November 12, 2004
Mr. Bruce Teele, Senior Fire Service Safety Specialists
National Fire Protection Association
1 Batterymarch Park
Quincy, MD 02169-7471
Re: Scott Air Packs
I wanted to bring to your attention a serious issue we have experienced with the Scott Air Cylinders. We had a structure fire on October 30, 2004 where a fire crew was inside a large residential structure that was super charged with smoke. The crew was attempting to advance hose to the seat of the fire when one of the firefighters air supply failed. The firefighter became disoriented and became separated from his partner. He was able to eventually find his way out of the structure after he discovered that his air bottle had been turned off and was able to turn it back on. We had already issued a MADAY and started the RIT team in for rescue when the firefighter was able to find his way out. I might add that there were some very tense moments during this process!
We initiated an investigation of the cause as to why the air bottle was turned off and concluded that the nut holding the ON/OFF knob on the air cylinder valve assembly had been tightened to the point that the safety lock mechanism that locks the knob in the ON position had been overridden by the tightening. Upon investigation of all of our air bottles, we found 8 cylinders where the knob could freely be turned ON or OFF without pushing in on it to disengage the spring. We surmise that during the hose advancement in the structure that the hose was dragged across the face of the knob and eventually turned the bottle off.
I contacted a couple of neighboring departments and found that in some instances the safety lock mechanism was being deliberately overridden so that the firefighters could more easily turn the bottle ON and OFF.
This is a serious breach of a safety feature that was designed to keep our situation from happening. While it is the responsibility of fire departments to ensure that these safety features are not compromised, I feel that Scott has a responsibility to design a system that is unsusceptible to the human factor. We surmise that what probably happened was that either we had a firefighter that deliberately overrode the safety mechanism, or we had a new firefighter that while checking airparks assumed that because the knob was sloppy on the valve assembly (which is normal) that the nut was backing off and tightened the nut completely.
I feel that the knob assembly should be redesigned so that there is a stop behind the knob allowing for the normal position of the nut to be in the completely tightened position. Right now, the normal position for the nut is half tightened.
I want to bring this to your attention for discussion. We have already put in to place a new part in our SOG that directs the firefighter to check the lock mechanism on their pack and those spare bottles that are carried on the apparatus to ensure that the nut is in the right position.
I appreciate your review of this matter.