Fire/emergency medical services

ISEA cautions firefighters against use of MAE-requalified SCBA cylinders

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Arlington, VA — Firefighters should not use self-contained breathing apparatus cylinders requalified for service through the modal acoustic emissions process because the process may cause the apparatus to leak air and voids the equipment’s manufacturer warranties, the International Safety Equipment Association warns.

In an April 8 press release, ISEA explains that the MAE process assesses the carbon fiber wrap of a cylinder but not its aluminum liner, which – if used past the cylinder’s designed 15-year service life – could fail “by fatigue or corrosion pitting,” leaking air.

SP-16320, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s required permit for third-party programs to requalify cylinders through the MAE process, expired March 31 and is no longer applicable.

Additionally, the association points out that the SCBAs in question violate OSHA regulations, as well as National Fire Protection Association and NIOSH standards.

“A cylinder used for 15 years in the fire service has seen frequent, rapid fluctuation of extreme high and low temperatures, which degrades its overall integrity,” the release states. “Cylinders eventually fail after exceeding their 15-year service life, often due to compromised aluminum liners. Eventual failure of the aluminum liners in cylinders is well known by researchers. MAE testing and visual inspection are insufficient to identify compromised aluminum liners.”

ISEA Director of Public Affairs Dan Glucksman recommends that fire departments seeking an SCBA option compliant with the regulations consult the SCBA manufacturer.

“Saving lives is vastly more important than saving money,” ISEA President Charles Johnson said in the release. “Fire departments may be tempted by the siren song of a company that’s pushing ‘MAE-requalified’ breathing cylinders, but giving in to that temptation will put firefighters at risk of having leaky or empty cylinders when they need them most. Never run into a burning building with an ‘MAE-requalified’ breathing cylinder.”

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