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Developed and maintained by the NFCC

Breathing Apparatus guidelines

The deployment of breathing apparatus guidelines should be determined on the basis of a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk and in accordance with the incident plan. The incident commander should also consider using alternative or simultaneous operational tactics to assist in fire and rescue service operations and enhance firefighter safety. These may include adopting tactical ventilation techniques and/or additional access points.

Operational practice

Stage 2 BA entry control procedures and appropriate BA emergency arrangements must be established before BA guideline operations can start.

The purpose of a BA guideline is to enable:

  • BA teams to locate the scene of operations
  • BA teams to enter and search large or complex buildings or structures
  • Subsequent BA teams to locate other BA teams
  • A BA team in a risk area to retrace their steps to the BA entry control point

The use of BA guidelines can be divided into two operational practices:

  • Laying guidelines
  • Following or searching off guidelines

The BA guideline laying team has sole responsibility for laying the guideline along an access or egress route; they should not be drawn into other activities. A guideline laying team should therefore be supported by a firefighting team where there is, or is likely to be, a fire or flammable atmosphere.

BA guideline laying and search teams should not enter a risk area where there is, or is likely to be, a fire or flammable atmosphere, without appropriate firefighting media. This equipment may be carried by the search team themselves, or preferably by support firefighting BA teams working closely with them.

The guideline laying team should not operate ahead of any firefighting BA team because the firefighting BA team will adopt fire suppression techniques to render the environment safe. If the firefighting BA teams have to withdraw, the BA guideline laying team should also withdraw.

Additional support BA teams should be deployed in conjunction with a guideline laying or search and rescue BA team for actions such as:

  • Fire fighting and gas cooling
  • Hose management
  • Thermal imaging camera use
  • Protecting the BA guideline laying team’s means of escape
  • Support for casualty retrieval

A main guideline leading from a BA entry control point should be designated A or B, using a tally. The relevant tally must be attached securely to the line before the BA team enters the risk area.

The BA guideline should be secured to an immovable object outside the risk area in safe air before any BA team enters the risk area, unless the guideline is being used to extend an existing main guideline.

Sufficient information must be communicated to subsequent BA teams to ensure they follow the correct guideline.

To avoid confusion and maintain manageable lines of communication and spans of control, no more than two guideline routes are permitted to be in use at any single BA entry control point.

Only one guideline may be laid along a search route. However, two guidelines may be laid near to a building or structure’s entry point, either side of a route, before they split into clearly defined search areas.

Guidelines should not cross over each other inside a building or structure or share tie-off points. If two guidelines converge, one of them should be terminated and secured to a tie-off point two metres or more from where the guidelines would have met.

A guideline may consist of a number of lines joined together. However, consideration must always be given to how long BA wearers can work, the physiological environment, the distance to be covered (particularly if rescues are necessary) and the potential for incident escalation.

Incident commanders should use building plans and/or external reconnaissance to assess the internal distances BA wearers may be required to travel.

Where a guideline is being extended, the BA team leader must inform the BA entry control operative, who will then ensure a suitable and sufficient record is maintained and inform the sector/operations/incident commander as appropriate.

Branch guidelines

Branch guidelines should be used where the distance of the area of search from the main guideline is greater than the length of one personal line (6m). No more than four branch guidelines can be deployed from a single BA entry control point. 

The branch guideline should be referenced according to its main guideline and the number of the branch guideline; for example, main guideline A, branch guideline 1. Any branch guideline tally must be secured to the line before the BA team enters the risk area.

If a branch guideline needs to be extended, following a suitable and sufficient risk assessment based on information from the BA team leader, a record of the extension will be made and maintained.

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In addition to duties outlined in BA operational procedures – all incidents, the following responsibilities apply:

Role and responsibilities of the incident commander

The incident (or nominated) commander will:

  • Determine the use of BA guidelines on the basis of a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk
  • Consider the use of alternative or simultaneous operational tactics
  • Ensure that Stage 2 BA entry control procedures are applied to the whole incident
  • Regularly review the use of BA guidelines
  • Ensure use of additional BA support teams in conjunction with guideline laying teams
  • Inform all relevant personnel that guidelines are in use
  • Implement appropriate BA emergency procedures as necessary
  • Inform fire and rescue control rooms that BA guidelines are in use

Role and responsibilities of the BA entry control operative

The BA entry control operative will:

  • Record, monitor and log guideline use, including identifying which guideline each team is laying, following or searching from
  • Check to ensure directional indicators of all guidelines pay out correctly prior to BA wearers entering the risk area
  • Attach BA main and branch guideline tallies to the appropriate lines
  • Ensure that all deployed BA wearers are made aware of any guidelines laid behind them