Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd
How to...choose your ideal SCBA
Published:  01 September, 2008

BA equipment is not cheap but it could save your life, so getting the right kit is vital. Regina Jenatschke, Product Manager Safety Products, MSA, gives her view on factors to consider when choosing your SCBA.

A SCBA is used for all operations in hazardous atmospheres and fire fighting. The requirements for an ideal SCBA are as different as its applications.

The use of SCBAs in the emergency service is wide ranging and requires – above all – versatility of the equipment. And because SCBAs are not only used for firefighting but also in different industrial sectors such as agriculture, chemical, waste management, offshore and oil refineries, the selection of the ideal SCBA is even more complex. A standard product can’t meet the requirements for all applications and all budgets.
To find the ideal SCBA the users need to know what demands they have in regards to:

• required operating time
• frequency of use
• extreme exposure to flame and heat (eg frequent firefighter training)
• demand on comfort
• availability of options (such as second man attachment, quick-fill, and so on)
• usage of electronic features up to telemetry and head-up-display.

Some examples

If you envisage a frequent and long operating time then you should look for a very robust and comfortable solution. Depending on if the SCBA needs to be attached to an air line, or worn with a chemical suit etc, only you can decide which features you really need for your tasks. If you want to monitor pressure status, motion alarm and receive evacuation notification then an integrated telemetry system should be considered.
In addition you should think about the upgrade possibilities. If you want to be flexible then a modular system should be considered for future retro-fitting – for example with a more comfortable shoulder strap or electronic monitoring aids – once budget becomes available.

Life cost of ownership should also be looked into. A simple construction of a SCBA’s components (eg for the pressure reducer) would ensure easy maintenance. This may entail buying fewer – but better quality – devices, but this course of action could be more economic in the end.

Within the decision process of where to buy the ideal SCBA, you should also think about what other equipment you may use with the SCBA ie this could be lung-governed demand valves, masks, helmets and the SCBA monitoring system. To ensure an integrated safety solution it would be advisable to purchase everything from the one supplier who can offer the full range of high quality PPE.

The MSA route

MSA offers firefighters the unique capability of configuring a customised SCBA according to individual requirements and personal preferences. Using an interactive configurator it is possible to build an individual breathing apparatus in an intuitive and simple way. Users can compare and choose from a selection of backplates, harnesses, pneumatic systems and monitoring electronic components. More than 4,000 configurations are possible, all approved according to EN137:2006 [2]. Even after the purchase of an MSA breathing apparatus there are additional benefits because the global customizable system means that almost all components can be retrofitted.