International Journal of Exercise Science 12(6): 941-949, 2019. Despite maintaining high levels of fitness, firefighters’ performance may be negatively impacted by the use of a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), an essential piece of safety equipment worn during structural firefighting. Routine training with SCBAs can be cost-prohibitive and inefficient. The Breathing Limited Air Situational Training Mask (BlastMask) was developed as a training aid used to simulate the SCBA. The purpose of this study was to examine physiological and perceptual responses elicited by firefighters during steady state exercise when using the BlastMask compared to the SCBA. Current staff male firefighters (n = 10; mean age = 29.5 ± 7.7; mean BMI = 26.9 ± 2.7) performed two separate 10-minute steady state treadmill exercise sessions: one using an SCBA and one using a BlastMask. Paired-samples t-tests were conducted to determine differences between mean heart rate (HR), mean pulse oximetry, post-exercise perceived stress, rate of perceived exertion of the session (S-RPE-), and for each minute of breathing (B-RPE) across the two trials. There were no significant differences between SCBA and BlastMask for HR (p = .07), pulse oximetry (p = .67), S-RPE (p = .08), or post-exercise perceived stress (p = .32); though firefighters reported greater B-RPE (p < .001) when using the BlastMask. Mean HR was strongly correlated between both sessions (r = .89). Based on these initial findings, the use of the BlastMask appears to elicit similar physiological and perceptual responses during steady state exercise when compared to the SCBA. The BlastMask may therefore be an appropriate supplemental, cost-effective training aid for firefighters, though more research is recommended.

Blastmask and SCBA Mask Face Piece.docx (99 kB)
Images of blastmask and face piece