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Enterprise Replaces OBA with New SCBA

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050214-05
Release Date: 2/14/2005 11:46:00 AM

By Seaman Apprentice Jill Broecher, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- After decades of using oxygen-breathing apparatuses (OBA) to fight fires aboard ship, USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Sailors began using self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) Jan. 26.

The ship has been training to use the more effective, less bulky SCBAs for nearly four months.

According to Damage Controlman 2nd Class Michael Milam, petty officer in charge of the OBA/SCBAs, the SCBA allows for greater ease of movement and has a cylinder of compressed air that Sailors carry on their back instead of the bulky OBA canisters which were carried on the Sailor's chest.

The SCBAs also have a gauge with constant pressure so fire fighters know how much compressed air they have left. According to Milam, Enterprise has the carbon fiber version of cylinders with either 30 or 45 minutes of compressed air.

"The SCBA install will be very efficient for the ship's crew," said Milam. "It allows us a lot more options as far as training in our fire fighting capability."

In addition, SCBAs are much quicker and easier to refill. The SCBA's cylinders can be refilled with compressed air and then reused. In fact, the quick-fill adapter can hook straight up to a fill station, and without even taking the pack off, can be refilled.

According to Milam, there are eight fill stations aboard Enterprise, strategically placed throughout the ship. Each of the eight fill stations receives power from one of four booster pumps that can fill a cylinder using high-pressure air in about 60 seconds.

The overall cost of this transition is hard to estimate. The SCBA packs are worth approximately $2,000 each. Civilian contractors installed all the locker systems for the SCBAs, while damage controlmen performed all the start-up and labeling maintenance.

The transition will be much more cost effective in the long run. According to Milam, the OBA parts were so out of date that they were expensive to replace when a part broke. The new SCBAs have fewer parts, are easier to fix, and cost much less overall.

Since Sailors are now dealing with a compressed air cylinder on their back, they must be more cautious of movement.

"Overall safety precautions are that we're dealing with compressed air cylinders on a person's back," said Milam. "You want to be very cautious of your movement with it."

The duty sections have been receiving training on the new SCBAs from the damage control training team since the installation began Dec. 1. Milam is willing to handle divisional and departmental training upon request. Anyone interested should contact him via email. Milam said he foresees everyone to have training on the SCBAs within the next few months.

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