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Emergency arrangements

Emergency procedures provide effective arrangements for prompt and effective emergency assistance to breathing apparatus wearers in distress.

Consideration must be given to providing suitable and sufficient emergency arrangements whenever BA is deployed at incidents. The full nature and extent of those emergency arrangements should be proportionate to all reasonably foreseeable risks to BA wearers.

The need for emergency teams will depend on the nature of the risk and the situation that is being dealt with which may result in additional resource implications. During the initial stages of operations, as part of their incident plan, incident commanders must consider whether BA emergency arrangements (including the potential need for BA emergency teams) will be required.

Establishing BA entry control should include considering and providing emergency arrangements. Minimum emergency arrangements are detailed for Stage 2 BA entry control, but their nature and extent must be determined in line with the incident plan and be suitable, sufficient and proportionate to the risks and foreseeable emergency events at the incident.

Operational practice

Where BA emergency teams are deemed necessary under BA entry control procedures (excluding Stage 2), steps should be taken to ensure their availability as soon as possible. The nature and extent of emergency arrangements will be dictated by circumstances and determined on the basis of risk.

Summary of minimum BA emergency arrangements:

Stage 1 BA entry control

  • The full extent of the BA emergency arrangements must be determined on the basis of a risk assessment
  • Arrangements may or may not involve the provision of BA emergency team(s)
  • Where the provision of BA emergency teams is considered necessary but resources are not immediately available, the incident commander should consider restricting BA operations pending their arrival

Stage 2 BA entry control

  • The full extent of BA emergency arrangements must be determined on the basis of a risk assessment
  • The minimum provision under Stage 2 is one BA emergency team per BA entry control point, rigged and standing by throughout the time BA is in use
  • A separate BA entry control/telemetry board should be provided to accommodate the deployment of BA teams acting as additional BA emergency teams; they should be marked accordingly at the BA entry control point
  • Where additional resources are not immediately available, the incident commander should restrict BA operations pending their arrival

In situations where BA emergency teams are in place, their deployment should be considered when any of the following conditions arise, or have the potential to arise, subject to a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk by the person responsible for the BA entry control point:

  • A wearer fails to return to the BA entry control point before the pre-determined activation time of their low pressure warning device or whistle and cannot be contacted to confirm their safety and wellbeing
  • A distress signal is heard or received by a telemetry device (unless it can be established immediately that this is an accidental activation)
  • When audible or visual indicators suggest that a BA wearer is in distress or imminent distress or danger: for example, owing to structural collapse or fire conditions
  • Prolonged and unexplained breakdown in communications
  • At the request of a BA wearer in the risk area

Depending on the nature of the BA emergency, and to ensure suitable protection of the BA emergency team, the person responsible for the BA entry control point may identify the need to deploy firefighting, hose management and casualty handling BA teams in addition to the first BA emergency search and rescue team.

Where BA wearers require – or appear to require – emergency assistance, the person responsible for supervising the BA entry control point should take immediate steps to contact all BA teams in the risk area who may be affected. Other BA teams in the risk area should be given information that may allow them to help affected wearers exit the risk area safely. Radios, telemetry and other means of electronic communication, where available, may assist in identifying the team and wearers.

Note: None of the above precludes anyone with responsibilities or duties at the BA entry control point from initiating a BA emergency radio message where necessary.  

Once a BA emergency has been declared, fire service control must be informed immediately. The radio message must include the phrase ‘BA emergency’.

BA emergency teams – contingency and standby arrangements

Contingency arrangements should include suitable protection for BA emergency teams entering risk areas containing potentially flammable, explosive or other hazardous materials. Consideration should be given to support arrangements for deployed BA emergency teams, taking into account the extreme physiological demands placed on BA wearers tasked with assisting or rescuing colleagues in distress.

The level and type of personal protective equipment provided for the BA emergency team will be determined by the requirements of the incident and the risk assessment.

The cylinder capacity and duration of the BA sets allocated to emergency teams must be at least equivalent to the highest capacity and duration of those of the BA wearers to whom the emergency arrangements relate.

BA emergency teams standing by should be close to the BA entry control point and receive regular and relevant updates, such as briefings to BA teams, information on hazards and the layout of the risk area, and details of areas searched.

BA emergency teams should rig, but not don or start up, in BA and stand by at the BA entry control point ready for immediate deployment until instructed otherwise. 

A separate BA entry control/telemetry board should be provided at the BA entry control point to record the deployment of BA emergency teams.

The person responsible for the BA entry control point should ensure the provision of any additional equipment that might be needed by BA emergency teams and ensure that it is ready for immediate use.

The BA emergency team must be provided with the equipment considered to be suitable and sufficient to meet the needs of all reasonably foreseeable emergency events, including:

  • Radio communications
  • Means of providing a supplementary air supply to a BA wearer
  • Any other specialist equipment

Other equipment could include:

  • Drag mats
  • Breaking-in gear

As part of ensuring BA wearers’ welfare and physiological readiness for deployment, account should be taken of ambient temperatures and weather conditions when deciding on the standard of dress and other provisions necessary for the BA emergency team on standby.

BA emergency team composition

There must be at least as many BA wearers in BA emergency teams as in the largest team deployed or likely to be deployed from the BA entry control point to the risk area.

Minimum requirements for each BA emergency teams:

  • Two BA wearers

Consideration must be given to:

  • Numbers in the BA emergency team, taking into account the working environment
  • Distance from the BA entry control point
  • Size of the BA team requiring assistance

Deployment of BA emergency teams

The person responsible for the BA entry control point is responsible for activating emergency procedures and the deployment of emergency teams, including BA emergency team support arrangements. This person is also responsible for all other BA entry control procedures relating to BA emergency team deployment, including:

  • Briefing and debriefing BA emergency teams
  • Maintaining a suitable record of all relevant operational and risk information, decisions made and tasks given to BA emergency teams

BA emergency team call signs must identify the BA entry control point they are being deployed from and their emergency team status. For example, emergency BA team, Alpha 1, emergency BA team, Alpha 2, etc.

Before deployment to the risk area, the person responsible for the BA entry control point should brief BA emergency teams, providing:

  • Any relevant information, for example the BA team size, route, tasks, last known location
  • All hazards identified during the risk assessment process
  • Control measures to be used for the protection of BA emergency teams
  • Specific details of their tasks

The brief should be repeated by the BA emergency team leader and acknowledged by the person giving the briefing to ensure that the whole BA team understands the details.

Following the deployment of any BA emergency team, arrangements must be made immediately for replacement BA emergency teams.

Breathing apparatus wearer in distress

Breathing apparatus wearers should indicate that they are in distress by activating their distress signal unit. When in distress the BA wearer or the BA team leader should carry out the following actions:

  • Inform the BA entry control point, including the phrase ‘BA emergency’, of the nature of the distress, current location and intentions
  • Retrace steps to the BA entry control point. If this is not possible, locate an alternative exit (for example window or door) in the immediate vicinity, then attempt to attract attention or decide to remain at the current location or relocate to a safe waiting area
  • Inform the BA entry control operative of each BA wearer’s cylinder pressures; in some cases, telemetry equipment will deliver this information automatically
  • Where necessary, adopt ‘entrapped procedures’ to conserve air while awaiting rescue
  • Activate the distress signal unit of the affected BA wearer; in the unlikely event that a distress signal unit fails to activate, the device of another BA team member should be activated

Where a distress signal unit has activated accidentally, the BA team leader should inform the BA entry control point. A decision should then be made on whether the BA team should return to the BA entry control point or whether another BA team should be deployed to the risk area to reset the unit with a distress signal unit key.

BA teams in a risk area on hearing a distress signal unit

BA teams will:

  • Inform the BA entry control point that a distress signal unit alarm is audible
  • Follow the revised brief issued by the person responsible for the BA entry control point (rendering assistance to a BA team in distress should take precedence over existing tasks unless the tasks are risk-critical and could compromise the safety of other BA wearers if not carried out)
  • Not take unnecessary risks, such as entering large or complex areas if unable to retrace their steps

BA emergency teams on locating distressed BA wearers

BA emergency teams will:

  • If possible, confirm the nature of the emergency with distressed BA wearers
  • Inform the BA entry control operative that distressed BA wearers have been located and request further assistance (if required)
  • Take gauge readings of distressed BA wearers’ cylinders
  • Take gauge readings of BA emergency team cylinders
  • Render any required on-scene emergency assistance
  • Implement a safe rescue plan to remove distressed BA wearers from the risk area following a risk assessment

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

Role and responsibilities of the incident commander

The incident commander will:

  • Ensure that a BA emergency message is communicated to the fire service control room at the earliest opportunity
  • Request the resources required to resolve the emergency situation

Role and responsibilities of fire service control room

On receipt of a BA emergency message, Fire service control room will:

  • Mobilise a minimum of one further pumping appliance
  • Arrange for the ambulance service to attend

Role and responsibilities of the BA entry control operative

The BA entry control operative will:

  • Immediately inform the person responsible for the BA entry control point; if unavailable, they will notify the incident commander and fire service control room
  • Take whatever practicable action possible in the circumstances
  • If Stage 2 BA entry control procedures are in use, inform all other BA entry control points