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Inspection and Maintenance of Protective Breathing Apparatus Back to SCBA


Inspection and Maintenance of Protective Breathing Apparatus

NFPA 1404 and NFPA 1500 require all SCBA to be inspected after each use, weekly, monthly, and annually.

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Daily/Weekly Inspections

Self-contained breathing apparatus requires proper care and inspection before and after each use to provide complete protection. Proper care should include making a daily inspection as soon as possible after reporting for duty. Some organizations may not be able to check the units every day. In this case, the SCBA should be checked at least weekly and after each use.

The following is a list of things to check.

  1. Cylinder is full.
  2. All gauges work.
    • The cylinder gauge and the remote gauge should read within 100 psi (700 kPa) of each other.
    • Gauges not marked in increments of 100 psi (700 kPa) should read relatively close to each other.
  3. Low-pressure alarm is in working condition. The alarm should sound briefly when the cylinder valve is turned on and again as the pressure is relieved.
  4. All hose connections are tight and free of leaks.
  5. Facepiece is clean and in good condition.
  6. Harness system is in good condition and straps are in the fully extended position.
  7. All valves are operational. After checking the bypass valve, make sure that it is fully closed.

Breathing apparatus should be cleaned and sanitized immediately after each use. Moving parts that are not clean may malfunction. A facepiece that has not been cleaned and sanitized may contain an unpleasant odor and can spread germs to other department members who may wear the mask at a later time. An air cylinder with less air than prescribed by the manufacturer renders the apparatus inefficient if not useless.

The facepiece should be thoroughly washed with warm water containing any mild commercial disinfectant, and then it should be rinsed with clear, warm water. Special care should be given to the exhalation valve to ensure proper operation. The air hose should be inspected for cracks or tears. The facepiece should be dried with a lint-free cloth or air dried.

    Do not use paper towels to dry the lens as the paper towel will scratch the plastic lens.

Many departments now issue personal facepieces to each firefighter. This eliminates the risk of spreading germs from one wearer to the next. Even though each firefighter has his own facepiece, it is still important that it be cleaned after each use.

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Monthly Inspection and Maintenance

Monthly inspections should include removing the equipment from service and checking the following:
  1. All components for deterioration
  2. Leaks around valves and air cylinder connections
  3. Operation of all gauges, valves, regulator, exhalation valve, and low-air alarm

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Annual Inspection and Maintenance

Annual maintenance, testing, and repairs requiring the expertise of factory certified technicians should be done in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations. This level of maintenance requires specialized training. The service provider must be able to disassemble the apparatus into its basic components and conduct tests using specialized tools and equipment generally not available to all fire departments.

Air cylinders must be stamped or labeled with the date of manufacture and the date of the last hydrostatic test. Steel and aluminum cylinders must be tested every five years; composite cylinders every three years. This procedure is necessary to meet the requirements of the United States Department of Transportation. Always empty cylinders before returning them for servicing and testing. Some companies will charge to empty your cylinders.

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Reservicing Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus Cylinders

Air cylinders for self-contained breathing apparatus are filled from either a cascade system (a series of at least three, 300 cubic-foot [8 490 L] cylinders) or directly from a compressor purification system . No matter how the cylinders are filled, the same safety precautions apply: Put the cylinders into a shielded fill station, prevent cylinder overheating by filling slowly, and be sure that the cylinder is completely full but not overpressurized. If any parts are defective put the cylinder out of service and have your local manufacturer do the service.

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