Tulsa Firefighters Testing Much-Needed Equipment

Friday, April 11th 2014, 11:22 am
By: Craig Day

Extensive hands-on equipment testing that could save the lives of Tulsa firefighters ended on Friday. The city will soon spend more than $2 million on the breathing units firefighters wear into burning buildings, and they want to make the best choice.

Those firefighters are now finished with the product tests, which happened inside and outside of a training tower. They put the air units through just about every kind of scenario.

With Tulsa Fire Training Chief Stacy Belk watching and taking notes, Firefighter Justin Webber went through the rigors of a specially designed exercise.

"We've developed a course that will put these packs through all the paces," Belk said.

Webber was one of the firefighters testing new self-contained breathing units under a number of different scenarios,

"See what we like, what we don't like," said Webber.

They tested seven different units, from five different manufacturers. They'll give extensive feedback on which ones will be the best for the Tulsa Fire Department to buy.

11/5/2013 Related Story: 'Improve Our Tulsa' Contains Upgrades For Police, Fire Departments

"They've a decided maybe the firefighters should make the decision this time on what they need on each one. They may not get the exact brand they want, but they'll get all the options they feel they need," said TFD Captain Stan May.

The same model of breathing units the Tulsa fire department has used for 20 years is about to go out of compliance, so about $2.6 million will be spent to upgrade to new ones.

"Quite a bit more advanced than what we're working with right now," Webber said.

May said, "We're going to replace all of our self-contained breathing apparatus with things that allow us to go into a house to make a rescue, put the fire out or into a big business with toxic chemicals."

Tulsa began evaluating upgrading the self-contained breathing units after firefighter James O'Neal was nearly killed in a New Year's Eve fire in 2011. It's believed his breathing unit malfunctioned.

Firefighters are testing things like balance, mobility and usefulness of the new units.

"Each one of these props we've designed out here covers that," Belk said.

They're recommendations will be used to help make the best purchase, ultimately making the dangerous job a little safer.

Firefighters also assessed the audio systems in the units, so they can better communicate with other firefighters, and commanders, outside a burning building, which has been a problem in the past.