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Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is a respiratory device that contains and delivers breathable compressed air. The open-circuit, positive pressure-demand SCBA is the most common and used by firefighters and others who may be exposed to oxygen-deficient environments, smoke, toxic gas, or other contaminants that are immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH).

SCBA designed for firefighters are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1981 offers an additive standard that applies to all open-circuit SCBA and combination SCBA/SARs.

SCBA consists of the following*:

  • Air cylinder (pounds per square inch = PSI) made of steel, aluminum, or carbon-fiber composite
    • Low-pressure 2,216 PSI
    • Medium-pressure 3,000 PSI
    • High-pressure 4,500 PSI
  • Pressure reducer and regulator
  • Inhalation connection—full facepiece/mask
  • Back-frame with straps

SCBA are available with air cylinders capable of providing 30, 45, 60, or 75 minutes of breathing air. NIOSH-approved SCBA should not be confused with NIOSH-approved emergency escape breathing apparatus. While both systems incorporate cylinders of breathable air, egress units provide air for a shorter duration—typically 5 or 10 minutes—and are intended strictly for escaping from a toxic or oxygen-deficient environment. Unlike egress units, SCBA are approved for entering toxic or oxygen-deficient environments.

 The type of application, duration of wear, and anticipated frequency of use are all variables that must be considered before selecting an SCBA. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that SCBA facepieces must be fit tested prior to the initial use of the SCBA and at least on an annual basis. See the fit testing kits and supplies category page to select the appropriate product(s) to evaluate respirator fit.

Regulatory compliance details for SCBA are available at the individual product level.

*NIOSH does not certify individual SCBA components

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