Creston firefighters are breathing easy with recent upgrades to their breathing devices.
Last month, Creston Fire Department began using the new self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs) after their old air packs expired.
“It was time,” said Creston Firefighter Casey Carpenter. “They are only good for so many years and they were running out of date.”
The new air packs have several new features that enhance a firefighter’s safety. SCBAs are compressed air devices worn by firefighters that allow them to breathe safely in hazardous atmospheres.
While providing oxygen to the firefighter is the SCBAs main purpose, each unit also has a built-in thermal imaging camera that allows firefighters to see through smoke and view hot spots or fallen firefighters.
“This is essentially breakthrough technology,” said Carpenter, “It’s the up and coming trend allowing more firefighters to have a thermal imager. This way we have more thermal imagers in the hands of more people.”
Each air pack runs off a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and has a digital control panel that allows firefighters to gauge their air pressure and battery levels easier. The device evaluates the firefighter’s breathing and tells them approximately how much air time they have left.
“The old air packs didn’t really have a way to tell us how the battery was doing,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter said the batteries are not crucial to the air pack, but they are used to power the accessories. If the battery were to die, air would still be administered to the fighterfighter using it.
The new air packs also have ergonomic improvements that allow firefighters a better range of motion.
“The other nice feature is that they added padding to the shoulder straps,” said Carpenter. “You can adjust the back piece to fit the height of the figherfigher and it also swivels. More manufacturers are utilizing this. Before, when you rotated your hips, the straps pulled. Now it rotates with you.”
An important safety feature is an alarm which sounds when a firefighter’s air is low. The air pack also has loud exterior alarms, which allow other firefighters to be alerted if a firefighter needs assistance or has stopped moving for more than 30 seconds.
The SCBAs also have an emergency bypass connection designed to quickly connect a RIT pack (Rapid Intervention Team) or other SBCA to a fallen firefighter. Carpenter said the RIT pack is a portable system that provides firefighters with emergency breathing air in almost any situation.
The RIT pack provides firefighters with emergency breathing air in the event a firefighter would become lost, disoriented or trapped and they are unable to make it out in time before their air ran out.
The new pack weighs approximately 50 pounds and is 4,500 PSI, or pounds of pressurized air per square inch. Each pack can last up to 45 minutes.
“Depending on the PSI is how much time you get for the size of the bottle,” said Carpenter.
The department’s older bottles were 30 -and 45-minute bottles and hourlong bottles. The new 45-minute bottles were chosen because the 30-minute bottles do not meet the new standards, and the hourlong bottles have added weight.
The face masks worn by firefighters are also lighter, have an increased heat threshhold of nearly 200 degrees and a voice amplification system near the shoulder that transmits voice sound through a microphone on the pack, allowing for better overall communication at the scene of a fire.
“With this new pack they integrated everything into the pack itself, so your body is carrying that weight,” said Carpenter. “They took all the weight off the face piece, so that improvement is good. It’s a lot lighter.”
Carpenter said he liked the new model by MSA Safety Incorporated for the redesign and added safety features. He said they took the best features of other air packs on the market and fused them into one design that exceeds the new standards.
“I was a big push for this brand,” said Carpenter. “I travel a lot, I go to different shows, I teach a lot ... so I get to see a lot of what’s on the market. I’ve also versed myself in every air pack on the market.”
The Creston Fire Department purchased 19 new SCBAs and a RIT pack.
The project, which cost $126,000, was paid for with $118,000 in grant money provided by XXX, and $8,000 from Assistance to Firefigher’s Grant, which Creston City Council approved use of at their Aug. 8 meeting in 2017. Federal funded grant