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SCBA Momentum Shift-15 Years No More


In academy we are taught that rules are rules, orders are orders and regulations are regulations. All of which are meant to keep us safe. As fire fighters we follow rules because deviating from them can expose us to risk. We follow regulations because, well, that’s what we’re taught to do. What happens if rules expose us to risk and regulations become outdated? Is it our duty to say something? Is it our responsibility to change with the times and not accept the status quo? The answer is yes,100% of the time.


In 1992 Denver Fire Engineer Mark Langvardt became trapped in a small utility closet and despite the attempts to rescue him he sadly lost his life. The situation Langvardt and his crew found themselves in that day was new, they hadn’t trained for it and it wasn’t expected. After talking with my uncle, a retired Denver Fire Fighter who new Langvardt well, he summed it up by simply saying “it was bad, he was right there and the guys just couldn’t get him out.” The silver lining here is that Denver Fire went back and dissected the unfortunate scenario. They threw out everything they knew about downed firefighter rescues and came up with a new rescuer technique called the 'Denver Drill'. This new technique is now a require training routine for all fire cadets. My point is simple; Denver Fire didn’t look to the rules or regulations for answers, instead they saw a void that needed to be filled and turned towards innovation. Via the 'Denver Drill' they came up with a solution that worked for their needs, even if it was not part of standard regulations.


As an industry that relies heavily on SCBA’s to keep us alive, have we taken the same innovative approach when it comes to arbitrary 15-year life SCBA cylinders that Denver Fire did? No, we have not. Have we asked why SCBA cylinders have a 15-year shelf life, when other compressed gas cylinders can have an infinite life with a regular test interval? No, and as a result we continue to be fleeced by big companies pushing their regulatory based agendas on us the the end user.


Why is there a 15-year shelf life? The answer is simple, when the DOT issued the DOT-CFFC design requirements to SCBA manufacturers to manufacture carbon SCBA cylinders the DOT set an initial 15-year life. The DOT noted in this same design document that the life could be extended up to a 30-years service life (see page 2 bottom of page: 'Service Life') if the cylinders could be proven safe for continued use. So, why have the manufacturers not go back to do this? Why have we not questioned manufacturers and the regulators about this? It is right their in the design document! We as an industry haven’t demanded innovation and accountability. We have simply accepted the 15-year shelf life broadcast to us by regulation and manufacturer statements. We have resolved ourselves to purchasing new cylinders repeatedly, whether we need to or not.


Digital Wave has chosen not to just accept this status quo 15-year life. We have chosen to ask the regulators and manufacturers the tough questions about "Why 15-years?" We all know there is economic benefit in manufacturers not pushing for 30-years life. Since there is no manufacturer incentive to push for this, Digital Wave has chosen to prove that 30-year life is possible and 15-years is unacceptable.


But how? Well, the answer is via Modal Acoustic Emission, MAE for short. MAE is a form of non-destructive testing that is very similar to seismology in that it captures sound waves generated from an event to determine what that event was. This acoustic technology has been used extensively for non-destructive testing in the oil and gas, aerospace, pressure vessel and now fire industries to date. The US NAVY saw the benefits of MAE and partnered with Digital Wave to begin life extending both Navy owned SCBA breathing air vessels (Special Permit 15720) and life raft inflation composite cylinders (Special Permit 16343). Using this experience and DOT SP approvals with the NAVY, Digital Wave then turned their attention to the Fire Industry with a simple goal in mind - provide an industry changing SCBA life extension test. A test that will save fire departments and the communities they serve millions. The DOT estimates that SP-16320 issued to Digital Wave that allows life extension on fire industry SCBA's can save up to $350 million. This public notice can be found at the following link: DOT Savings Notice


With Special Permit 16320 issued by the DOT to Digital Wave, life extension is permited by the DOT. We plan to take the fire service by storm by providing SCBA Life Extension to fire departments across the nation. We have had great success so far with providing this service. Time after time we hear from departments that are angry at the the fleecing they have received over the last 15+ years by big business and regulators. The word continues to get out, 15-year life is no longer the status quo and the tide is turning on big business fleecing.


“We are here to change the status quo in the SCBA industry” says Mark Anderson, Marketing and Sales Director of Digital Wave. “We are here to break this status quo into a million pieces. Firefighters and first responders are being fleeced by regulators and big business, they know it and we know it. DOT SP-16320 is the first step and it is now an accepted practice available to all departments that choose not to accept the status quo.”


So, the question is to you, will you continue to accept the status quote? Or will you question it and embrace innovation? Denver fire did not accept it and came up with the life saving 'Denver Drill'. Digital Wave did not accept it and was granted the SCBA life extension special permit due to their innovative MAE technology. It is now up to you to not accept the status quo, ask the hard questions and demand innovation!


Ryan Pennock started his professional career with Grand Fire Protection District No.1 as a member of their residential team. After his departure from firefighting, Mr. Pennock has since had a long career in customer service, sales and account management. He comes to Digital Wave to meet the growing demand for Modal Acoustic Emission (MAE) services and sales, in particular its use in the SCBA industry.

For more information:

Ryan Pannock, SCBA Sales and Program Manager, Digital Wave Corporation

Telephone: 303-790-7559 x 28 | ryanp@digitalwavecorp.com


Mark E. Anderson, Director Sales and Marketing, Digital Wave Corporation

Telephone: 303-790-7559 x 33 | marka@digitalwavecorp.com


About Digital Wave Corporation:

Digital Wave Corporation is a privately held manufacturer of ultrasonic examination (UE) cylinder testing equipment, modal acoustic emission (MAE) testing equipment and a provider of associated inspection services. With applications worldwide, Digital Wave and its partners serve government and private clients in the compressed gas, pressure vessel and cylinder industries. Applications include all metallic and composite pressure vessels from low to ultra high pressure applications. 

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