A recent change impacting the issuance of the NFPA 1981 Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services, 2018, was recently brought to our attention.

Early in the standard development process, a new design requirement was proposed for the Emergency Breathing Safety System (EBSS), commonly referred to as the “buddy breather”, to incorporate new low-pressure hose fittings that would be universal across all SCBA manufacturers. This requirement is referred to as Universal EBSS, or UEBSS for short.

The intent of this requirement is to mitigate any potential compatibility issues that may exist in the fire service today. The concept of the UEBSS is that it would allow a firefighter to provide air to another firefighter in an emergency situation, regardless of the SCBA manufacturer being used by each firefighter.

However, the requirement, as proposed, is not considerate of those fire departments that already use some form of EBSS, particularly those departments that have regionalized their response and equipment purchases, and how the change to a universal fitting would impact their ability to perform EBSS operations.

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Essentially, fire departments that are currently able to perform successful EBSS operations today with other departments using SCBA from the same manufacturer would cease to be compatible with their mutual aid company, thereby creating the problem that the proposed UEBSS requirement is trying to resolve.

Scott Safety recognized early on that this proposal created a problem and began to investigate alternative options that took into account the proposed universal fitting requirement, while protecting fire departments that chose not to upgrade their SCBA to the new (proposed) UEBSS.

The solution was to allow manufacturers the ability to offer an optional third fitting that would maintain compatibility with previous EBSS designs already deployed in the field, while also incorporating the new (proposed) UEBSS fittings. 

This solution would maintain compatibility between new and existing SCBA users, ensuring safety for all firefighters. It would also not force the third fitting upon fire departments that were not concerned about mutual aid compatibility, since the third fitting would be optional at the time of purchase. Scott Safety sought guidance from the Chairman of the Technical Committee on Respiratory Protection Equipment and was advised that this would not meet the proposed standard

Scott Safety proceeded to submit a request for Formal Interpretation to the NFPA Standards Council seeking a formal conclusion on whether a third fitting could be included. They await a final decision from NFPA, but their expectation based on preliminary responses is for confirmation that the proposed standard does not allow for the inclusion of a third fitting.

In an effort to prevent what Scott Safety believes will create an unintended safety issue within the fire service, they decided to file a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM). Under NFPA rules, any individual or organization wishing to make an allowable amending motion at an NFPA Technical Meeting must declare their intentions by filing, within the published deadline, a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM). The Motions Committee of the NFPA Standards Council, in accordance with NFPA rules, reviews each NITMAM to determine whether the intended motion is a proper motion.

Scott Safety will present their justification for filing the NITMAM at the next NFPA Technical Meeting scheduled for June 11-14, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  At that time, a consensus vote will be held to determine whether the NITMAM is approved or rejected. Following consensus vote by NFPA members, the potential outcome of the NITMAM is as follows:

  1. If approved, the UEBSS requirements will be removed from the proposed standard and replaced with the current language found in the NFPA 1981, 2013 Edition standard.
  2. If rejected, the UEBSS requirements will remain as written in the proposed NFPA 1981, 2018 Edition standard.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the issuance date for the NFPA 1981, 2018 Edition standard will be delayed. We anticipate the delay will be approximately 9 months, from November 2017 to August 2018. As a result, the effective date of the standard will also be delayed, from December 2017 to and estimated September 2018.

At that time, NFPA will open the submission window for SCBA manufacturers wishing to submit SCBAs for testing and certification to the NFPA 1981, 2018 Edition standard. Based on historical data, it would likely be another 6-9 months before NFPA 1981, 2018 Edition certifications are issued.

The end result– manufacturers will not be able to provide SCBA approved to the NFPA 1981, 2018 Edition standard until sometime in early calendar year 2019.

Download the entire notice now

If you have any questions or concerns how the delay of the NFPA 1981 Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services, 2018 will affect you, please contact us today.

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Maureen McGillis

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