This paper discusses the problem of carbon monoxide when fighting fires and devices that prevent the inhalation of carbon monoxide by firefighters.
This paper explains that, while many poisonous vapors may be present during a fire, carbon monoxide has characteristics that make it particularly dangerous because it causes oxygen deprivation. This author suggests that the solution for firefighters is a piece of equipment called a SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus), which includes a face mask, bottled air supply, a regulator to control pressure, and a harness to carry the apparatus on the firefighter’s back. The paper stresses that fire departments must replace all their breathing apparatus at once so they are standardized, and every firefighter has the same level of protection.
When SCBA devices were first developed, they were sold as units. Today, however, most departments buy each piece of apparatus separately. This means that each firefighter has his or her own face mask, which reduces the chance of contagious illnesses being spread because multiple users used the same mask while one of them was coming down with something. In addition, departments need to buy extra masks in case masks get damaged. They also need extra bottles, because one bottle per firefighter may not be enough air, making a bottle exchange necessary. This makes it even more important that components be compatible with one another.