Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Salute to Scott Safety

From the Cotton Bowl, at the AT&T (Cowboy) Stadium
I joined the fire service in 1966. Self contained breathing apparatus was replacing filter masks and the chem-ox rebreathers. And while you had cool air as opposed to recycled air, the cylinders were heavy. Really heavy. Steel bottles at roughly 45 pounds with negative pressure, meaning that you had to suck the air past the diaphragm. Years latter (1975) while collecting data on 100 randomly selected structural firefighters from the greater Washington, DC area, 15% of the sample could not restore respiratory homeostasis without ripping off their face piece. While not a big issue in a training tower, clearly a death sentence if that same action was performed at the scene of a working fire.

Our research team from the College of Public Health met with the NASA engineers under the aegis of Project Fires, a technology transfer program whereby inventions of NASA would be the seed corn for innovation for firefighters. I can recall presenting data about the Minute Volumes (the amount of air turned over in a minute) while performing hard physical work. The engineers said that there was no way that SCBAs could support that kind of workload. In other words, the SCBA was a “governor” controlling the work rate and concomitantly, the safety of firefighters who were working at the seat of a blaze. 

I attended my first FDIC in Memphis in 1967. Anxious to see how the other guys did it, we visited one of the MFD stations. I asked one of the firefighters, "Where's your SCBA?" He remarked proudly, "In the rear compartment." I said why there? His response, "We're smoke eaters here." I said, you're stupid. You only come with one set of lungs. A photo facsimile of the suitcase that contained the SCBA is shown below. 
The Original Scott Air Pak suitcase

The engineers at Scott found a better way- positive pressure which is now the norm today. And we now have composite cylinders that are no longer heavy or a threat for ballistic explosion. So, back in the last century, it was incomprehensible that fire-athletes could perform tasks that approach or exceed 1.5 HP, yet today, more than 60,000 firefighters have stepped out on the Challenge course and gone “balls to the wall” while wearing a Scott Air-Pak.

Technically, this is our 25th year as our first event was held at the University of Maryland’s Fire/Rescue Institute in 1991. The following year, with the support of DuPont, we launched our first national tour.
And every day, thousands of firefighters don their Air-Paks without a moment’s hesitation and go in harm’s way. What an incredible testimony to the product and the people of Scott who have generously funded the Scott Challenge.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Totally agree. As a chief of a fire department, I am trying to convert our SCBA's to Scott. After running the Combat Challenge for the past 4 years, I am definitely sold on Scott.