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  • Eric M. Dominguez, MA, RSO, CPP, SHP

SCBA Spill Team Confidence Building

SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) training : Recently I became more involved in the topic of researching what agencies and industry do for SCBA training. It was a difficulty to look for local courses for SCBA training. I discussed the topic with local community college safety training leadership, local fire department chief, hazmat specialty members in fire departments and other industry Safety professionals.

The existing methods for industry spill team members for SCBA training, is exposure to training and practice. But that practice was not really repetitive, maybe annual and that annual mostly was table top exercise. My overall impression from speaking to vendors, looking online for resources was more than disappointing. The best information I found were a few videos sources online from specific vendors.

The best input I obtained for how to achieve confidence for your spill team in the use of SCBA came from our fire chief and another experienced cylinder handling professional of 30 years. However current state for most industry spill team members is to have completed a 30-40 minute review of the equipment and donn it for about 10-15 minutes. Then every year attend perhaps an 8 hour Hazwoper session. In the 40 hour Hazwoper you could get that 30 minute review. But not in the 8 hour recertification class.

The advice from the fire departments was drill, drill, drill. Create mock response drills that replicate the use in the hazard environment expected. In industry that is not going to be creating a mock building fire. It's practice use for your environment. In my case that is response to chemical spills. So drill to that level and do it 3-4 times a year.

I found out more about SCBA cylinder regulations in this process as well. Never allow the cylinder to get below 90% for those to be used for emergency response. Create one identified cylinder for 'training' purposes. Label that cylinder 'training'. That cylinder can be allowed to go to 0%. Use the training cylinder just for training and never leave that cylinder attached to the SCBA pack when not conducting training.

When you conduct a fire drill do a spill drill in that process. Have the spill team conduct a mock spill clean up using full SCBA attire with Tyvek suit. The practice will give them confidence and improve their donning time as well. Good luck with your spill team and improving their confidence.

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