SCBA Blackout / Blindfold Drill

This is a repost of a previous article reprinted by request.

This week I will be talking about a blackout facemask drill. I will stress the objectives of this drill which is something I have been a bit remiss about doing in previous drills. This drill involves working in SCBA with a blackout mask, or wax paper obscuring the face piece, but it is not an SCBA drill per se. The purpose and objective of this drill is as follows:

The firefighters shall obtain a comfort level while working under air, in low visibility and gloved hands.

This drill should be to let personnel work in full turnout gear and also checks their familiarity of SCBA landmarks and equipment.

Drill set up: Get an open area that is large enough for about a 15 minute evolution. An apparatus bay is suitable but resist the attempt to make it too large so that it cannot be finished.

Instructors should be placed throughout the area and at each training station so that instructions can be given, and safety of students under blackouts can be monitored.

The drill can be timed or not and it can be repeated for a better proficiency level.

Students get in full gear and don blackout masks and then enter the area as individuals rather than teams.

Students begin crawling and either follow a hoseline or a wall depending upon what you choose.

They encounter a second pre set hoseline of 2 1/2″ or three inch and they are instructed to make up the couplings and put the hose together keeping their gloves on.

They proceed past that station and the instructor disconnects that second hose for the next student.

At the next station they discover they are given three nozzles and an 1 3/4 line and told to select a combination nozzle and set it on a straight or fog setting. They must connect the nozzle and then by the sense of feel adjust it correctly before proceeding. This line is uncharged and remains uncharged. The instructor then re prepares this for the next student.

At the next station they discover another air pack. They are to remove their airpack they are wearing and re don the one they find.

As they proceed further they must find a portable radio in a designated area, turn it on, place it on a designated channel transmit a message and then leave it.

At the next station they proceed to they should find a mannequin with an airpack on and they should find the regulator and place the regulator in the facepiece of a downed firefighter.

At the next stop they should be told to manually activate their own pass device for about 30 seconds and then reset it. The instructor should actually know and time with a stop watch if they realize at this point what 30 seconds is.

At the next station there is a pile of tools and they should be instructed to proceed to select a certain tool and then exit with it.

There are a number of variables that can be included in this scenario. The real issue is the student comfortable enough working under air, can they perform simple tasks by the sense of feel, and if you time the exercise there is an artificial sense of pressure.

After a student proceeds past the second station you can start another to help maintain the flow.

All students should be closely monitored for signs of difficulty and stress while under air.

Develop your own ideas of skills they can perform and add them at the next time you do this drill.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013