(Post Decon after a fire)
Firefighters face immense challenges in the line of duty, from battling intense blazes to being exposed to carcinogens, smoke, fuels, and toxins (contaminants). To ensure all Firefighters’ Health and Safety, it’s crucial to conduct a Preliminary Exposure Reduction (PER) effectively and immediately. Decontamination, odour removal, and in some cases, disinfection are steps that need to be done to help reduce the health and safety risks for firefighters. The PER is the first step taken and is the process of removing contaminants and toxins from the firefighters’ protective gear, skin, and clothing as swiftly as possible. In this blog, we’ll explore the essential steps for performing a proper PER, as it is the key to safeguarding the well-being of firefighters and reducing health and safety risks.
Step 1: Gear Removal
The first step in a successful PER is the prompt removal of contaminated firefighter ensemble elements. During the removal of the firefighter ensemble elements, the firefighters should take care to prevent the spread of contaminants to other surfaces or individuals. Wearing nitrile gloves and a proper air respirator is a wise precaution. Using a decontamination product is essential for breaking down, neutralizing, and removing contamination, toxins, and odours effectively. While a quick rinse is better than nothing, a soap and water rinse is preferable, and an even better choice is a specialized product designed for this purpose, such as Decon7 (www.Decon7.com). Once the gear has been doffed, it should be appropriately labelled, bagged, and taken out of service until it undergoes thorough cleaning and decontamination. Remember the small tools (flashlight, radio, etc.) and the SCBA pak; they need to be cleaned and decontaminated before being put back into use.
Step 2: Skin Decontamination
Firefighters should immediately wipe all exposed areas of their skin with approved decontamination wipes. While regular wipes from a nearby store may seem cost-effective, they can lead to increased toxin absorption and ineffective cleaning. It’s best to invest in approved products specifically designed and tested to remove contaminants, toxins, dirt, and odours. De-Wipe (www.DeWipe.com) is a product specially designed and formulated for this use, helps attract and withdraw impurities from open pores, has been scientifically proven, and is dermatological tested (it will not sting or leave a soapy residue). Once the face, neck, and hands have been wiped, dispose of the contaminated wipes properly.
Step 3: Shower Within an Hour
Showering within an hour of exposure is critical to the PER process. It’s essential to use products specially formulated and tested to remove contaminants, smoke, odours, and toxins. Regular hair and body wash products do not cut it, and you will be wasting your money. These specially formulated products are specifically designed to ensure a thorough decontamination process. Start with a low water temperature shower to minimize the opening of pores, which helps prevent contaminants from penetrating deeper into the skin. Lather and rinse, then switch to warmer water to open the skin’s pores further, facilitating the removal of more contaminants, toxins, and odours, leaving you clean and fresh (contaminate-free).
A proper PER (Preliminary Exposure Reduction) is a fundamental aspect of firefighter safety and health. Following a well-established procedure, using specialized products that have been rigorously tested for effectiveness, and adhering to a timely shower regimen all contribute to a successful PER. Ensuring that gear and clothing are thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated and taking precautions to avoid self-contamination when getting back into service is equally crucial. By maintaining a commitment to these practices, firefighters not only protect their health but also show respect for their colleagues and the environment.