Sponsored by Dalmatian Fire Equipment
In the early 1800s, engineer Charles Anthony Deane created and patented a “smoke helmet” for firefighters. The copper helmet, which later became used for diving, had a leather hose to supply air and a short pipe for air to escape.
Prior to that, it’s said that firefighters grew their beards and mustaches long enough to dip them in water and clench the facial hair in their teeth. The reasoning behind this unusual idea was the assumption that the wet facial hair would act as a filter, allowing firefighters to take in fresher air.
The fire service has, without a doubt, come a long way since then in regard to self-contained breathing apparatus.
However, because breathing is not optional, fire departments must ensure they have enough SCBAs for all of their firefighters. In turn, this usually requires a substantial budget for equipment – but what if this vital equipment could be obtained at less expense?
The Dalmatian Fire Equipment mission is just that: to provide firefighters with clean, comprehensively tested refurbished SCBAs and cylinders at an affordable price.
Making fire equipment affordable
In 2016, a video created by the Georgetown (Connecticut) Volunteer Fire Department detailing the cost of firefighting equipment and gear went viral. In the video, residents attempted to guess how much various pieces of firefighting equipment and gear cost. Most residents’ estimates were nowhere near the actual price of gear and equipment.
The video concludes with this final thought: “Our time is free, our gear is not.”
The cost for a department to provide 20 sets of SCBA, according to FireRescue1 columnist and grant writer Jerry Brant, can be as much as $150,000.
For volunteer fire departments, which make up the majority of Dalmatian’s customers, this price tag is unattainable. But thanks to Dalmatian’s restoration program, refurbished SCBAs and cylinders can be bought at a fraction of the cost of a new pack – without sacrificing quality and reliability.
For example, a brand-new 2013 pack sells for close to $8,000. Dalmatian restores and sells that same refurbished 2013 pack for $2,495. The refurbished equipment is thoroughly inspected and tested to meet industry standards.
“We follow the Code of Federal Regulations, and we only use new, original equipment parts,” Russ Kates, president of Dalmatian Fire, said. “Our techs have a lot more experience than the normal tech in the field does, because we test thousands of SCBAs. A regular tech just does what the department has, which is usually 15 to 20 sets.”
The company has sold more than 40,000 SCBAs in the last 11 years, and the equipment is backed by a 10-year warranty, Kates added.
“We have a lot of departments who regularly buy from us and depend on us for our equipment,” he said. “We guarantee everything we sell for 10 years. If it does come back, we fix it and send it back.”
Extending useful life through refurbishment
Careful cleaning is the first step on the path to refurbishment. When equipment arrives, Dalmatian Fire uses industrial ultrasonic cleaning to remove built-up grime.
“Some parts are affected by normal wear and tear, such as belts, harnesses and lenses,” Kevin Simmons, CEO of Dalmatian Fire, said. “Modern packs are also susceptible to corrosion in the battery holders if the batteries are not changed often enough.”
After a deep clean, harnesses, straps and belts are inspected for tears, Simmons added. Torn fabric is removed piece by piece, and the Nomex or Kevlar replaced with factory-matching pieces sewn back in with Kevlar thread.
Additionally, battery cases are inspected, cleaned and replaced if necessary. Masks are disassembled and cleaned, and the company also ensures that cracked lenses are replaced.
“After all those wear parts are cleaned and repaired or replaced – using only the original equipment manufacturer parts – the standard SCBA is ready for another decade of use under those same harsh conditions it was built to withstand,” Simmons said.
All this is followed by testing to ensure the pack still meets strict standards before shipping.
The final step of Dalmatian’s refurbishment process is a quality assurance review. Every pack is individually inspected and bears a paper tag with the initials of every person who worked on it.
Making the most of durable equipment
Fire departments have been very appreciative, Kates said.
“They’re usually surprised at the quality they get,” he said. “It comes out cosmetically looking like new and works just like it’s supposed to.”
SCBAs are designed to be reliable under extreme abuse. The refurbishment process prolongs the useful life of this lifesaving equipment and helps Dalmatian provide a more affordable product to help cash-strapped departments get the gear they need.
“That tremendous reliability naturally creates exceptional durability,” Simmons said. “This makes refurbished SCBAs a great value for fire departments.”