Screen shot of video
13 Mar 2018

Are you exposing yourself to cancer risks when taking off your gear?

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Using gloves to take off firefighting gear: Overkill or a necessary Standard Operational Practice? Watch the video above and decide for your self. The IFSI video shows two firefighters who fought the same fire at the same time, but with different strategies for handling their gear.

 

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Bjorn UlfssonPublished by Bjorn Ulfsson / CTIF NEWS

FIREFIGHTERS´S HEALTH: Research done at the the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute has been examining fire ground exposures for firefighters.  It has been well known that exposures can occur when chemicals breach the gear.  However, in particular, this research has found that bunker gear interface - wrists, neck and groin - are especially high risk areas where you may need to pay extra attention.

READ MORE ON CTIF NEWS: Ground breaking Canadian study shows firefighters are exposed through their gear - despite full PPE

Recent work shared by the IFSI scientists also indicates that how much exposure a firefighter gets is determined not only by how they wear the gear, but also in how they take it off.  An IFSI  (Above) video shows two firefighters who fought the same fire at the same time, but took off their gear in very different ways, which also yielded very different results.

The firefighter who took his own gloves off contaminated his hands from the soot and toxins on his bunker gear, which spread the carcinogens as the firefighter later went on with his day.

His team mate had help removing his gloves then put on latex gloves before he allowed his hands to touch the rest of his gear. His hands remained soot and contaminant free. 

 

Screenshot from the video showing how contamination on your hands can be avoided by using latex gloves when handling your fire gear.
Screenshot from the video showing how contamination on your hands can be avoided by using latex medical gloves when handling your dirty fire gear.

 

Some would argue that wearing latex medical gloves for taking off your gear is overkill. 

However - consider that wearing those gloves up until the late 70s and early 80s to protect against contaminated blood also was not standard operational practice until fairly recently.

Who would approach a wounded, blood covered victim today without protection? And why would we treat chemical contaminants and toxic soot from fires any different?

Researchers out of the University of Miami have developed a video that demonstrates how carcinogens can be transferred from the fire ground, back to the fire hall and even back into the firefighter´s own home. 

Glowing powder is being sprayed on a firefighter to track simulated toxins being transported from the gear and into the firehall and private homes after interventions.
Glowing powder is being sprayed on a firefighter to track simulated toxins being transported from the gear and into the fire hall and private homes after interventions. This photo is a screenshot from the video above.

 

The researchers simulated fire scene exposure by sprinkling a glowing dust onto firefighters as they maneuvered through various scenarios. 

They then took off their gear using their standard procedures and returned to the station as usual.

The researchers later returned with a glow lamp that showed where the simulated carcinogens were present in the fire house.  What could not be seen with the naked eye, the fire station now showed remnants on door handles, furniture and walls.

In another simulation, a firefighter was throwing a ball back and forth with a child after the simulated exposure – the glow light showed carcinogen exposure extended not just to the ball they were playing with, but over the little boy as well.

This research shows how important it is to thoroughly wash after an intervention, and how contaminated gear must also be stored away and washed.

In a Standard Operational Procedure developed in Sweden, The Skellefteå Model for Healthy Firefighters, firefighters are encouraged to strip down into their under ware and throw their used turnout gear into black garbage bags. They then put on personal sports gear for the trip home and store the bags with the dirty turnout gear in the gear compartment of their fire truck.

The Fire Servics of the Canadian capital of Ottawa is also among the many North American fire services who have adapted this model.

In a future video, CTIF NEWS will show how international instructors at a firefighting training course at the National Research Council of Canada washes and puts away their dirty gear after training.

 

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Published by Bjorn Ulfsson / CTIF NEWS

 

Are you leaving the contaminants on the fireground or dragging them home with you? The choice is yours, if you know how to protect yourself and your family.
Are you leaving the contaminants on the fireground or dragging them home with you? The choice is yours, if you know how to protect yourself and your family.