Thirty years back, firefighters used to consider themselves as “smoke eaters”; unafraid of heavy smoke and hot flames. Firefighters used to avoid wearing Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). Today, things have changed dramatically and you will see firefighters using fire breathing apparatus during every firefighting mission. Why this shift in attitude? Why has the use of fire breathing apparatus become more important and apparent than ever? Let us explore some reasons.
Greater Knowledge Of The Harms Of Smoke and Fumes
A while back, firefighters were more concerned about the occupational hazards of heat and flames when dealing with a fire emergency. While the dangers posed by heat and flames are not insignificant, firefighters are now more aware of the health threat posed by toxic gas fumes and smoke given off by burning furniture, electronics and building material.
Fire smoke is a complex mixture of fine particles and toxic gases produced from the burning of wood, plastic and other materials found inside a commercial or residential building and industrial complexes. Microscopic particles found in the smoke pose the biggest health threat to firefighters as they can easily penetrate deep into the lungs and cause a range of health problems over time. It is estimated that hundreds of firefighters die directly in the line of duty each year and many more die indirectly because of heart attacks, lung cancer and kidney failures. Many of these causes of death have been linked to the harmful effects of hazardous smoke and toxic fumes. The levels of toxicity in modern day homes and offices in Singapore and other well-developed countries around the world have multiplied in the last couple of decades. As a result, firefighters today are trained to use the necessary fire breathing apparatus as soon as they enter the scene of the fire. Increased knowledge about the harmful and long-lasting effects of smoke and fumes coming from fires has increased the importance of SCBAs, leading to almost unanimous use among firefighters.
Fumes Have Become More Dangerous
Another reason behind the increase in popularity and usage of SCBAs is the fact that fumes have become more dangerous. Almost everything is a house or office is made from inorganic materials, and when it burns these inorganic materials increase the level of toxicity of fumes. Modern compounds made of inorganic material are not the only concern. Even the materials with which modern buildings and homes are constructed from create a toxic and carcinogenic environment during a fire.
Firefighters are not the only ones who are taking full advantage of fire breathing apparatus. SCBAs are also used by people who work in gas refineries, mines, environmental-disaster sites and chemical plants. Essentially, they are used anywhere toxic substances are present.
There is no doubt SCBAs have been and will continue to be, an essential weapon in the arsenal of firefighters. However, increased knowledge of the potential harm of smoke and fumes has spread the use of SCBAs to other professions.