Download PDF version

Dräger, a pioneer in medical and safety technology, is launching its ‘Health for the Firefighter’ campaign to support fire services in driving the cultural changes that are required to protect firefighter health.

Impact of exposure

The launch follows a survey of UK firefighters that found considerable concern over the impact of exposure to contaminants on long-term health. Some 84% admitted they were concerned about the risk of cancer – a disease highlighted in some scientific reports to be the cause of death within the service.

The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) reports that nearly two out of three (61%) firefighter line-of-duty deaths between 2002 and 2017 were caused by cancer. Embedded carcinogens in any equipment can easily be absorbed by the men and women using it.

Robust hygiene processes

We need to move away from firefighters wearing dirty kit like a badge of honor"

The survey by Dräger also found that more than two thirds (68%) of firefighters fear the impact of COVID-19 on their long-term health, a point picked up by Brian Hesler, Consultant and Specialist Advisor at Draeger Safety UK and former Chief Fire Officer for the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service:

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing fears over cancer, have highlighted the critical importance of hygiene, and a significant cultural change is required. We need to move away from firefighters wearing dirty kit like a badge of honor that proves their hard work and value, to understanding that clean and well-maintained kit supported by detailed and robust hygiene processes that mitigate every contact with contaminants are essential. One firefighter surveyed said ‘they had always been a bit blasé about invisible contaminants’. This has got to change.”

Detailed hygiene processes

The Health for the Firefighter campaign will support the fire services in helping to communicate and provide training on the importance of detailed hygiene processes; from the handling and storage of masks and breathing apparatus (BA) equipment through to the subsequent cleaning of the kit after an incident has occurred.

It will also provide bespoke workshop solutions that guide the potentially contaminated kit from entering the station, to washing and drying processes through to leaving the station to be used again. In addition to providing detailed advice for manual washing processes including on detergent use and drying techniques, Dräger is the first company in the Emergency Services space to launch specialist BA and mask cleaning equipment and dedicated solutions, including mechanical washing systems that provide complete consistency in washing temperatures, the amount of detergent used, speed and temperature of drying – which can all work together to disinfect contaminants and to protect the longevity of the kit. 

Mechanical equipment washing

However, only 23% said that the pandemic had significantly changed their approach to cleaning equipment

Support also encompasses logistical support for installation, the ongoing maintenance of equipment and the quantity of stock required. The survey revealed the most important factors in combating firefighter concerns over contaminants were the cleaning of masks with 97% rating this as very or extremely important, closely followed by the cleaning of BA equipment (95%) and cleaning of PPE (94%).

While manual cleaning of equipment is still generally the norm within UK Fire Services, the survey revealed three quarters (75%) believed that mechanical equipment washing would improve their health, and 80% agreed that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic more emphasis should be placed on cleaning equipment and hygiene control. However, only 23% said that the pandemic had significantly changed their approach to cleaning equipment.

Responsibility to innovate solutions

There is obvious concern over cleaning of equipment following the pandemic,” adds Brian. “One surveyed firefighter said ‘they clean to the best of their ability’ – the point is that a person’s ability should not be a factor in the cleaning process.”

Consistency has to be key and manufacturers of medical and safety technology products have a responsibility to innovate solutions that support change. We are not here to tell brigades how to operate, rather to provide a range of solutions that support them and their firefighters’ health.”

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Need For Wearable Technology In Mission-Critical Environments
Need For Wearable Technology In Mission-Critical Environments

The front line fire and rescue teams have had their hands full during the pandemic, more so than one might think. In the UK, for instance, fire and rescue teams attended more than half a million incidents throughout 2020, with more than 150,000 of them regarded as serious fires. Across the Atlantic, the US Fire Administration has reported 42 firefighter fatalities so far this year, despite swathes of the country still being in lockdown as the vaccine rollout continues to pick up the pace. These figures are down on previous years, but only by a very slight margin. firefighters work Endlessly  Despite much of society going into a form of hibernation to protect themselves and loved ones from the spread of COVID-19, firefighters are among the many frontline workers still putting their lives on the line to keep us safe, and their job hasn’t changed. If anything, they’ve been exposed to even more risk than usual in carrying out their frontline duty, from putting our fires at homes and businesses to maintaining a presence at protests. Put simply, the firefighters are putting themselves at risk every day. Attention has therefore turned to ways everyone can mitigate that risk and keep the front-line workers safe, such as hands-free critical communications equipment and protective gear. Those on the front line have been considering these technologies very carefully since the beginning of the pandemic, re-evaluating how they can best be used to facilitate social distancing and reduce contact without compromising on mission-critical activities. protective, wearable technology ‘Smart PPE’ is a new generation of protective, wearable technology that can keep front-line workers safe, connected They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that certainly holds in this instance. The rise of so-called ‘smart PPE’ represents a new generation of protective, wearable technology that can keep the front-line workers safe, connected, and mobile - all vital prerequisites to a team of fast-moving firefighters during a global pandemic. Seamless mission-critical communication All front-line workers need to be able to maintain contact with one another during busy shifts whilst also staying safe and keeping their distance from one another to limit the spread of the virus. That’s as true for nurses as it is for warehouse staff. However, mission-critical front-line workers such as paramedics, police officers, and firefighters frequently find themselves in noisy, hazardous environments that require fast movement and near-instant reaction times. Smart PPE Firefighters in particular can rarely afford the time to handle a hands-on radio unit or interface with buttons and switches to get a message across to their colleagues. They need to be able to speak to their colleagues on the other side of a burning building or across a crowd of people as if they were in the same room together, without the need to handle any additional equipment or touch surfaces unnecessarily. Doing so slows them down and could increase their chances of catching COVID-19. That’s where Smart PPE comes in.  Smart PPE is a future-proof approach to mission-critical comms that combines protective gear like helmets, visors, and overalls with wearable technology Cardo Crew Pro-1 Smart PPE is a future-proof approach to mission-critical comms that combines protective gear like helmets, visors, and overalls with wearable technology. This technology can be manufactured into the PPE from the beginning, or retrofitted into existing equipment to gain the same effect. Take the Cardo Crew Pro-1 for instance. It’s a lightweight mesh communication module that fits inside equipment such as ear guards, helmets, and visors without compromising on comfort or safety. It’s designed specifically to allow PPE manufacturers themselves to integrate mission-critical comms technology into their equipment, massively increasing its value and usefulness to teams on the ground. Mesh communications technology It can be voice-activated, making it ideal for COVID-secure environments where contact should be minimum This kind of mission-critical, comms-enabled PPE is built on a technology known as ‘mesh communication’. While not a replacement for PMR or cellular communication altogether, a mesh-based intercom system is quickly becoming the technology of choice for small teams who need to exchange information quickly, reliably, and securely. One of the greatest advantages of wireless mesh communication is that it operates as a self-sufficient standalone network, with no need for a ‘base station’ and zero dependence on cellular reception. It can be voice-activated, making it perfect for COVID-secure work environments where contact should be kept to a minimum. It also enables two-way conversation at a range of up to 3,000 meters, making it ideal for busy front-line teams working in the field. Beyond emergency services Even with vaccine rollouts firmly underway, everyone is likely to be mindful of social distancing and reduced contact for some time yet, particularly as new variants of the virus emerge and people take their first tentative steps toward international travel. Therefore, there is a likeliness to see wireless mesh communication technology extend beyond frontline emergency services and into other environments such as hospitals, warehouses, factories, and anywhere that requires teams to communicate while maintaining social distancing and keeping contact to a minimum. Development of new technologies The surging popularity of wearable technology and mesh communications is likely to strengthen the relationship between PPE manufacturers and their customers, resulting in even more innovation in the PPE industry. Organizations such as fire and rescue teams will continue to push themselves to find new, forward-thinking ways of carrying out their duties safely - not only in a way that enables hands-free, COVID-safe working but in a way that allows them to stay in lockstep with their colleagues with minimal effort. The impact of COVID-19 on the fire industry has no doubt thrown up challenges, as it has with every frontline sector, but the response to those challenges has been overwhelmingly positive and the future of the industry will be better for it.

Firefighting With Foam:  Approaching The Transition To Fluorine Free
Firefighting With Foam: Approaching The Transition To Fluorine Free

The flammable liquid challenges that have existed in the high hazard industries for over a century are still there today. Moreover, they are not going away in the short term, no matter how quickly we can achieve a carbon-neutral world. Foam, in its various forms, remains the medium of choice in tackling these complex emergencies. How can we best achieve the balance between fire performance & the environmental impact of an evolving emergency? What is behind the acronym ‘F3’? How can manufacturers’ claims be independently certified to deal with this combined challenge? Fire performance is not negotiable, but we also need to acknowledge the importance of responsible environmental stewardship: marrying the two together should be the ultimate aim of all of us in the fire industry. Angus Fire continues to address the changing needs of Firefighters & Fire Engineers alike, whether it’s fire hose, portable pumps, foam equipment or high performing Fluorine Free Foam (F3) concentrates. F3 foam The general term for fluorine-free foam: ‘F3’ to many people means good environmental stewardship because the breakdown products from a foam discharge, and resultant fire water run-off, are not persistent in the environment. However, this may not always be the case since the term ‘F3’ has not been defined by any standard other than GreenScreen.  Users need to ensure that the ‘F3’ they select is bio-degradable, one way to do this is to look for the GreenScreen Certified approval.  As with any foam discharge, uncontrolled spills are not always preventable, the aim should always be to contain & treat before discharge into the wider environment. Fluorine Free foam, otherwise known as F3 foam. F3 can be split into two types: those suitable purely for hydrocarbons & those suitable for both hydrocarbons & polar solvents (examples include water-miscible products such as IPA, Acetone, Propylene Oxide, etc.). Fire performance & firefighter safety The cornerstone of the fire protection industry are the listed and approved products, foams, and devices.  Repeatable validated testing to industry standards such as EN, ICAO, IMO, UL and LASTfire are important depending on the final use of the product.  Excellent results in these test standards provide verifiable data to enable users to benchmark foam concentrates during an evaluation.  Let us take Angus Fire’s Respondol ATF products as an example. EN1568 scores it 1A for freshwater & 1A for seawater on all fuels. LASTfire grades it GOOD-GOOD-GOOD in all 6 tests where it even achieves the best “GOOD” rating at a low expansion of just over 3:1.  Put simply, that’s the best. However, we should note that design standards for individual users are dependent on that key phrase, “the authority having jurisdiction.” That could be the organisation’s internal fire standard, the local fire authority if they have local influence or, more likely perhaps, the insurance company. Broadly speaking that means NFPA11, EN13565-2 or UL162 will apply. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the specifics for each hazard but application rates for finished foam are comparable for F3 and AFFF and will vary between 4.1 Lpm/m2 & 6.5 Lpm/m2 for fixed systems & 12 Lpm/m2 for rim-seal devices. The cornerstone of the fire protection industry are the listed and approved products, foams, and devices. Hardware compatibility is also a critical component in the overall system and is a mandate for any UL162 or NFPA 11 designed system. Utilising the existing proportioning equipment, whether mobile or fixed, is a decision that must be taken at the very start of any conversion. Not only must the user decide their position on decontamination, i.e. “How clean is clean?” but also investigate viscosity and the device/foam listings and approvals.  Another key performance indicator is drainage time. It may not be as dramatic as fast extinguishment, but it is a measure of foam stability. This can also impact on firefighter safety, especially in the aerospace sector where casualty rescue & retrieval depend on preventing re-ignition. Industrial firefighters also want the comfort of high levels of post-fire security when accessing plant areas for post-fire analysis. Environmental credentials Futureproofing against ever-tightening environmental standards can be as equally challenging as selecting a foam on fire performance. The best practice answer lies with the GreenScreen certification process. This independent, non-profit organisation certifies the end product as a complete mixture, including impurities. This means that any manufacturer displaying the GreenScreen Certified logo has transparency on what, if any, potential environmental hazards are present. The value of GreenScreen is that in addition to a comprehensive & detailed evaluation of a chemical’s intrinsic human health & environmental hazards, it also provides a standardised & easy-to-understand accreditation to facilitate communication throughout the supply chains & within organisations. Most importantly, this provides a bridge between you as fire practitioner & your purchasing department, because it allows for an objective evaluation of foams in conjunction with the UL162, EN & LASTFIRE fire performance ratings. Only foam with acceptable environmental credentials will pass GreenScreen.  GreenScreen and Respondol certifications for environmental standards. Certification includes: Ingredients & impurities from the raw materials. Human health and environmental endpoints. Online register of certified products: greenscreenchemicals.org/certified/products The transition to F3 foams can be a daunting one, as you have seen it is not a matter of ‘old foam out, new foam in’.  If you are considering who to move to for your F3 foams, Angus Fire takes an innovative multi-faceted approach, starting with a system review to ensure a successful transition with the most suitable foam for your application. Fire ratings, firefighter safety, hardware compatibility, future-proofing & not least environmental credentials are all part of the process, so ensure they are in harmony when assessing your move to F3.

Fire Sprinkler Failures In Buildings: Why They Happen & What To Do
Fire Sprinkler Failures In Buildings: Why They Happen & What To Do

The fire sprinkler system in your building is a critical safety measure and, when needed, it can save lives. Still, even the best systems can malfunction, and sprinklers do occasionally fail. When they do, they can drench the interior of your building, damaging everything from furniture and personal belongings to drywall and building materials. As a property manager, dealing with fire sprinkler failure can feel overwhelming. What do you do next? Where do you start? And why did the sprinkler system fail in the first place? In this post, we’ll discuss the common causes of accidental discharge, and what to do if it happens to you. Reasons for Fire Sprinkler Systems Failure Today, all building fire sprinkler systems must meet NFPA 13 standards. These National Fire Protection Association benchmarks define safety requirements for components and installation, and help ensure that sprinkler systems are well maintained and ready to perform. Still, fire sprinkler systems can fail. Here are a few of the most common culprits: Aging parts Building renovations (collisions with construction equipment, displacement or disturbance, etc.) Incorrectly placed heating systems that activate sprinklers Vulnerable pipes that freeze and cause sprinkler heads to burst Corrosion Fire sprinkler malfunctions can be incredibly problematic, causing extensive damage to your building Regardless of what causes the sprinklers to discharge accidentally, fire sprinkler malfunctions can be incredibly problematic, causing extensive damage to your building and requiring costly repairs from a water damage repair contractor. 5 Things to do if Your Sprinklers Fail There are no flames in your building, but your sprinklers are soaking everything in sight. You have to move quickly to avoid even more damage. Stay calm and follow these five steps: Get everyone out Even if there’s not an active fire in the building, water poses its own set of dangers. To avoid problematic slip and fall conditions, get everyone out of the area immediately. Move them to a safe location outside the building, preferably one you’ve agreed on in a previously established evacuation plan. Shut off electrical equipment Water and electricity are a deadly combination. To avoid electrical shocks, shut off all nearby electrical equipment and appliances, and then, turn off the building’s main power supply, as you exit the building. Turn off the water main Instead of wasting time shutting off broken sprinkler heads individually, go to the building’s main water supply immediately and shut it off at the valve. This will stop all water flow and prevent additional water damage. Take photos of the scene Once it’s safe to re-enter the building, document the scene. Use your smartphone to take photos of broken sprinkler heads or anything else you believe may have caused the accidental discharge. Additionally, take photos of the damage the sprinklers caused to floors, walls, personal belongings, and more. These photos can help response specialists understand the cause of the malfunction and may streamline your insurance claims process. Contact a restoration specialist Even if your water damage looks minimal, you’ll need to contact a skilled water damage restoration expert, like the Chicago-based maintenance and service company, ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba.  Accidental sprinkler discharges soak drywall, destroy carpets and textiles, and lead to dangerous mold and mildew growth, which can happen just 24-48 hours after water exposure. Prevent worsening damage and the dangerous conditions by contacting a sprinkler repair specialist right away. Cleanup and water damage restoration services Using your documentation, your insurance company will work to determine the cause of the sprinkler failure Using your documentation, your insurance company will work to determine the cause of the sprinkler failure. This can be a lengthy process that takes weeks or even months. As that happens, your cleanup team will focus on providing water damage restoration services. Typically, fire sprinkler water damage involves ‘blackwater’- a dangerous mixture of sediments and other contaminants that leave behind an unpleasant smell and a film that can destroy belongings. To reclaim your space, the water damage restoration service will focus on extracting the remaining water, drying the space to prevent mold and mildew formation, and decontaminating all surfaces. This is a critical step that you can’t afford to rush. Work with the best water damage cleanup company you can find to ensure positive results. Protecting Your Sprinkler Systems in the Future While it’s impossible to completely avoid every accidental discharge, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your sprinkler system. Proper maintenance, for example, allows you to avoid preventable issues that could lead to malfunction. You should also take care to keep all remodeling and construction work away from sprinkler heads and systems to avoid accidental damage. These are simple tips, but they can help keep your building and tenants safe and dry - both now and in the future.

vfd