The Piqua Fire Department was awarded the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to purchase new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). The grant funded approximately seventy-five percent of the new air packs that will replace the current inventory of packs approaching 15 years of age with increased maintenance cost and frequency of repairs or decommission. The department purchased 32 new air packs and facepieces for $306,000, with the grant covering approximately 75% of that cost.
The air bottles have a shelf life of 15 years before they need to be decommissioned and replaced. Standard processes have already been exhausted by hydrostatically testing the bottles twice, which is the maximum number for these bottles, and were quickly approaching a time frame deeming them unusable. The current air packs are not up to code due to multiple changes to NFPA standards and codes, creating various safety discrepancies that the purchase of the new SCBA has rectified.
The updates include better communication ability, an increase from 30-minute cylinders up to 45-minute cylinders, easier to clean for cancer prevention purposes, and a low air alarm that will now sound at 33% rather than 25% giving firefighters more time to extricate themselves from immediately dangerous to life and health environments. New facepieces will also be rated to withstand higher temperatures, and multiple technological upgrades will give our firefighters an advantage inside highly hostile environments.
Firefighters’ ability to breathe clean air inside toxic atmospheres that regularly reach temperatures above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit is crucial to their ability to provide services to the public and protect themselves as well. Air packs are considered one of the most essential pieces of equipment and are one of the first pieces of gear that are checked at the beginning of each shift.