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I have two problems with the buddy-breathing device on SCBA’s.

1) Unless you drill on using it “often”, like once a month, in blacked out facepiece conditions, you probably won’t be able to actually do it in a real, stress-filled emergency. 75% of what you learn is forgotten within two weeks if it is not reinforced! (That’s a fact Jack!)

2) It’s (for lack of a better word) illegal to use. Not to buy (to the joy of the manufactures) but to actually use.

When I was a Lieutenant in 1984, we had a recruit class of 64 recruits. I was moved from Field Operations (# 7’s Ladder) to training and given the assignment of teaching the recruits SCBA’s and Search.

I taught each recruit three ways to buddy-breathe. (One of which is no longer an option now thate we no longer have belt-mounted regulators and corrugated breathing tubes.) I took all 64 into the burn building and actually buddy breathed with each one of them in real smoke conditions. We also went over a few other low air emergency operations.

Later in my carrier, we began to purchase new SCBA’s with buddy-breathing attachments on them. As chief of training at that time, I was reviewing a lesson plan for the “in-service” training for the department in the use of these new tools. Reading the warranty info attached to the new SCBA threw up some red flags to me. The warranty stated (And I paraphrase) “NIOSH and OSHA does not allow any form of buddy breathing. This device is designed for single-wearer use. Any other use voids the warranty of the device.”

Did you catch that? They sold us a device attached to our new SCBA (an option – like cruise control on a car) for a few hundred dollars extra – that they say we can’t use!

That warning is still on the SCBA. Probably on yours. We sent a letter to the IAFF and their Safety team sent us a letter back saying they do not advocate buddy breathing!!!!!

So! I end with this. I know what I would do if you crawled over to me in a fire and said you were out of air or your SCBA wasn’t working. I would give you air and it would not involve any “connection” or bubby-breathing device. There may be an OSHA rule prohibiting buddy-breathing, but there is no rule about letting your brother or sister pass out and eventually die because they ran out of air.

So! Do you know what you would do??? Do you and your crew members have a plan in the event of an “accident” (no one “plans” to run out of air or have their SCBA break) happens????

Just think about it!

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Comment by Shawna Hays on October 19, 2009 at 7:03pm
I have to do a short 5 minute Fire Service related demonstration for an Instructor class I am taking, and I thought about doing Buddy Breathing as my topic—even though it is not recommended. I would like to include the information on it not being recommended, but I am having trouble finding it on the internet. I haven’t located any of the State Practical online or anything else. There is a lot of information out there, I am just having issues sorting through it really. Does anyone have any links that might be helpful?
Thank you!
Shawna
Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on October 17, 2009 at 8:32am
We just had this issue come up in a FF 1 & 2 class I am coordinating. We did not teach any RIT, emergency air or buddy breathing in the initial SCBA class because we have a fairly "green" class. I was contacted by a rep. from one of the students' dept. asking why we didn't cover these things. Are intent is to over the next 13 weeks to get each student comfortable and familiar with their respective packs and then the last three weeks of class have Mayday and RIT. What is notable, however, is that on the state practical skills book, it states that IFSTA, OSHA and ANSI do not recommend or endorse any type of emergency breathing techniques. So, we are very careful of what we are teaching for the curriculum practicals, but we do want them to have the knowledge to take care of themselves and their partner if needed. This is a very interesting topic. I would hate to see someone lose a disability or death benefit over this issue, but, I think that in that situation you have to do what you have to do and having the knowledge and skill level to do it could save you or your partners life. Stay safe.
Comment by Jeff Schwering on October 14, 2009 at 10:24am
Skip initally 2 are. It equalizes pressure in the bottles then we unhook, as long as the member is wearing an MSA. If they have another type mask then yes the two are attached, I see you point, I'll look into it today, while I'm on shift.

Thanks Jeff
Comment by Skip Coleman on October 14, 2009 at 7:22am
Jeff,
Just be careful. The way I read the warranty, the "transfil" may be "illegal" to use as well. It says "single wearer use only". When you transfil, aren't two people hooked to one SCBA?
Comment by Jeff Schwering on October 13, 2009 at 9:03pm
Skip, we do train on changing a facepiece of a downed member as a last resort and you're correct.It is anything but easy.We can transfil with the new packs we got last year and with training and repitition we get the job done, however, it's still not easy to do, even with two locations on the pack we can use.

Jeff
Comment by Skip Coleman on October 13, 2009 at 5:07pm
Another good related drills are putting a facepiece back on an unconscious firefighter in zero visibility. At times we find a downed firefighter with his facepiece off. Our guys had quite a problem with this drill. It isn't easy to get it on in a timely fashion and to get a good seal.
Comment by Mark Wadsworth on October 13, 2009 at 4:45pm
Chief,

That is really interesting information...I have to look for that on my next shift. I guess it still doesn't change anything however, if you have to use it, you use it. Hopefully, like you suggested, you have trained on it in the last month otherwise you are right it has likely been forgotten. Thanks for the info....good drill idea for this week at least.
Comment by Jeff Schwering on October 12, 2009 at 7:01pm
Hopefully, I'll have them out, but, should something go to hell, I personally would do whatever it takes to get a Brother or Sister out! That's our job! We try to plan, however, I also can't speak for other members of the dept.

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