Respirator wearer

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Fire brigade wearers of breathing apparatus in action
A variation of the equipment used by fire departments in internal attacks during fire operations

As breathing apparatus (in Germany AGT , Switzerland officially ASGT in the Austrian fire brigades AT S for short) refers to individuals who both medically and one are educationally able breathing apparatus (usually: SCBA , rebreather or only mask with filter respirator ) to wear. These devices are intended to prevent irritating or even toxic substances from getting into the eyes or respiratory tract and thus into the bloodstream during work or use.


A general distinction is made between ambient air-independent and ambient air-dependent respiratory protection.

When working or intervening outdoors (for example in disaster control during epidemics or in the military as protection against chemical warfare agents), the oxygen content in the air is often high enough that it is possible to work with ambient air-dependent respiratory protection (such as a respirator with a respirator filter). Enormous advantages are the almost unlimited operating time (no air restrictions due to pressure bottles or rebreather devices) as well as the considerably lower weight that the device carrier has to bear permanently. In danger areas in which there are substances that may not be able to be filtered at all or in which strong fluctuations in the composition of the atmosphere are possible at any time, only breathing protection independent of the ambient air may be used. If the external oxygen concentration changes significantly, for example in the event of a fire or very strong external concentrations of other gases that displace the oxygen, the wearer of the equipment threatens to die from suffocation. On the other hand, there can also be cases in which - in relative terms - there is too much oxygen in the air, so there is a risk of oxygen poisoning .

From a medical point of view, a person wearing a respirator must above all have good lung function . He must not suffer from fear of space and has to act prudently even under stress . These prerequisites are necessary if a person can only perform activities using respiratory protective equipment for professional reasons (for example welders who work in a tank). Naturally, activities such as those in fire brigades or in disaster control are particularly strenuous. In this case, the breathing apparatus wearers are regularly grouped into so-called breathing protection teams.

The legal regulations differ from state to state, but the criteria for approval to wear breathing apparatus are similar:

Requirement in Germany

In order to wear respiratory protection equipment (independent of the ambient air), the occupational medical check-up required by the employers' liability insurance association in accordance with principle G 26 "Respiratory protection equipment" is necessary. The preventive medical check-up is divided into three groups:

  • Group 1 - device weight less than 3 kg with a breathing resistance of up to 5 mBar, e.g. E.g. particle filter masks or devices that are supplied with breathing air from the outside via a hose
  • Group 2 - device weight under 5 kg with a breathing resistance over 5 mbar, e.g. E.g .: filter devices
  • Group 3 - device weight over 5 kg with a breathing resistance over 5 mBar, e.g. For example: compressed air breathing apparatus or regeneration devices.

Requirement in Austria

Since the fire brigade in Austria is the responsibility of the federal states, the suitability criteria also differ depending on the state fire brigade association .

Requirement in Switzerland

In Switzerland, all fire fighters who work in respiratory protection must pass the medical and psychological tests. This is usually done as part of the Lecoro test . The Swiss Fire Brigade Association recommends that all respiratory equipment wearers under 40 complete this test at least every 5 years. With increasing age, the frequency increases and the test is expanded, for example, from the age of 40, the cholesterol and blood sugar levels are measured. A medical examiner ultimately decides whether a member of the fire brigade is deemed to be suitable or unfit for breathing protection. Exercises and training under respiratory protection may only be completed after this clarification. However, in order to be allowed to be used during operations, the training prescribed by the respective cantonal building insurance is required.

Performance test and annual training in Germany

Endless ladder

German authorities and organizations with safety tasks almost exclusively use respiratory equipment wearers who are fit after successful preventive medical examinations according to G26.3. The examination according to G26.3 is valid for three years (for over 50-year-olds only one year) and must therefore be repeated regularly. Here it is tested whether the person is physically fit enough to wear heavy respiratory protection. The test may continue a. together with a lung function test , stress ECG , urine examination , chest X-ray (only every 72 months due to radiation exposure).

In addition to this necessary preventive medical check-up, the following are required for taking up work as a respirator in disaster control:

  • The one-time successful training in wearing respiratory protective equipment. This course lasts at least 25 hours.
  • The annual exercise in a respiratory protection exercise facility designed according to DIN 14093 or at least in an equivalent facility suitable for exercise. With the breathing air supply of 1600 liters, a total work of 80 kJ, from the age of 50 onwards of 60 kJ, has to be performed. This can be achieved, for example, by walking on a (darkened) orientation route and by performing 25 kJ work on several different work measuring devices (endless ladder , treadmill , bicycle ergometer ) in the fitness room .
  • An annual practical operational exercise in which typical activities are to be carried out under operational conditions if possible. This can be omitted if the wearer of breathing apparatus was deployed in the appropriate manner and to the appropriate extent while wearing respiratory protection.
  • An annual theoretical instruction in breathing apparatus, monitoring and also the emergency systems.

If one of the above conditions is not met, the wearer of breathing apparatus loses his ability to work. The operational capability can also be lost through prolonged illness. It can be restored by refreshing the module. A new investigation according to the principle of G26.3 may be necessary. Wearers of respiratory equipment can, among other things, train themselves to become respiratory equipment attendants.

Fire brigade tactics

The respiratory protection squad is not part of a fire brigade, other authority or organization with safety tasks , but basically every squad can be equipped with respiratory protection and thus be a respiratory protection squad. Since the attack troop is deployed as the first troop for tactical reasons, it is usually the first to take on the task of the respiratory protection troop. This consists of at least two forces (the squad leader and the troop - if necessary, the group can be extended by a troop, for example, when. NBC deployment ). However, depending on the requirements, several teams can proceed together or individually.

Safety when using respiratory protection

The security squad is a squad that is specially set up to rescue an injured respiratory protection squad. It is made available in unclear locations and is mandatory for every attack route. If necessary, a security squad can be provided for each deployed squad.

Motionless detector (dead man's detector) on a compressed air breathing apparatus

In addition, when respiratory equipment wearers are deployed, respiratory protection monitoring is carried out in which, among other things, the time of the start of the mission, time when reaching the destination, whereabouts and the pressure remaining in the device are documented. This monitoring is carried out by the deploying unit leader . He can assign another tactically trained person, but the unit leader remains responsible.

In many places, motionless detectors ( dead man's device ) are now used, which are integrated into the breathing apparatus depending on the manufacturer. This sensor reacts to the movements of the wearer. If this remains motionless for a certain period of time, a loud acoustic alarm is triggered, which is intended to enable the security teams to quickly locate the people in need. Some devices also have temperature sensors integrated as an option.

Respiratory protection in Germany

Respirators during an exercise (underground car park with a lot of smoke)
Respirators during an exercise

Working under respiratory protection is one of the most dangerous tasks and therefore requires important safety precautions and good training and further education of the teams as well as appropriate emergency equipment (see: Respiratory protection accident ). Depending on the situation, one or more security troops (SiTr) must be kept ready for the respiratory protection troops deployed. To do without a security squad is possible under special conditions, but these rarely apply. This is possible, for example, in the event of an outdoor use such as a car fire, since here the rescue team could help in an emergency without endangering themselves excessively. The security team must be equipped and trained in such a way that they can provide immediate assistance in the event of an accident (see FwDV 7, "Respiratory protection"). Some fire brigades are starting to equip the security team with additional material especially for respiratory protection emergencies (security team bag with additional breathing apparatus or additional escape hood , rescue sheet , etc.).

Respiratory protection in Austria

In Austria, a respiratory protection squad consists of three people for safety reasons, because if a comrade is sick or injured, at least two comrades are required to rescue them from the danger area. Only in exceptional cases are fewer fire brigade members allowed to enter the danger area. If necessary, the respiratory protection team can also be expanded, e.g. B. on 4 men. A respiratory protection squad may only enter the danger area if a security squad has at least already been alerted.

The Austrian fire brigades usually only permit breathing apparatus that is independent of the ambient air. Exceptions only exist in individual cases, such as the radiation protection groups, which are also allowed to wear masks with particle filters in individual cases such as at the Dekoplatz .

Respiratory protection in Switzerland

In Switzerland, a squad consists of two or three respiratory protective equipment wearers. The squad leader is determined before the operation and gets his orders from the operations leader . Usually the respirator with the highest rank is appointed as a squad leader (usually group leader, mil. Corporal ). It is, however, a prerequisite for every person wearing respiratory equipment that he or she can also lead the troop himself.

Every respiratory protection group needs a so-called troop supervisor , who is at a safe distance from the place of action and who ensures communication by radio , respiratory protection telephone or horn and records the operation. This is also responsible for ensuring that a security team is alerted. A respiratory protection squad may only enter the danger area if a security squad has at least been re-alerted and is on the way.

Self-supporting breathing apparatuses that are independent of the ambient air are usually used. Regeneration devices are used in tunnels as they allow longer periods of use. In exceptional cases, however, devices with a hose supply (ABC insert) or air-conditioned particle filters ( decontamination area ) can be used. This is usually done in consultation with the chemical consultant .


  • Ulrich Cimolino (Ed.): Respiratory protection. Series of operational practice. 4th revised edition. ecomed Sicherheit, 2004, ISBN 3-609-68663-4 .
  • Ulrich Cimolino (Ed.): Respiratory protection emergency management. Series of operational practice. 1st edition. ecomed Sicherheit, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-609-77484-8 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. DGUV (2010): Information. Action instructions for preventive occupational health care in accordance with DGUV principle G 26 "Respiratory protective devices".
  2. BGI / GUV-I 504-26: Instructions for use for occupational medical examinations according to DGUV principle G 26 "Respiratory protective devices " . Ed .: German statutory accident insurance.
  3. Training for breathing apparatus wearers (PDF;) of the Styrian Fire Brigade Association from January 19, 2016, accessed on January 6, 2018.
  4. Swiss Fire Brigade Association: Information sheet for medical examinations of firefighters - basic edition 2007 ( Memento of April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  5. The functional designations apply to both female and male fire service members. Fire brigade regulation 3 units in fire fighting and rescue operations, Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, 2008
  6. The examination according to G26.3 from an occupational medical point of view - from ( MS Word ; 54 kB)
  7. a b Fire Brigade Regulations 2 - FwDV 2. Status: January 2012. Training of volunteer fire brigades. (accessed from
  8. a b c d e Fire Service Regulations 7 Respiratory Protection (as of 2002 with changes in 2005), Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid, 2005