could be deadly if it is inhaled. Add in the dimension of super-heated gases and your lungs will not be able to handle it.

How do we make sure this doesn’t happen?  Here are a few tips from the jumpseat:

  • Establish a routine for donning your SCBA
  • Use the same sequence of events every time you place the SCBA on your person
  • When clicking in your regulator make sure you feel or hear the click
  • Practice inserting your regulator often, in a variety of envoirnments
  • Follow your standard operationg guildines (SOGs) or the manufacturer's recommendations for the equipment

Not having your regulator fully seated. or clicked into positioned has happened to many of us during our careers. Is our job to take these lessons and share them with the next group of firefighters.   They may not get the chance to share their experience with the next group.

Having an unseated regulator is a real problem and an even bigger danger. It’s our job to train on it because fire does not know your years of service, nor does it care.  So, from day one to day last grab you facepiece, SCBA, your crew, and practice it repeatedly until you cannot get it wrong. 

Bunker up, buckle in, and remember that we all start in the Jumpseat!