A NASA-developed breathing system for firefighters exemplifies the by ygs12945


									A NASA-developed                breathing         Firefighting       and fire prevention              are             interest      technology         utilization        project
system     for   firefighters       exemplifies   areas     of activity     that seem       to be espe-               under the direction of Johnson    Space
the   benefit    potential        of aerospace    cially productive           of aerospace          spinoffs.         Center (JSC). JSC embarked     on a
technology        transfer                        In recent       years,    for example,         aerospace            multiyear    design and development      ef-
                                                  technology         has been        beneficially         trans-      fort centered     on application of technol-
                                                  ferred     to such civil-use           applications          as a   ogy developed             for portable life support
                                                  portable      firefighting       module;       protective           systems used            by Apollo astronauts   on
                                                  outergarments            for workers       in hazardous             the moon.          Specifications          were     drawn.
                                                  environments;            a broad     range     of fire-             from       input    provided         by a User Require-
                                                  retardant      paints     and foams;         fireblocking           ments       Committee           made      up of fire
                                                  ablative     coatings       for outdoor        structures;          chiefs      and city managers.              In addition,
                                                  and a number of types of flame                        resis-        such      fire service       organizations          as the
                                                  tant fabrics for use in the home,                      office,      National Fire Protection   Association,
                                                  or in public       transportation          vehicles.                the International Association    of Fire
                                                     Perhaps        the broadest         fire-related                 Fighters       and the International                Associa-
                                                  technology         transfer     is the breathing             ap-    tion of Fire Chiefs             periodically         re-
                                                  paratus     worn      by firefighters        for protec-            viewed        the program.            Two companies--
                                                  tion from smoke inhalation   injury.                                Martin       Marietta       Corporation          and Struc-
                                                  Breathing equipment   widely used                                   tural Composites              Industries,         Inc.--
                                                  throughout         the United          States is based              were       awarded        contracts      to build      light-
                                                  on a NASA development                    of the 1970s               weight       air cylinders           patterned      on tech-
                                                  that coupled          NASA's design           expertise             nology       originally       developed           for rocket
                                                  and lightweight            materials      developed                 motor casings. Scott Aviation, Lancaster,
                                                  for the U.S. space            program.       That                   New York, received the contract to
                                                  project     was the first concerted               effort to         build      the other        components            of the
                                                  improve       firefighter      breathing       systems,             breathing          apparatus.        JSC conducted            its
                                                  which had not changed   appreciably                                 own       extensive        testing     of the new sys-
                                                  since the World War II era.                                         tem and this was followed                    by a series
                                                     It started      in 1971 in response                to a          of field      tests--in       1974-75--by           the fire
                                                  need      expressed        by many       of the nation's            departments           of New York (the               nation's
                                                  fire chiefs.      The traditional          breathing                largest),      Houston          and Los Angeles.
                                                  system      was heavy, cumbersome,                     mobil-          What emerged               from      the four year
                                                  ity-restricting       and so physically             taxing          development               effort was a breathing              sys-
                                                  that it often      induced         extreme      fatigue.            tem weighing  slightly more than 20
                                                  Many firefighters           preferred        not to use             pounds, about one-third  less than
                                                  the equipment,            electing      to take their               predecessor           systems,        with a reduced
                                                  chances       of being        overcome        by smoke              profile      design       intended       to improve           the
                                                  rather than risk collapse from heat and                             mobility of the wearer. The system in-
                                                  exhaustion.  As a result, smoke inhala-                             cluded a face mask, frame and harness,
                                                  tion injuries       were      on the rise.
                                                     In cooperation            with the Fire Tech-
                                                  nology Division             of the National Bureau
                                                  _)f Standards,        NASA established              a public

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                                                                                                                                II _ Iiillll_lll_i_                           I I

a warning      device   and the air bottle                   It was a major            improvement         in           At left, the firefighters are wearing a protective
                                                                                                                        breathing system designed and developed by
with its associated        valves     and regulator.     firefighting      equipment,         no question,"
                                                                                                                        NASA'sJohnson Space Center (JSC). The project
The basic air cylinder          offered     the same     says Chief James Manahan                     of the New        adapted materials and technology from the
30-minute      operating       time    as predeces-      York City Fire Department's                    Safety          space program to a national need for lighter,
sor systems,       but it was lighter       and slim-    Operating  Battalion. He qualifies as a                        less bulky breathing apparatus. Shown above is
mer; this was accomplished                by using       leading expert on breathing   apparatus.                       the originalJSC design, which served as a depar-
                                                         A veteran       of 29 years       service,     he has          ture point for new systems developed by major
aluminum/composite              materials       and by
                                                                                                                        manufacturers offi'refighting equipment.
pressurizing       the cylinders       at 4,500          worn    both     the old and new systems                  in
pounds per square inch, roughly twice                    actual firefighting           operations.      As a cap-
that of earlier tanks. NASA also pro-                    rain with Squad          Company            Four, he was
vided     an optional      45-minute       duration      project officer for the NYFD participa-
special use cylinder that was still within               tion in the 1974-75 field tests. And in
the allowable   weight. The frame and                    his current       work with        the safety battal-
harness     was made       easier     to put on and      ion, part of his job is observing                 the use
take off and the system's             weight    was      of breathing        systems       at fire scenes       and
shifted     from   shoulders        to hips to im-       looking        for problems        that may crop up
prove wearer        comfort. The new face                in breathing        system operation and
mask offered        better visibility and closer         maintenance.          "The NASA technology
fit, and the air depletion            warning     de-    definitely       made    a contribution          toward
vice was designed  so that the beeping                   reducing        firefighter      fatigue."
alarm could be heard only by the                                                                      (Continued)
wearer, to minimize             confusion   in the
hectic environment             of a fire scene.

                                                                                      PA        E

                                                                                    FIR     E       D E PAR        TM EN T          (continued)

At a fire     in a New           York City oj_°ce building,
NYFD firefighters           group      in the lobby            awaiting
assignment            (above),      their    breathing          apparatus
stacked      for use      if needed.         It was--the          upper     floor
electrical     fire     generated           much      smoke.      At right,
one firefighter         helps     another          adjust   his breathing

At his office on Randall's                             Island,       New            consider         the waist-mounted             harness      a     and office furniture            has increased        the
York, safety battalion                       Chief James                            big plus; it shifted           the weight        from             incidence       of toxic     fume       generation         in
Manahan               compared              the modern                              shoulders         to hips,     provided       better              fires. There       is greater      readiness     to use
firefighter's            breathing            apparatus,             based          weight       distribution        and therefore                    protective       gear, and no doubt            the avail-
on NASA technology,                           with pre-NASA                         makes       the pack seem           lighter     than     it is.   ability    of a more       comfortable         breathing
equipment.                                                                             Has the NASA technology                     met the            system       contributed        to that attitude.
     "This      one,"            he said,          tapping        a metal           original        objective      of inspiring      greater             After completion             of the field tests a
case containing                   the old system,                   "was            use of breathing             systems?     Firefighters            decade       ago, the New York City Fire
heavy, bulky,               had narrow                 eye pieces                   are generally          more      hazard-aware          today,     Department          became one of the first of
and the weight                    pulled           down        on the               Chief       Manahan         said, because       greatly           the nation's       fire services to adopt the
shoulders.              When         you wore               that thing              expanded          use of exotic         chemicals,        plas-   new technology     on an operational    ba-
for 15 minutes,   you couldn't   wait to get                                        tics and other         synthetics        in industrial            sis. Use of the lightweight   apparatus
out of it. And this"--he   indicated   an                                           operations,         building      materials,      home            spread       quickly   across      the country        as
adjacent          case--"is            the current                system                                                                              producers        of firefighting        equipment
we use, with a smaller, lighter                                   air cylin-                                                                          used      the NASA technology              as a depar-
der, better mask and harness."                                    Aside                                                                               ture point       for their     own      development
from         the lighter            weight,          firefighters                                                                                     of new breathing             systems.      Each com-

                                                                                   iii            ................                                .......
                                                                                                                                              iiiii_i_                             !

                                                                                  At the NYFD           Randall's         Island       training        facility,

                                                                                  firefighters     undergo           "mask         confidence               training,          "
                                                                                  carrying       out such         fire    operations            as hosing
                                                                                  (above)        and     probing         building        interiors           (right),
                                                                                  squeezing        through          narrow         areas        as might          be
                                                                                  necessary        in a real jSre           with      their      breathing             units
                                                                                  attached        and     (below)          momentarily               detached.
                                                                                   The NASA-developed                    breathing         system           was
                                                                                  designed        with     reduced          profile      wherever            possible
                                                                                   to improve          mobility      in tight         confines.

A NYFDfirefighter            is disposing        of hazardous          ma-
terial,    protected       by a "hazmat"           suit.    In Level
One       work,    where     the material         is known         or sus-

pected      to generate       toxic    fumes,      the breathing
apparatus          is worn    under      the hazmat          outer     gear

pany        made       its own         modifications                 and
refinements             to the original              design,           and
new features               are continually                 being
added,            but today      every          major       manufac-
turer of breathing                    apparatus            is produc-
ing units           that incorporate               the NASA
technology   in some form.
   "The existence   of these                        units       offers
the fire services a wide variety of
breathing  systems that would not have
been available   without NASA's efforts,"
says J. Tom Smith,                     Firefighter           Health
and Safety Specialist  of the U.S. Fire
Administration.   "As a result of the in-
 troduction            of lightweight              breathing               sys-
 tems,        inhalation         injuries         to firefighters
 have been             drastically          reduced."              •


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