Friday, March 18, 2011

waist not, want not...

I have re-posted this blog after I received yet another email from a fire officer for whom Traditions Training had taught with in the past. His guys were having the same conversations as my Chief friend a while back... So here it is:

A Chief from a department that Traditions Training has taught with in the past, was having problem and wondered if we could help him out. Here was the situation: "the old school firemen" and his "new school firefighters," were arguing about their SCBA. They were having a disagreement as to the importance of and perhaps even the relevance of the SCBA waist strap. He asked me for my opinion on the SCBA waist strap and its importance in relation to the safety of his members.....

Now we have all seen hundreds of photos of the unbuckled waist strap, it is found nearly monthly in each trade magazine. Whether they are photo's of firemen from the BIGGEST FD in the nation or the smallest NO-NAME-FD in really doesn't matter; the pictures don't lie... it happens. Excuses can always be made after the shot was snapped, they are easy to come up with... and not the focus here. There are many advantages to having that strap fastened, some of which may just save your life.

The waist strap/belt on SCBA's are just like the waist strap/belt on any "backpack" type framed device. The frame of a conventional hiking backpack carries the load "clothes, hiking gear...etc" to the shoulders and hips. The SCBA frame, carries the load (cylinder, pack frame, gauges etc) to the same parts, your shoulders and hips.

The shoulders can carry all the load alone when you are dealing with lighter weights (if you look at most smaller sized utility type day backbacks there is no waist strap/belt). However, when you get into the larger size backpacks (such as those for real hiking) you will normally find the wast strap/belt. The average weight of our SCBA cylinders, pack frame, gauges etc, make the waistband a real necessity when worn.

The SCBA waistband is designed to lessen the work load on our shoulders, as stated above, shifting the load carrying onto the hips (the muscles in our legs are much stronger than those in our shoulders). I have found that I am able to do much more work with less exhaustion when I have the waist strap/belt affixed snugly, and the shoulder straps left a tad bit loose. Shoulder movement (moving arms up and down like when pulling ceilings) is much more physically exhausting when you have the shouder straps pulled tight, and no waist band/strap attached, as you are in effect...lifting the SCBA up and down with your shoulders on each thrust & pull into that ceiling.

While we all know that we can do our job either way (buckled or unbuckled) but these SCBA frames are designed to be worn buckled. Manufacturers are always trying to make the SCBA lighter, if they thought we didn't need them do you really think that they would have left them on? Crawling on our bellies or duckwalking down low with the waist strap unbuckled is a recipe for disaster. It is like dragging two grappling hooks down the hall as you push into the apartment. Do you want to take the risk of getting hung up? Leaving these straps dangling will lead to the most bizarre things getting snagged, often at the most unanticipated time. Buckle up those loose ends!

Also, the waist strap provides some lateral stabillity when crawling especailly if we wind up awkwardly heading down a set of stairs or something. It will be better suited to stay on our backs and not start moving up our backs, causing the domino effect to disaster: you know, first... knock the helmet askew, then, the helmet smashes into the face-piece, disrupting our hood/face-piece protection, (which may likely lead to burns). That helmet may also dislodge your facepice from your FACE!. None of this is likely to occur when our SCBA is secured with the waistband. Stay Combat Ready!

To sum it up in a few short points:
1. Provides less chances of entanglement hazard when secured properly
2. Reduces fatigue on shoulders by transferring weight to hips
3. Provides stability from the mask moving laterally (left to right) especially when searching on hands and knees
4. Provides stability from the mask moving horizontally (up into back of helmet)
5. Provides stability when doing reduced profile and other tight quarter maneuvers
6. Members can quickly locate belt buckle to convert to harness if necessary

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