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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Station Life: Haz Mat Decon

As part of our yearly in-service training program, Brentwood Fire and Rescue recently completed training on Hazardous Materials Decontamination. This training was broken down into two different portions. The first focused on mass, or gross, decontamination, which comes into play when a large group has been exposed to a hazardous material. Some examples of this situation might include workers in a factory or office, shoppers at a mall or perhaps fans at a sporting event. The second part of the training focused on technical decontamination which occurs when rescuers exit the ‘hot zone’ of the incident. Technical decontamination may also include any victims who are removed from the hot zone. It is worth noting that typically all rescuers would be wearing some form of personal protective equipment, such as firefighting turnout gear or Tyvek suits. However, due to the extreme heat during this training evolution firefighters who were not entering the simulated hot zone did not don this equipment. This was intended to help prevent heat related injuries to on-duty personnel

Crew members began the evolution by creating a decontamination corridor for mass decontamination. A group of potentially contaminated people would be required to walk through this wall of water to rinse off any hazardous materials.

As part of decontamination, exposed individuals would be required to remove their clothing and don modesty suits inside a tent prior to entering the decontamination corridor. Tarps would also be placed over and around the corridor to help protect modesty. As this was a training exercise, this firefighter was allowed to remain clothed. 

Should the need for even more water be required, one of Brentwood Fire and Rescue’s aerial devices could be called upon to add more water volume

Some areas or situations do not lend themselves to establishing a decontamination corridor with fire engines. In those instances, BFR’s Hazardous Materials Unit is equipped with a portable shower station that can function in a similar capacity. Setting up the engines or an aerial is faster, but consumes much more water and may potentially contaminate the fire apparatus

Firefighters are practicing removing a victim from the ‘hot zone’. They have immobilized the victim on a long spine board and moved him to the decontamination station. Here his clothing would be removed before he is scrubbed down and rinsed off. The dual catch basins are intended to limit the amount of potentially contaminated runoff resulting from the decontamination area. One basin is for washing and the other is for rinsing.

This firefighter picked a good day to volunteer to play the role of a victim; the rinse was a refreshing way to beat the July heat!

Only after the victim has been seen to will the rescuers be deconned. Firefighters always work in pairs, and this is no exception. They will need to coordinate with each other to see who has less air remaining in their SCBA. The person most at risk of running out will go first. As they progress through the area, they will remove their protective equipment and drop their tools. Once they have been thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed, they will be medically evaluated to ensure they are suffering no ill effects. Two of the most important things checked are body weight and core temperature. Excess loss of body weight can indicate dehydration and a high core temperature can lead to heat related injuries. In other words, it gets plenty hot wearing a plastic suit in the middle of summer!

Every day is a great day to be a Brentwood Firefighter, but some days are just plain fun!