Breathing Apparatus (BA)

helps us to work in places where the air isn't breathable.
A firefighter has his mask checked during a training exercise

Breathing apparatus is a key piece of equipment for firefighters across the world.

Our breathing apparatus consists of one or two oxygen cylinders and an oxygen mask that securely covers the whole face.

Since the 1960s we have been using compressed air breathing sets. The sets we use today are lighter, and last a lot longer than the ones from the 60s.

When do firefighters use breathing apparatus?

Firefighters will pull on a BA set anytime they are entering a situation where the atmosphere might cause difficulty breathing. That could be anything from a smoky building, to an incident where chemicals have been spilled.

How much air does a BA set hold?

London Fire Brigade currently has two different types of BA. Each set lets firefighters breath oxygen for different lengths of time.

  • Standard duration Breathing Apparatus
  • Extended Duration Breathing Apparatus
Firefighters putting on their Breathing Apparatus sets during a training exercise

Standard Duration Breathing Apparatus (SDBA)

Standard duration breathing apparatus has only one cylinder – all our firefighters are trained to use SDBA and all our fire engines carry them. The set weighs about 15kgs.

If a firefighter is breathing normally a SDBA they should get 31 minutes of air. But, if the firefighter is working really hard and breathing really hard, the cylinder won’t necessarily last that long.

Extended Duration Breathing Apparatus (EDBA)

To use extended duration breathing apparatus firefighters must complete specialist training. EDBA sets have two cylinders, so they weigh a bit more than a SDBA - 23kgs.

If a firefighter is breathing normally an EDBA they should get 47 minutes of air. But, if the firefighter is breathing heavily, the cylinder won’t necessarily last for 47 minutes.

EDBA is usually brought out when firefighters have to travel longer distances using breathing apparatus, like a train stuck in a tunnel.

How do you keep track of everyone using BA?

Whenever firefighters are using breathing apparatus we set up a Breathing Apparatus Entry Control (BAEC). This system lets us track who’s gone into a building with BA and who’s come out – we always go in as a pair and come out as a pair. We mark this information down on an entry control board (ECB).