Download PDF version

Firefighters risk their lives to protect others, but who protects them? Hunter’s Purpose is to be that company. They relentlessly seek to position their products; services and technology with the express purpose of being the No.1 go-to company for Fire Services who want to do the best for their firefighters.

Many people previously did not realize that flames and smoke are not the only threats to firefighter health and safety both during and after battling a blaze, firefighters can be exposed to harmful carcinogens that can have lasting health effects if not handled appropriately. This is now, however, a well-known and accepted fact and indeed the major “hot button” issue for the Fire Service, indeed it can be seen that globally fire services are now demanding better solutions.

Firefighter Carcinogen Exposure

Understanding why firefighters have a higher risk of getting certain types of cancer is an important step toward the prevention

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study in 2013 and determined that, as a group, firefighters have higher rates of cancer than the general U.S. population. Although the study showed that firefighters are susceptible to multiple types of cancer, respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems represented the highest percentage. Understanding why firefighters have a higher risk of getting certain types of cancer is an important step toward prevention.

Firefighter carcinogen exposure can occur through multiple points of entry, such as nasal inhalation, absorption through the surfaces of the skin, and through poorly maintained fire or rescue kit. Hunter can provide products and services to help in all of these areas of risk.

Some of the carcinogens that firefighters might be exposed to when battling blazes in different types of buildings include:

  • Benzene
  • PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as naphthalene and benzopyrene)
  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
  • Aldehydes
  • Asbestos
  • Toxic metal compounds such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead

personal protective equipment

The NIOSH study also found that exposure to asbestos causes higher rates of mesothelioma among firefighters

The NIOSH study also found that exposure to asbestos causes higher rates of mesothelioma among firefighters compared to the general population. Wearing appropriate and well-designed personal protective equipment (RPE and PPE) is a vitally important preventive measure for reducing exposure through inhalation and skin contact.

Well designed and well-made firekit can offer higher levels of protection; sometimes seemingly small details make a larger than expected difference and the staff at Hunter can show the customers how the small details in the products they develop and sell can make a big difference for the firefighters.

exposure to toxic compounds

What about when the firekit becomes contaminated too? After repeated use and exposure to toxic compounds, firekit can become a source of exposure itself, which is why it’s so important to properly clean and decontaminate it. The best practices for minimizing exposure include:

  • Purchase the best possible PPE and importantly only purchase care and maintenance from experienced specialist providers (remember PPE must be cared for and maintained in line with manufacturers guidance - this means trained, certified professionals using the approved methods, raw materials, and chemicals).
  • Properly wearing PPE and keeping it on through all phases of the fire or rescue incident.
  • Removing PPE as soon as safely possible.
  • Applying Decon products to the skin or PPE after every exposure at the incident ground.
  • Double bagging PPE as soon as possible and changing clothing after removing PPE.
  • Sending PPE for routine cleaning if appropriate and for specialist cleaning and full Decon when required (the new BS 8617 provides more detail on this in regards to best practice).
  • Remember to Decon hard PPE as comprehensively as soft PPE.
  • Decontaminating Firefighter PPE

Incident Ground Decontamination

A Fema Study showed that infrequent cleaning of PPE allowed toxic compounds to accumulate, potentially exposing PPE users to carcinogens through skin contact or (less likely) inhalation. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Fire Protection Research Foundation formed a task group to identify the best procedures for cleaning PPE that has been contaminated.

The group released an interim report that identifies some of the challenges related to decontaminating fire PPE, namely difficulty identifying and quantifying contaminants and determining the efficacy of decontamination products. Because of the diversity of contaminants found in smoke and building materials, it’s important to use decontamination products and processes that address them all.

portable fire sprayer

D7 can be applied in a number of ways, including as a foam, spray, fog, or soak

Researchers at Baylor University showed that compared to detergent, D7’s unique formulation is more effective at removing contaminants from firefighting PPE. The study examined 20 chemical contaminants that are frequently found on PPE, including PAHs, organophosphate esters (OPEs), and pesticides.

D7 can be applied in a number of ways, including as a foam, spray, fog, or soak. Applying the foam on-site after a fire incident using a portable sprayer can significantly reduce the risk of exposure to contaminants that soak into gear. Following up by laundering the firekit will further reduce the risk of future exposure.

Proactive About Protection

D7 has been tested on a variety of materials, including those used in contemporary firekit, and it has been shown that it will not degrade fabrics or cause them to fade. D7 can also be applied as a fog in ambulances or other appliances and vehicles to neutralize any chemicals that might have been transferred from the fire incident ground during an emergency event. Firefighter carcinogen exposure is a serious issue, and all possible steps should be taken to reduce risks.

Regularly cleaning and decontaminating of fire PPE helps reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. After a grueling fire event, having a product that is easy to apply helps improve compliance and also eases the burden of an already tough job.

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

In case you missed it

How Technology Helps London Fire Brigade With Incident Command
How Technology Helps London Fire Brigade With Incident Command

Drones give Incident Commanders an aerial view, increasing their situational awareness of fires and helping them to develop tactics to tackle them. Station Officer Lee Newman details how the technology was implemented by London Fire Brigade and the continued benefits. Identify external risks The Grenfell Tower fire has resulted in revisions to several operational procedures and the introduction of new equipment within the Brigade. A few months after the fire, the Brigade was tasked with setting up a trial to test the feasibility of having a drone capability to identify external risks and assess building stability at incidents, providing essential safety information that could facilitate ongoing internal firefighting operations. Implement the use of drones The Brigade implemented the use of drones and acquired a Matrice 210 V1 and a Phantom 4 Working with partners who had an existing drone capability, as well as drone experts, the Brigade began work to implement the use of drones and acquired a Matrice 210 V1 and a Phantom 4 as a trainer and reserve drone. In the summer of 2018, an Emergency Services bespoke course was run by Essex Police to train the Brigade’s team of drone pilots, who were all PfCO qualified within one week. From start to finish, it took just nine months to get London Fire Brigade’s drone team operational. Working of the drones On its first day of being available for incidents, the team received an order to attend a 15-pump fire at a leisure center, which was under renovation. They were asked to confirm if there were cylinders on the roof of the building and immediately put the drone to use. The team flew and relayed the camera footage onto a large screen that was fitted into a van provided for the trial. The drone footage was able to identify, to the Incident Commander’s satisfaction, that the cylinders were actually rolls of asphalt due to be laid on the roof as part of the renovation. If the drone concept could have proven its use in one job, this was it. The information from the drone allowed the Incident Commander to decide not to make it ‘cylinders confirmed’ and saved a lot of unnecessary extra appliance movements. Applications of drone Since that first callout, the team has been to around 300 incidents of six pumps or more, including persons in the water, fires, and various missing people’s incidents both in London and into other counties, assisting police forces. From start to finish, it took just nine months to get London Fire Brigade’s drone team operational Drone inventory The Brigade’s drone capability inventory includes a Matrice 300 with an H20T dual thermal and optical camera; a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual with multi attachments; a Mavic Air 2 and a Yuneec 520. The Brigade also has a Teradek live streaming device and multiple tablets for receiving the streamed footage. The Brigade operates with two Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs – plug-in hybrid SUVs – and has split the drone equipment into two, with one vehicle carrying the drone and batteries, and the other carrying all the support kit and ancillaries. Working in dark conditions The drones are permitted to fly up to 400 ft above ground level or higher in an emergency and can fly as fast as 50 mph. They also can act as a loudspeaker to give instructions or reassurance and shine a bright spotlight in dark or low light conditions. 24/7 service The Brigade has eight pilots trained and operates a 24/7 service The Brigade has eight pilots trained and operates a 24/7 service. The team is working closely with its blue light partners, including the: Metropolitan Police Service, several search and rescue teams, and a host of fire services surrounding the capital, as well as giving advice to other upcoming drone teams around the UK. Use of drone in future The Brigade’s drone capability has been molded to how it sees the future and what it holds in the way of drone use. For example, the Brigade has developed a capability to drop water rescue aides to people at water incidents, which helps to keep them afloat long enough to be rescued. The drone can also be used alongside the swift water rescue teams to provide situational awareness of hazards and the resulting risks during the rescue phase. Delivering fire escape tools The Brigade also invested in fire escape hoods in late 2018 and has already demonstrated how one might be delivered via a drone to a balcony above the height of an aerial appliance while using the Mavic Enterprise 2 to relay instructions via the loudspeakers. These possible new uses are pushing the boundaries of the Brigade’s original concept and demonstrate how London Fire Brigade works to stay ahead of the curve. 

Chicago Bans Dogs From Firehouses, Despite Long-Held Tradition
Chicago Bans Dogs From Firehouses, Despite Long-Held Tradition

There is a long tradition of canines in the fire service, from Dalmatians riding shotgun in the fire truck to mixed breeds rescued from fires that later become the fire company mascot. The tradition has taken a hit recently in Chicago, where dogs are no longer allowed at firehouses after one station dog killed a smaller breed canine near a firehouse in the Englewood neighborhood. The incident The firehouse dog in Chicago, named Bones, was a mixed breed stray rescued off the street that was living at Engine 116 at 60th Street and Ashland Avenue. A neighbor was walking her smaller breed dog past the firehouse and watched in horror as Bones attacked and killed her small dog. After the incident, Chicago’s Acting Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt issued a department memo: “Any and all prior permissions for dogs in the fire stations or on fire apparatuses are hereby revoked … effective immediately.” Chicago Firehouse dogs Most of Chicago’s firehouse dogs are strays that were picked up and brought to firefighters by the public. Fire crews and paramedics care for the dogs, train them, feed them and get them inoculated and spayed or neutered, then ask formal permission to keep the dogs on site. Historically, permission has been granted, in effect saving the dogs from being euthanized. Breed of choice The tradition of dogs and the fire service goes back centuries, to the 1700s, when carriage dogs first trotted alongside horse-drawn fire carriages. Dalmatians were the breed of choice, given their good temperament, calming effect on the horses Dalmatians were the breed of choice, given their good temperament, calming effect on the horses, and grace under pressure. The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) began utilizing Dalmatians as early as the 1870s. Dalmatians as firehouse ambassadors When motorized vehicles came on the scene, Dalmatians were already associated with firefighters, who continued to keep them on-site as firehouse residents and mascots. Increasingly, Dalmatians and other dogs became public ambassadors for firehouses and were involved in public education about fire safety and emergency preparedness for school and community groups. For example, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog, a Dalmatian from Clarksville, Ark., was a character in her own set of children’s books about fire safety and traveled around the country teaching children about fire tips. reduce stress, provide comfort Currently, firehouse dogs are other breeds, too, many rescued from house fires or other tragedies. Firehouses often adopt dogs, who become symbols of resiliency, bravery, fortitude – and provide comfort and companionship for firefighters who face high levels of stress on the job. After the 9/11 attacks, two firefighters from Rochester, N.Y., gifted the FDNY Ladder 20 company a Dalmatian puppy, appropriately named Twenty. The dog served as a source of comfort to the firefighters, who lost seven members of the company in 9/11. Dogs recognize signals Taken in as a stray in 1929, a dog named Nip served 10 years with New York’s Engine Company No. 203. During his service, the dog was injured by broken glass, falling debris, scalding burns, and bruises from falling off the fire engine. Nip could recognize all bells and signals. On fire scenes, Nip could alert firefighters if he knew something was wrong and sometimes run into burning buildings to look for victims. Unfortunately, Nip was killed by a hit-and-run driver in front of the firehouse in 1939 (and was stuffed by a taxidermist and displayed at the firehouse until 1974). Dogs promote fire safety Dogs promote fire safety outside the firehouse Dogs also promote fire safety outside the firehouse. For example, accelerant-sniffing dogs are trained to detect minute traces of accelerants that may be used to start a fire, according to the State Farm Arson Dog Program. The special bond between firefighters and dogs is the stuff of legend, despite the recent unfortunate events in Chicago – an ignoble scar on a long, colorful history of dogs in the fire service. Hopes remain that the decision can somehow be reversed, based on social media postings. “This is the first tragedy I have heard of in … 25 years,” said the administrator of the Firehouse Pups group.

What Impact Has COVID-19 Had On The Fire Industry?
What Impact Has COVID-19 Had On The Fire Industry?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had ramifications for almost every industry, some more than others. With the pandemic stretching well into a second year, the non-medical consequences continue, and many are wondering about which of the required changes might become permanent. As regards the fire sector, we asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What impact has COVID-19 had on the fire industry?

vfd