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Report: LODD shows need for SOPs on clearing blocked SCBA

Firefighter John B. Glaser died May 22 last year when he removed his SCBA to clear vomit from the equipment

By Ken Robinson
FireRescue1 Associate Editor

SHAWNEE, Kan. — Investigators are calling for the development of safety procedures in the event that SCBA is disabled by vomit after the death of a Kansas firefighter.

Shawnee firefighter John B. Glaser died May 22 last year when he removed his SCBA to clear vomit from the equipment, exposing him to toxic gases inside a burning home, according to a NIOSH report released Friday.

Firefighter Glaser had become sick and vomited while he and a fire captain were searching for victims.

Fire departments need to create guidelines for removing and clearing the nosecup of all types of SCBA in emergency situations, according to the report.

“Currently, a validated best practice for an emergency training protocol could not be found for this particular scenario,” the report said.

“Depending on the manufacturer, nose cups can be removed rather quickly and the facepiece may remain fully functional providing breathable air without it.”

Efforts to establish a standard for SCBA that become inoperable due to blockages are already under way.

“The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and other fire fighting agencies are currently working to develop a standardized protocol to educate and train fire fighters on how to deal with debris clogged facepieces.”

In addition to new SCBA guidelines, departments also need to ensure training and retraining for mayday situations, as the firefighter did not issue a mayday for himself, NIOSH said.

“Presently there are no national Mayday standards for firefighters to be trained to and most states do not have Mayday standards,” the report said.

Typically, a Rapid Intervention Team will not be activated unless a mayday is declared, and any delay in calling for a mayday reduces survivability for the firefighter in danger and increase the risk for the rescue team, according to investigators.

Because Firefighter Glaser became separated from a fire captain as he became sick, investigators also stress the importance of maintaining crew integrity.

NIOSH also recommends staffing levels are appropriate for critical tasks, as many apparatus on scene were not fully equipped.

“During this incident, several of the responding engines and trucks were understaffed per NFPA 1710 recommendations and a dedicated RIT crew had not been established prior to the Mayday event,” the report said.

Since no fire sprinklers were present in the house, NIOSH also recommends state and local governments adopt requirements for automatic sprinkler systems in new buildings.

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