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Breathe easier – this SCBA brings it all together for enhanced firefighter safety and situational awareness

MSA’s G1 SCBA integrates a thermal imaging camera, PASS device, enhanced voice communication and GPS locator in one SCBA

By Robert Avsec for FireRescue1 BrandFocus

The MSA G1 SCBA is the SCBA I’ve been waiting for. I’ll never forget the first time I looked at one of my company officers coming off their engine and thought to myself, “Looks more like a 19th century New York City junk peddler than a fire officer.”

Why? Because, in addition to their SCBA, they had portable radio hanging from a strap, their SCBA facepiece dangling in front of them and a handheld thermal imaging camera (TIC) hanging from a retractable lanyard. I remember thinking later that the SCBA manufacturer who can put it all together – PASS device, communications, TIC and GPS location – is going to “corner the market.”

MSA's new G1 SCBA integrates features for enhanced situational awareness and safety.
MSA's new G1 SCBA integrates features for enhanced situational awareness and safety. (image/MSA)

Well MSA has come pretty darn close with their G1 SCBA. Every firefighter or officer who enters a structure fire has integrated PASS, communications and TIC capabilities. And it’s all in a SCBA that’s been designed from the ground up to work with the firefighter, not against them.

Comfort Features

The G1 SCBA incorporates ergonomic principles in a big way. First, they stripped away all the electronics from the facepiece to make it more comfortable to wear, reduce potential snag hazards, provide an increased field of vision and give the user an improved range of motion. The “open port” design of the facepiece enables the user to breathe easier and communicate more clearly when they’re not breathing cylinder air.

The G1 also has a modified backplate made possible by repositioning both electronics and pneumatic components. MSA’s designers were able to lower the G1’s center of gravity, thereby increasing stability, reducing snag hazards and improving the user’s overall ability to pivot and flex with a greater range of motion.

MSA has created an overall SCBA design that is more symmetrical, giving the user maximized balance and stability. The G1 also has a better shoulder strap system – strategically placed friction pads under wider straps that keep those shoulder straps where they should be: on your shoulder.

Another other key feature is the swiveling lumbar pad that’s designed to move with the user and keep the weight of the user’s SCBA properly positioned so that they can work more safely, effectively, and efficiently. The G1 has an adjustable lumbar pad (optional) that gives the user three different positions for the pad to better accommodate varying torso lengths, enabling each user to customize the G1 to ensure its weight is properly distributed across the hips and shoulders. 

Safety Features

The designers of the G1 took a multi-level approach to increase every user’s visibility and situational awareness. First, they covered the shoulder and cylinder straps with an enhanced heat-resistant retro reflective material and kept the glow-in-the-dark band around the cylinder for good measure.

But the visibility game-changer is the addition of seven LED “buddy lights” on various points on the G1 that gives the user 360-degree visibility to their fellow firefighters. The G1’s full color electronic control console display has both a brightly lit pneumatic gauge plus a full color display that can be configured in a number of ways to fit your fire department’s SOPs and make the information, such as the following, easier to get:

  • Air pressure remaining
  • Time remaining on air
  • Temperature alarms
  • Evacuation alerts

But one of the coolest features for the console is that the user, and everyone working in the same area, can see each other’s available breathing air status information based on the color displayed on the console:

  • Green > 50 percent available air
  • Yellow 35-50 percent of available air
  • Red < 35 percent of available air


A firefighter “mayday” alert is one fireground event that gets everyone’s stress level up as Incident Commander deploys the rapid intervention dispatch and other resources to locate the firefighter and extricate them from the situation. It’s critical that those rescuers can ensure that the firefighter in distress has enough breathing air to survive the extrication once they are located.

With the G1, that process begins when a firefighter’s air supply reaches the low-air threshold (33% available air pressure) and the low-air alarm activates. In addition to the audible alarm, a light illuminates the G1’s patented Universal Air Connection (UAC) providing extra visibility when it's needed most to help rescuers locate the UAC for transfill operations.

Once the firefighter is located, the UAC gives those rescuers the capability to donate air from their SCBA to that of the firefighter in distress, so nobody needs to stay tethered to the firefighter during the extrication. The G1 also has buddy-breathing capabilities and a remote quick fill system that give firefighters additional rescue breathing options.


The G1 takes increased safety and fireground communications to a new level with electronic voice amplification that provides every user with the capability of verbally delivering and receiving critical information.

Starting with the facepiece, MSA continues to use their “best in class speech recognition” speaking diaphragm. Then they gave the facepiece an open breathing port design that increases speech clarity even more, whether the user is breathing cylinder air or not.

When the user is on air, the G1’s mask-mounted regulator has two microphones positioned right on the regulator for maximum effectiveness. When speaking into those microphones, the user’s voice is clearly projected from the amplifier in the speaker module that’s now located on the left shoulder strap, not in the mask. And those microphones in the mask have been designed to filter out that distracting noise – you know the one! – caused by the user’s inhalation and exhalation breathing.

By moving the amplifier from the face piece and to the shoulder strap, MSA has made the facepiece lighter, reducing fatigue and improving the user’s field of vision, while at the same time streamlining the overall mask profile so that it poses less of a snag hazard.

But the “game changer” is that it makes electronic voice amplification standard equipment on every G1 unit. Now issuing every firefighter their own facepiece is a cost-effective option for every fire department.

Integrated Thermal Imaging Technology

Every G1 has an integrated thermal imaging camera (TIC) – powered from the G1’s rechargeable power source – that becomes active the moment a firefighter activates their SCBA. This simultaneously gives that firefighter the capability to locate heat sources immediately and have the information they need to make tactical decisions more safely, effectively and efficiently.

The large clear display on the G1’s control console gives the user the capability to see through smoke and find and save lives. And if exit points are blocked, the G1’s integrated TIC provides the user with the vision to locate alternate options to escape quickly and safely.

MSA’s G1 SCBA does exactly what SCBAs were always meant to do – preserve the lives of firefighters as they battle a blaze, so they can, in turn, save the lives of many more. By integrating added safety technology into one SCBA, MSA makes it possible for everyone on the fireground to breathe a little easier.


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