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Emergency First Responder Respirator Thermal Characteristics: Workshop Proceedings



Amy E. Mensch, Nelson P. Bryner


The purpose of this workshop was to identify performance needs and establish research priorities to address the thermal characteristics of respiratory equipment used by emergency first responders. The workshop provided a forum for representatives from the first responder community, self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and component manufacturers, and research and testing experts to discuss issues, technologies, and research associated with SCBA high temperature performance. The goals of the workshop were defined in two parts: 1) Clarify baseline information, including the current state-of-the-art, applicable fire service events, and current related research, and 2) Research planning, including identification of performance needs and short and long term research priorities. Presentations were given to explain the current SCBA and certification process, understand experience from actual fire service incidents, and review the current state of respirator research. After the presentations, the workshop divided into three working group sessions to discuss performance needs and research priorities in smaller groups. Suggested topics for discussion included: a) Current Equipment, b) Current Practice and Usage, c) Future Trends, d) Short Term Research Needs, e) Long Term Research Needs, and f) other issues. The results of the three smaller groups’ deliberations were discussed when the full workshop reconvened. The responses from each group were merged into a combination of issues that related to the use and performance of the lens of the SCBA. The primary concerns and research priorities were the characterization of the fire fighter environment, performance of current and new technology, development of representative and realistic testing, and improvements to fire fighter training on the limitations of protective equipment. A significant amount of discussion concentrated on the testing for NFPA certification, which currently contains limited thermal testing.
Special Publication (NIST SP) - 1123
Report Number


fire fighting, first responder, heat detection, heat flux, lens, performance metrics, respirator, self contained breathing apparatus, SCBA, temperature, viewing section


Mensch, A. and Bryner, N. (2011), Emergency First Responder Respirator Thermal Characteristics: Workshop Proceedings, Special Publication (NIST SP), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed June 12, 2024)


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Created June 29, 2011, Updated November 10, 2018