|Without SCBAs in place Rosenbauer’s European-designed seat provides a smooth backrest. With SCBA in place bottles are firmly gripped to withstand a 10g. force. Red handled levers at left of seat release the SCBA and firefighter from the seat. (Rosenbauer Photo)|
While others have been talking about the shortcomings of SCBA seats, Rosenbauer, Europe’s largest fire apparatus manufacturer, has been designing and producing solutions.
Rosenbauer America President Harold Boer demonstrated a revolutionary new SCBA seat to the trade press in February at a special showing in Tempe, Ariz.
While editors and writers generally reacted with “duh…uh, oh yeah,” we tried the seats out and noted the significant advances being explained to those who bothered to listen.
To appreciate really uncomfortable seating, you probably have to know what it’s like to respond in an all-too-small seat such as those in the Seagrave models of years past delivered to FDNY. Those old designs crammed four men in the back doors, two on each side of the roaring diesel engine, facing each other, and fighting for leg room.
Response to the fire was bad enough, but the return trip after a job meant either leaving your SCBA on, or struggling not to get poked in the back by the brackets.
Rosenbauer’s 2006 Comfort Seat provides a smooth, padded back support to swing forward into place when the SCBA is not being worn. No spring clips or sharp corners get in the way. On a hot day a firefighter can remove his turnout coat for the ride back.
But the real advantage of the new seat is the way it secures any SCBA bottle – even a duo-pak of side-by-side bottles – and stores the face mask in a compartment in the headrest for immediate donning.
Turnout gear on, the firefighter takes position in the seat. SCBA shoulder straps are held by padded horns extending from the seat, ready to be slipped on from a natural position. No more problems with twisted belts or tangled straps. In a similar way, the safety seat belt also requires nothing but a quick snap of the buckle.
The ready-to-don SCBA system is uniquely positioned by the seat and the air bottle is tightly gripped by a high-density polyurethane foam backrest similar to the structural foam core in modern downhill skis.
The backrest is affixed to an aluminum plate. The gripping mechanism holding the air bottle is operated by a large lever lifted by the firefighter’s left hand to release the SCBA bottle when he exits the cab.
As an added safety feature, the system can be ordered with an air-operated release system that prevents the firefighter from actuating the lever until the driver sets the parking air brakes.
Rosenbauer is quick to point out that this new, integral SCBA and seat security system does not take the place of a regular safety belt since it would have to meet a host of automotive standards. However, it has been tested to 10-g forces and the positioning horn system also places the seat belt right in front of the firefighter to be snapped shut as he dons his SCBA.
You don’t even have to sit in the seat to see its advantages immediately. Nothing like this system has previously been available on the U.S. market.
All Central and General fire apparatus produced by Rosenbauer America are now offering the new seat as an option. Clearly it is one answer to the seat belt use problem being addressed by the firefighters’ working group formed this year at FDIC.
Gone are the little nylon pull cords currently used on some systems to release the bottle restraints that then flop around and get tangled. The rapid conversion to a flat, smooth seat back for the return ride home is something that will really be welcomed by firefighters.
See the photo accompanying this story for additional information or contact Rosenbauer through www.fireapparatusinfo.com.