Appendix 8

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)


Purpose:   The purpose of these Standard Operating Procedures is to establish guidelines for the proper operation, training, and maintenance of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) in order to ensure the safety of all Three Star Fire Department personnel.

Location of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus

           A.  Each apparatus, except the tanker, will store SCBA's for responding to all calls and will be stored on each apparatus in such a manner for quick inspection and donning, with spare cylinder(s) as needed. 
            B.  Each SCBA stored on apparatus will be properly cleaned, inspected, stored and returned to service immediately after each use.

Inspections and Records

            A.  All SCBA's shall be inspected, at a minimum, twice a month during equipment check-offs using enclosure (1).  An assigned person shall make inspections on all SCBA in use by the Three Star Fire Department.  The inspection shall consists of checking the entire unit as outlined in enclosure (1) for deteriorated components, air tightness of cylinders, valves, gauge comparison, valve operation, regulator, exhalation valve and low air alarm.  The face piece and harness shall also be visually inspected.  The entire SCBA will be cleaned, dried if necessary.  The Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) device shall be tested and attached to each SCBA. If there is any malfunction found the SCBA shall be taken out of service until it is repaired.  The below guide is provided as a supplement to enclosure (1) and good safety common sense.  Each member should conduct a visual inspection and operational check of each SCBA to be worn prior to entering any hazardous environment and immediately after each use. 
                     1.  Harness and associated straps:  Visually inspect for frayed, twisted, missing, or otherwise inoperative backplate, shoulder, chest, and waist straps. When storing SCBA, ensure all straps are fully extended and not tangled.  
                      2. Personal Alert Safety System (PASS):  Ensure PASS devices function properly when air valve is opened.  The PASS device is integrated into the breathing apparatus and will automatically activate when SCBA cylinder is opened and air applied to airline.  PASS lights should illuminate when cylinder is opened and audible signal heard.  During non-emergency (training) equipment check-offs, PASS device alarm signals will be checked for functionality. 
                               a. PASS device will sound a pre-alert signal at approximately 20-22 seconds after remaining motionless and may be “de-activated” by tapping or any other movement to SCBA. 
                               b. If PASS device detects lack of motion for approximately 30 seconds it will activate constant alert signal. 
                               c. Without de-activation, pre-alert goes to full alert.  At this point, the PASS device can only be de-activated by depressing the two buttons on side of it simultaneously.
                       3.  Regulator Assembly:  When the air cylinder is opened, listen for the low pressure warning device (listen carefully). With pressure applied to regulator assembly, conduct visual inspection of gauge to ensure it reflects the same amount of air pressure as in the cylinder.  If any difference in pressure reading is detected, always go by lowest reading. If gauge reading is more or less than 200 psi than cylinder reading, have SCBA rendered out of service until checked.  
                       4.  Face piece: Ensure face piece is clean and free of any debris.  Visually check for irregularities and/or contaminants in the exhalation valve, locking device, straps, purge valves and gaskets.  Placing the face piece against the face and inhaling will activate the mainline valve and allow for breathing. Exhaling forcibly should clean out and test exhalation valve for functionality.  Ensure the rubber nose cup inside face piece is positioned to allow exhaled air to be deflected, thus preventing fogging.  Inspect face piece harness for wear and tear and ensure they are fully extended when being stored. A quick check for proper seal is to hold hand over regulator connection while face piece is donned.  Inhale slightly and hold breath momentarily.  Face piece should slightly collapse and there should not be any leakage of air. If leak is suspected, readjust face piece and head straps and attempt again.
               B.  The Incident Commander/Lieutenant will be informed of any discrepancies.  Under no circumstances will any member don a SCBA if a problem exists with any SCBA or its associated components.   

Operation and Use of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus

           A.  Self-contained breathing apparatus shall be worn and used by all firefighters when a respiratory hazard has the potential to exist.  Hazards shall include car fires, dumpster fires, interior structure fires, outside area where there is a possibility to encounter heat and/or smoke, hazardous spills, liquid propane leaks, chemical contaminated areas, oxygen deficient areas (confined areas), and any other hazardous atmosphere.
          B.  Resist the tendency to prematurely remove breathing apparatus during routine fire situations.  We all must be aware of the respiratory hazards which exist in ordinary as well as the extraordinary fire situation.   It is generally true that carbon monoxide levels increase during overhaul, due to the incomplete combustion of smoldering materials.
          C.  Three Star Fire Department operate with SCBA's with a thirty (30) minute rating, however, physical condition, environmental conditions, ability to control breathing, training, experience, and level of activity makes the actual usage time vary from user to user.  A good rule of thumb is to expect approximately 15 – 20 minutes per cylinder.
          D.  Eyeglass frames, beards, and any facial hair that interfere with the seal of the face piece shall be prohibited.  This means there shall be skin contact around the entire seal.
          E.  When working in a breathing apparatus, always work in pairs. 
          F.  When possible, stay in contact with hoseline or use of a lifeline of some sort for speedy escape if necessary.  If disoriented, locate a wall and follow it to a window or door.  Activate PASS device if deemed necessary to alert other personnel of your situation and location.
          G.  Never remove the face mask or regulator to talk when in hazardous atmospheres.
          H.  Conserve air as much as possible.  Make every movement count.  Know the limitations of the breathing apparatus, as well as your own.  It is imperative to know what you can and can not do when operating with a SCBA.
          I.  Become proficient with the operation of the apparatus through training and experience.  Most often, you will be expected to work using only the senses of touch and hearing.  It is imperative you know your equipment.
          J.  Allow enough time to exit the hazardous environment when low pressure alarm on the breathing apparatus sounds.  You may have to move quickly.
          K.  Facemasks can be hung by the top strap of the head harness or the neck strap, only if the neck strap is secure to the breathing tube. Do not place facemasks on surfaces that will scratch, bend, or otherwise cause damage.
          L.  Firefighters that use two air bottles shall go through a period of rehab.  If necessary, vitals will be taken and oxygen provided.  This will allow the firefighter time to recover, rehydrate, and be monitored for signs of fatigue.  If the incident should continue, rehab shall be needed between each bottle after the initial two bottles.
          M.  As previously mentioned, ensure to extend all straps fully when removing the breathing apparatus. 

          N.  Known as the point of no return, firefighters shall only go to a point that when the low air alarm activates, they will have enough time to make a safe exit.  This is approximately a 5-minute time.

          O.  When the low air alarm is activated for any reason, ALL FIREFIGHTERS on the team will exit the hazardous area.  No one person will remain in the hazardous area.

Cleaning and returning to Service

A.  SCBA's shall be cleaned and the face piece shall be disinfected after each use, except when impractical under tactical conditions.
               1.  The face piece assembly shall be washed with mild soap and water and thoroughly rinsed with clean warm water and dried with clean wiping cloths or disposable towels.  
               2.  After washing, masks will be disinfected with M.S.A. cleaner/sanitizer solution.  Alcohol should not be used as a disinfecting agent. Rubber parts will not be force dried with heat.
B.  The air cylinder shall be properly recharged (see Cascade SOP) or replaced when returning an SCBA to service.  Only trained personnel shall recharge air cylinders.


           A.  Departmental policy concerning equipment repair shall be followed when arranging for the repair of an SCBA.
           B.  The Lieutenant in charge will ensure prompt repair to any SCBA needing service.  That SCBA will be rendered out of service and accommodations will be made to ensure each apparatus is properly equipped as operations dictate.  All repairs will be properly logged.  


           A.  The Lieutenant in charge will ensure the Training Officer schedules regular training sessions which focus on the use and maintenance of self-contained breathing apparatus.  At a minimum, SCBA training will be conducted once every three months.
           B.  Training and drills in the use of SCBA's shall be provided which simulate as near actual emergency conditions as possible.


It is for the safety of every firefighter to keep the self-contained breathing apparatus in proper working condition. Regular inspections, maintenance, and training of the SCBA’s can accomplish the level of safety needed during an emergency. It is essential to use the SCBA’s whenever the situation dictates and to follow these standard operating procedures. Following this document will help in preventing injuries that can occur from smoke and heat that can damage your lungs. These injuries can have an acute or chronic effect on your health. The chronic effects may not be noticed for years. Accountability will also be assured at incidents if this standard operating procedure is followed.