Wolf Creek Firefighters recently conducted in-service training on 22 new MSA G1 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and associated equipment.
The SCBAs were purchased through a regional grant award for the 2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
There were five other departments that were involved and awarded a portion of the $700,000 grant to replace outdated SCBAs and associated equipment.
“The SCBAs are critical equipment for firefighters to extinguish structure, vehicle, and trash fires as well as use in any environment that is an immediate danger to a firefighter’s respiratory system,” said Wolf Creek Assistant Fire Chief Steve Young. “The departments that participated in the evaluation of three manufacturers of SCBAs overwhelming picked the MSA G1 due to a variety of data and safety points.”
There were three manufacturers that presented their SCBA platforms and each of the participating departments spent a few weeks wearing and using each of them. In the end, the MSA G1 SCBA won out “hands down,” according to Young.
“We also relied on a one-year exhaustive study that Virginia Beach Fire Department conducted of the MSA G1 and one of the competitions SCBAs,” explained Young. “Another huge data point was consulting with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) who conducts investigations into firefighter fatalities and close calls.
“They reported zero issues with the MSA G1 being a cause of a firefighter injury or fatality from a failure of the SCBA,” Young said.
One of the biggest sellers for the firefighters was the safety aspects built into the SCBA. The thermal exposure rating that the MSA SCBA and mask can handle is exceptional, as Young explained. Also, there is a thermal exposure alarm that tells the firefighter that they have been exposed to temps in excess of 500 degrees fahrenheit for an extended period of time.
“This is a huge safety factor for firefighters as today they wear more advanced gear that protects them from fire and thermal exposure,” said Young. “With that advancement comes the danger of getting too far into a hazard area without knowing how hot it actually is.”
The MSA G1 SCBA was also found to be more ergonomic than any other SCBA platforms that were tested.
This helps prevent firefighter injury and helps with better performance while wearing the SCBA.
They slimmed down the outline of the SCBA and centralized the weight to the lower back and took some weight off of the shoulders and spread it across the hip area. All of the electronics were removed from the mask making it lighter while still providing voice amplification and heads up display.
This SCBA also calculates the users breathing rate with the amount of remaining air in the cylinder and gives the user a “time of remaining air” reading telling them in minutes how much time they have before running out of air.
“All of the manufacturers we tested but MSA could not guarantee that their current platform would not be modified or replaced in the near future,” said Young. “The G1 platform that MSA developed is projected to be their SCBA platform long into the future.
“Any new advancements can easily be updated to the current SCBA without major modification,” Young said. “Most updates will be achieved simply by hooking the SCBA to a computer and downloading it to the SCBA’s computer module.”
Not only were the MSA engineers involved but various fire departments from across the country were also consulted in developing this SCBA platform.
Developments such as an integrated thermal imaging camera in the data module, to moving the electronics off the mask for simplicity in cleaning and to lighten it up were taken into account.
Simple things such as a single battery system for the SCBA to putting a light at the universal Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) connections that come on when the SCBA is low on air were thought of and made a reality. The SCBA’s speaker and microphone system will even calculate the firefighter’s breathing noise after several breaths are taken and mute that noise in order to make communication more clear.
“Some of the issues we found with the other manufacturers were the weight of the SCBA and mask, feedback from voice amplification, the bulkiness of the SCBA and mask, ergonomics issues with movement, numerous types of batteries used, noise and communication issues during low air alarms, cleaning issues and fogging issues,” said Young. “Even the location of the buddy breathing hoses was found to be a snag hazard on some.”
One of the final points that played into the purchase of the MSA G1 platform was that a multitude of other departments from in St. Francois and surrounding counties are already are using the MSA G1. This provides better interoperability with these other departments, according to Young.
He said Wolf Creek Fire Department would like to thank FEMA for awarding them with the regional grant as well as Desloge, Leadington, Farmington and Big River/Bonne Terre Fire Departments for participating in the regional grant.
Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.