LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Identify protective equipment items that are used during patient rescues, and recall how and when each protective equipment item should be used.

It is a basic principle of first aid that an injured person must be given essential treatment before being moved. However, it is impossible to treat an injured person who is in a position of immediate danger. If the victim is drowning, or if his life is endangered by fire, steam, electricity, poisonous or explosive gases, or other hazards, rescue must take place before first aid treatment can be given.

The life of an injured person may well depend upon the manner in which rescue and transportation to a medical treatment facility are accomplished. Rescue operations must be accomplished quickly, but unnecessary haste is both futile and dangerous. After rescue and essential first aid treatment have been given, further transportation must be accomplished in a manner that will not aggravate the injuries. As a Corpsman, it may be your responsibility to direct—and be the primary rescuer in—these operations. The life and safety of the victim and the members of the rescue team may rest on your decisions.

In this section, we will consider the use of common types of protective equipment; rescue procedures; special rescue situations; ways of moving the patient to safety; and procedures for transporting the injured after first aid has been given.


The use of appropriate items of protective equipment will increase your ability to effect rescue from life-threatening situations. Protective equipment that is generally available on naval vessels and some shore activities include the oxygen breathing apparatus (OBA); hose (air line) masks; protective (gas) masks; steel-wire lifelines; and devices for detecting oxygen insufficiency, explosive vapors, and some poisonous gases.

Oxygen Breathing Apparatus

An oxygen breathing apparatus (OBA) is provided for emergency use in compartments containing toxic gases. The apparatus is particularly valuable for rescue purposes because it is a self-contained unit. The wearer is not dependent upon outside air or any type of air line within the effective life of the canister.

There are several types of OBAs, but they are all similar in operation. Independence of the outside atmosphere is achieved by having air within the apparatus circulated through a canister. Within the canister, oxygen is continuously generated. The effective life of the canister varies from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the particular apparatus and the type of work being done. One of the newer types of OBA is designed so that you can change canisters without leaving the toxic atmosphere.

If you are to enter an extremely hazardous area, you should also wear a lifeline. The lifeline should be tended by two persons, one of whom is also wearing a breathing apparatus.


Never allow oil or grease to come in contact with any part of an OBA. Oxygen is violently explosive in the presence of oil or grease. I

f any part of the apparatus becomes contaminated with oil or grease smudges, clean it before it is stowed. Care should be taken to prevent oil or oily water from entering the canister between the time it is opened and the time of disposal.

Hose (Air Line) Masks

Hose masks are part of the allowance of all ships having repair party lockers. They are smaller than the oxygen breathing outfits and can, therefore, be used by persons who must enter voids or other spaces that have very small access hatches. The hose or air line mask consists essentially of a gas mask face piece with an adjustable head harness and a length of airhose. Note that the air line mask uses air rather than pure oxygen. It must NEVER be connected to an oxygen bottle, oxygen cylinder, or other source of oxygen. Even a small amount of oil or grease in the air line could combine rapidly with the oxygen and cause an explosion.

Safety belts are furnished with each air line mask and MUST BE WORN. A lifeline must be fastened to the safety belt; and the lifeline should be loosely lashed to the air hose to reduce the possibility of fouling. The air hose and lifeline must be carefully tended at all times so that they do not become fouled or cut. The person wearing the air line mask and the person tending the lines should maintain communication by means of standard divers’ signals.

Protective (Gas) Masks

Protective masks provide respiratory protection against chemical, biological, and radiological warfare agents. They do not provide protection from the effects of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and a number of industrial gases. Protection from these gases is discussed in the section, “Rescue from Unventilated Compartments,” later in this chapter.

In emergencies, protective masks may be used for passage through a smoke-filled compartment or for entry into such a compartment to perform ajob that can be done quickly (such as to close a valve, secure a fan, or de-energize a circuit). However, they provide only limited protection against smoke. The length of time you can remain in a smoke-filled compartment depends on the type of smoke and its concentration.

The most important thing to remember about protective masks is that they do not manufacture or supply oxygen. They merely filter the air as it passes through the canister.


The lifeline is a steel-wire cable, 50 feet long. Each end is equipped with a strong hook that closes with a snap catch. The line is very pliable and will slide freely around obstructions. See figure 3–25.

Figure 3–25.—Steel wire lifeline.

Lifelines are used as a precautionary measure to aid in the rescue of persons wearing rescue breathing apparatus, hose masks, or similar equipment. Rescue, if necessary should be accomplished by having another person equipped with a breathing apparatus follow the lifeline to the person being rescued, rather than by attempting to drag the person out. Attempts to drag a person from a space may result in fouling the lifeline on some obstruction or in parting the harness, in which case it would still be necessary to send a rescue person into the space.

An important point to remember is that a stricken person must never be hauled by a lifeline attached to the waist. The victim maybe dragged along the deck a short distance, but his weight must never be suspended on a line attached to the waist. If not wearing a harness of some kind, pass the line around the chest under the armpits and fasten it in front or in back.

When tending a lifeline, you must wear gloves to be able to handle the line properly. Play out the line carefully to keep it from fouling. Try to keep the lifeline in contact with grounded metal; do not allow it to come in contact with any energized electrical equipment.

Detection Devices

The detection devices used to test the atmosphere in closed or poorly ventilated spaces include the oxygen indicator, for detecting oxygen deficiency; combustible-gas indicators, for determining the concentration of explosive vapors; and toxic-gas indicators, such as the carbon monoxide indicator, for finding the concentration of certain poisonous gases. The devices are extremely valuable and should be used whenever necessary. However, they MUST BE USED ONLY AS DIRECTED. Improper operation of these devices may lead to false assurances of safety or, worse yet, to an increase in the actual danger of the situation. For example, the use of a flame safety lamp in a compartment filled with acetylene or hydrogen could cause a violent explosion.