Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tactical Safety: "Masking Up"

By Ray McCormack

Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH)- that’s the easy one. That’s where we work, so Mask Up!

Who, what, when, where, how, and why do you mask up at an operation?

Who ? All who enter the IDLH.

What? Breathing supplied-air.

When? Just prior to entering the IDLH and throughout your stay while you’re there.

Where ? Where ever the IDLH exists.

How ? Through your self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) facepiece.

Why? So that you will not become a victim due to exposure to the IDLH now or in the future.

Without getting into certain specifics about what constitutes an IDLH, lets consider when you should “mask up.” The obvious time should be obvious to everyone; It is the not so obvious times that need be hashed out. Why are people who are outside the IDLH - and are performing tasks or walking around- or planning on doing something-using their SCBA? Is this necessary? No, and it hinders our capability to get things done.

Some may argue that they are in a “state of readiness” due to mask usage and that might be believable if they were positioned on a charged hoseline-and about to make entry. However, videos and photos often show a different story of firefighters outside the IDLH sucking down air. The problem with this is that when they are needed inside the IDLH, their work time will be severely diminished. So when we choose to mask up outside the IDLH, we should be mindful of what we are accomplishing and our future capabilities.

It is interesting to see how the SCBA is valued by some. It is the most technologically advanced piece of equipment we carry; it sustains life, yet some think it should only be used on special occasions. Its use requires no special occasion except for prolonged health! Wearing your SCBA compliments your lungs quite nicely. Some carry it, and yet use it only sporadically as if the contents of the bottle were some precious, endangered natural resource. In fact, it is a precious resource that should be used with abandon within the IDLH. Use it. Use it all the time you are exposed so that you do not end up sick and wishing you had done so.

A recent video showed firefighters arriving at an attached garage fire without SCBA. How does a firefighter get off the apparatus at a working house fire without his SCBA? They would not be going inside, they will not be rescuing anyone - they are fakes. Their size-up says, “I will be outside; and I will stay outside; I will only be doing some of the work; I am more interested in saying ‘I am a firefighter’ than actually being one.” There are many factors that stop firefighters from entering fires. Firefighters that show up without SCBA hold us back from doing what we should be doing - and their bosses let it happen.

Mask up, get into the game, and stay tactically safe.

Next Tactical Safety – Developing New Categories of Danger

1 comment:

  1. Great post! the fact that air is being used prematurely is good, not to mention that masking up prior to making entry poses a hazard to the firefighter due the mask fogging up and not being able to see. This will hinder performance while sizing up the building, making the stretch, throwing ladders, monitoring conditions, or just watching where you are walking.....