13.03.2003

Spotlight on breathing protection: A lifesaver in tackling smoke and toxic gases

Most fire victims die not from burns but from suffocation. This finding, from statistics published by Deutscher Feuerwehrverband (German firefighting association – DFV), will meet a response from many of the 1,400 or so exhibitors at the upcoming A+A, who will offer their trade public a wide range of protective equipment and safety systems.

Innovations are the hallmark of respiratory technology today. New developments aim at improving equipment and enhancing wearability on the one hand, while ensuring optimum safety for the wearer on the other. Advances in standardising components also play a key role. Innovations over recent years have included compressed air bottles made from ultra-light, high-performance carbon fibres. Another step forward is a standardised plug-in connection for demand regulators, also known as a universal plug-in outlet. This is quicker to use than a conventional screw connection. In addition, systems that combine helmet and mask in one unit are helping to minimise time spent donning equipment. The breathing mask is attached when the helmet is in place. Two companies, both frontrunners in their field – a helmet manufacturer and a breathing apparatus producer – recently teamed up to develop integrated head protection systems for use by firefighters and the police, as well as in the occupational safety sphere. A first fruit of this cooperation will be the launch of a new helmet for firefighting crews.

Radio links are a must for maintaining contact among the teams using respiratory apparatus as well as with their senior officers. Here also, manufacturers are offering a wide range of communications units that can be attached to helmets.

Information on how long the air supply will allow work to continue, as well as the monitoring of respiratory equipment wearers, are also vital. Alongside the analogue display on the manometer, electronically operated systems with a digital display are gaining ground. These boast both a residual air display and retreat warning, plus other features including bottle pressure and temperature gauge, and remaining pressure alert. Also, many manufacturers are now fitting their respiratory equipment with an emergency signal transmitter that sets off an alarm if the wearer is no longer moving.

One of the latest developments in the sphere of breathing protection monitoring concerns telemetry or rangefinding systems that enable readings from individual apparatus wearers to be transmitted directly via a radio signal to the monitoring personnel.

The products showcased by A+A exhibiting companies will target not only professional firefighters but also companies’ safety experts – breathing protection and safety measures are as important in everyday operations as they are in life-threatening situations and fire control.