DHS S&T releases report on SCBA lessons learned

June 27, 2024

Overview of the DHS S&T report on SCBA

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has published a report titled “Self-contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA) Lessons Learned,”.

This report focuses on the evaluation of SCBA products and offers insights into the usability, wireless electronic safety systems, and power supplies of these devices.

It also provides a six-step assessment methodology to guide future SCBA procurements.

Collaboration between NUSTL and FDNY

The DHS S&T’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) collaborated with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) to evaluate several SCBA models.

FDNY conducted operational tests on the SCBAs, and where industry standards did not meet FDNY’s requirements, NUSTL commissioned laboratory tests to assess the performance of newer electronic safety features.

NUSTL’s evaluation focused on features such as wireless network connectivity and information transmission between SCBAs and Incident Command.

The report details these evaluations and offers a framework for future assessments.

Key findings on usability and safety systems

The report highlights several findings from the FDNY and NUSTL evaluations:

  • System usability: During operational tests, firefighters experienced issues such as mask seal failures and air leakage. Other usability issues included problems with alarm sounds, hose rigidity, and bulkiness of electronic voice amplification systems.
  • Wireless electronic safety systems: These systems, which enable data transmission between SCBAs and Incident Command, showed potential but require further evaluation. The report notes that additional communication nodes or repeaters may be needed in urban environments, and that system recovery after temporary connectivity loss is a critical consideration.
  • Power supplies: The evaluation covered the endurance of various battery types under different temperatures. The report suggests that fire departments consider battery compatibility with their operational and storage requirements.

Future standards and industry guidance

The report also provides guidance to augment industry standards for SCBA products.

The upcoming National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1970 standard, set for release in 2024, will consolidate existing standards for protective ensembles, work uniforms, SCBAs, and personal alert safety systems into one document.

This consolidated standard will incorporate insights from the NUSTL and FDNY evaluations, potentially improving the safety and effectiveness of future SCBA procurements.

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