IFSJ Exclusive: The right fit for London

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Patrick Tawney, Group Commander at London Fire Brigade, explains why they selected MSA Safety’s M1 SCBA

London Fire Brigade recently selected MSA Safety to supply its firefighters with new M1 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and telemetry technology. IFSJ sat down with Patrick Tawney, Group Commander at London Fire Brigade and Project Manager for the replacement of respiratory protective equipment (RPE), to discuss the procurement process and the benefits the new equipment will bring.

How often do you procure new SCBA?

In line with most fire services in the UK, we refresh and upgrade our SCBA every ten years.  It’s important for us to have up-to-date equipment that takes advantage of new technologies to maximise safety for our firefighters.  In the years since our existing SCBA was purchased, there have been significant innovations and developments in the industry which have improved and enhanced not only SCBA itself but also associated communication and monitoring capabilities. 

What in particular were you looking for in the new equipment?

We had lots of specific requirements, but most importantly, the SCBA had to be comfortable to wear, straightforward to operate, easy to clean, and it had to fit well with our other existing PPE.   We were also looking for equipment that would enhance safety monitoring and improve communication between firefighters and incident commanders during operations.

Tell us about the procurement process, what did it involve?

We began the procurement process in March 2022.  This involved outlining our requirements and undertaking an exhaustive evaluation process to explore the options on the market.  Once a shortlist of suppliers was established, we organised practical trials at the Fire Services College in Moreton-in Marsh, where a diverse volunteer group of our firefighters were tasked with putting the equipment through its paces. We devised a number of complex and challenging operational scenarios at the College incident training ground, and our firefighters provided feedback on their experiences wearing and operating the various SCBA equipment.

The MSA M1 SCBA emerged as the clear frontrunner, performing extremely well without a single failure, and consistently scoring highly across the board. The firefighters’ positive experiences with the M1 SCBA during the training for these trials and at the trials themselves led directly to the decision to select it.  The true test of a product is in the experience of the end-users, and our firefighters were almost unanimous in their preference.

What are the advantages of the M1 SCBA?  Why did it perform so well in the trials?

Most notably, we found the M1 SCBA intuitive and easy to use, facilitating the job in hand rather than proving a distraction or hindrance. It is also light in weight and particularly comfortable to wear, with an advanced hip belt that evenly distributes the weight of the BA set, and a padded harness. The ergonomic backplate has a one-handed adjustment which means it is easily customised to ensure a good fit for any size and frame.  In an industry where we are actively working to attract and retain a diverse workforce to reflect and engage the communities that we serve, this is particularly important.  

We also trialled and subsequently ordered the MSA C1 headset which attaches easily to the outside of the SCBA facepiece and provides enhanced voice communications.  There was a notable improvement in clarity – essential for relaying and receiving instructions under pressure during emergency situations.

Another element which particularly impressed us, was the telemetry provided alongside the M1 SCBA system and its modernised Entry Control Board (ECB), which has been developed specifically for UK fire services.  Essentially, an ECB is a means of keeping a tally of each firefighter wearing SCBA, noting details such as cylinder pressure and time spent fighting a fire. Working with an ECB has long been embedded in the operations of the London Fire Brigade, as it provides a safe system of working where everyone is accounted for.

The new MSA ECB enhances this traditional system by using integrated cloud-based technology to provide instant live monitoring and the capture of reliable data. Incident commanders can now connect remotely from wherever they are and download information quickly and easily either in real time, or retrospectively. This will significantly improve firefighter safety at incidents, as the air and alarm status of every firefighter can be closely monitored automatically and in real time, freeing up radio contact for other essential communications. Additionally, the post-incident reporting and automated documentation it provides will be invaluable in assisting with accident investigation, operational debriefs and for monitoring the long-term health of our firefighters.  For example, a graphic display of data on air consumption rates can show exactly where and when a firefighter is breathing more heavily during an incident, which could be due to physical exertion or extreme heat. This will enable us to identify not only possible areas of health concern for individuals, but also trends and patterns which could be useful for general research into firefighters’ physical response to certain scenarios.

Does the M1 SCBA work well with your existing equipment?

Yes, during the procurement process we undertook a series of tests to ensure the new SCBA would be compatible with all our existing kit and equipment.  Our firefighters wear protective clothing supplied by MSA Bristol via the Collaborative Framework, so it was unsurprising to find that the M1 SCBA fits perfectly with our fire tunics.

How easy is the M1 SCBA to clean, and why is this important?

The efficient decontamination of PPE following a fire-related incident is absolutely essential, since toxic smoke particles can be particularly harmful to health, whether inhaled or absorbed through the skin.  The M1 SCBA has been specifically designed to minimise trapping of particles and is easy to clean without disassembling: the padded harness is fully water repellent, making the entire BA system machine-washable.  As such, it complies with our strict policies on how to manage and minimise contamination. Currently, we clean our own SCBA by hand but are looking to introduce cleaning machines in the near future.

How would you rate MSA’s customer service?

It must be noted that over and above the superiority of their product, MSA have demonstrated an outstanding level of customer care throughout the procurement process.  Everything we’ve asked of them as a manufacturer, they have carefully considered and provided solutions.  As an example, we highlighted a precarious situation whereby a firefighter running low on air may need a teammate to top up their air supply. Previously, the firefighter would be required to hold their breath while the old supply was disconnected and the new supply reconnected. This can be a tricky and stressful procedure, particularly under challenging conditions.  MSA considered this and devised an innovative system whereby the new supply can be plugged straight in without airlines being broken, allowing continuous breathing. 

We’re looking forward to this relationship and collaboration continuing well into the future so that MSA’s technical and design expertise can continue to feed directly into solutions for firefighters on the ground.  The fact that the M1 SCBA is a modular system, means that we should be able to easily supplement and upgrade the equipment in the years to come. 

When will you receive the new kit?

Our crews across the city are very much looking forward to receiving their new SCBA.  Roll out of deliveries is now underway, with a thorough multi-phased training programme for our 4,500 firefighters to follow, and an anticipated ‘go live’ date of January 2024. Training will be supplemented by MSA’s online support programmes, whereby firefighters can access online demonstration videos whenever they need a refresher or reminder.

I’m satisfied we’ve made an excellent selection with the M1 SCBA, in both quality and value for money. When purchasing protective equipment for our firefighters, safety is absolutely the primary focus, but thankfully the M1 SCBA provides a very high standard of safety and quality at a competitive price.  Replacing our current provision now will enable us to benefit from technological developments, which will in turn enhance firefighter safety and increase our capacity for rescue.  We’re certain that this investment and our new partnership with MSA will continue to serve us well into the future.

1-ISJ- IFSJ Exclusive: The right fit for London


The M1 Self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is an advanced, ergonomic, and modular system that meets a broad range of needs and budgets. It includes several innovative and customisable features to help enhance hygiene, improve comfort and provide capability for future upgrades.  


The M1 SCBA is a modular design to suit different needs, preferences, budgets and expectations. Benefits include:

  • Easily customised and adapted to suit specific requirements and applications.    
  • Easily upgraded when budgets allow.
  • Easily enhanced so no need for full, costly upgrades.


The M1 SCBA has been designed to be comfortable and lightweight in all scenarios:

  • Integrated height adjustment on the backplate ensures the apparatus fits the natural shape of the back.
  • The swivel hip belt follows body movement and ensures even weight distribution.
  • The M1 is the lightest SCBA with height adjustment on the market (less than 4kg/9lbs).

Integration of components

The M1 SCBA platform can be also configured with:

  • M1 Control Module – a personal alert safety system (PASS) with motion sensor. Its full-color, integrated digital display also helps firefighters better understand their situation by providing clear pressure and alarm indications. It comes with optional telemetry, which allows the transmission of firefighter information directly to Incident Command, or to those monitoring the incident remotely, helping them to better manage incidents and keep firefighters safe.
  • G1 Face Mask – produced in three sizes, also offers three further sizes of nose cup to give the perfect fit and help prevent infiltration of smoke particles. The G1 Mask is comfortable and adapts to all face shapes. The visor allows for a wide, distortion-free field of vision.
  • C1 Communication Module – for clear voice projection. The C1 headset easily attaches to the G1 mask and is integrated seamlessly to provide clear voice transmission and reception of incoming messages, whilst eliminating background noise.

Cleanability and enhanced hygiene

MSA’s M1 SCBA has innovative features to ensure the system is easy to clean to prevent exposure to harmful substances.


By offering an excellent foundation system with optional “add-ons”, the M1 SCBA equips firefighters with all the revolutionary capabilities of safety technology. Easy access to the cloud, effortless monitoring and reliable data ultimately make it an integrated platform for firefighter safety now and in the future.

This article was originally published in the January edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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