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FAQ - Please email questions, if you feel others would benefit, sharing information will keep us safe.

QUESTION: Do I need to decontaminate following a BA wear at a car fire or other vehicle?

ANSWER: Sensible precautions should minimise contamination, such as fighting the fire up wind, keeping your distance from the vehicle. If direct firefighting is required, you must follow any service specific guidance, but this may include damping kit down before RPE and PPE removal, the bagging up of PPE for laundry at scene, and follow a process of decontaminating the soft tissue areas of your body before returning to the station for a shower. Or just follow the process available within the download page.

QUESTION: Should I transport my PPE in my own vehicle?

ANSWER: Well this depends on a number of factors, so you must take into account your service policy. However only clean PPE should be transported in personal vehicles, unless a suitable bag has been provided to store suspected contaminated PPE, such as those used on beaches to keep clothing watertight. If kit is contaminated or dirty then it must be laundered. This is to prevent cross contamination of workplace materials into your own vehicles, and possible cross contamination into your home. The overall risk is low, if sensible precautions are taken. Duty Officers or Staff required to carry their own PPE in the own vehicles should be provided with appropriate bags, such as above, to ensure safe stowage of kit.

QUESTION: Does Firefighting cause cancer?

ANSWER: There is overwhelming evidence that materials in our workplace are linked to cancers. However no absolute link has been proved. But statistically responders are more likely to develop some cancers than that of the general population. Some of this data is from overseas as UK based statistical data is difficult to quantify. However, it should be stressed that the overall risk is low, if you follow simple proportionate systems of work that will help keep yourself safe and healthy.

QUESTION: What about P3 dust masks?

ANSWER: FFP3 dust masks DO NOT filter gases, and if used in compartments or during digging out, then they should be used in combination with an appropriate gas monitor to ensure that sufficient oxygen is available to support their use, preferably a 5 channel gas monitor that can also detect CO and HCN. FFP3 masks will generally filter particulate down to 0.5 micron. Remember digging out is a high risk activity, you MUST consider structural PPE and RPE including SCBA.

QUESTION: What on earth is BaP?

ANSWER: Benzo(a)pyrene is a Poly Cyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH), the most predominant PAH material in soot, and also a IARC Class 1 carcinogen. The exact description of these materials will require and entire page to explain. But it is one of many substances that can have long term impact on the health of responders. Exposure to these materials are one of the main driving factors in ensuring appropriate and proportionate post fire decontamination takes place as soon as possible at scene.

QUESTION: Why is damping kit down so important, and shouldn't that be called wet decontamination?

ANSWER: So let's address the first question.

Damping kit down solves a number of health related problems.

1. Prevents Asbestos fibres being liberated into the air, again the overall risk from Asbestos is low if you follow the guidance.
2. Cools the PPE down, remember the hotter things get the higher the potential for it to gas off, remember your fire science? Yes your fire kit gases off when hot. Those gases can contain the material used to help keep you save such as the fire retardant coatings on the fabric of the PPE.
3. Prevents particulate from becoming airborne during PPE and RPE removal.
4. Ensures that any visible contamination is removed in the warm zone reducing the cross contaminations of vehicles, equipment and people.

The final question, if you're wet then you have used too much water. It is not Wet Decontamination in the way the FRS refers to it.

QUESTION: Why is Gas Monitoring so important?

ANSWER: Depending on your length of service, you will have seen significant advances in the technology available to Firefighters, such examples include Thermal Imaging Cameras, BA Telemetry, the same is said for gas monitors, they are now a cost effective way of ensuring workplace exposure levels are not exceeded. Many gases exist during and after fires, but the toxic twins (HCN and CO) pose a health risk to Firefighters not wearing BA (NOT a respirator as CO cannot be filtered) These gases exist at every fire, colourless and odourless. In order to comply with workplace exposure limits, a gas monitor can help determine if BA should be worn. Note that in an open environment such as a grass fire, then workplace positioning can assist, in such a way that BA may not be required but a FFP3 mask can be considered to ensure that particulate from the fire is not inhaled by the working crews. The scope for this question is large so I would encourage you to look at the report and videos in the download page. Remember a 4 channel gas monitor is very different to a 5 channel gas monitor.

QUESTION: What about digging out, turning over or overhaul at incidents?

ANSWER: This has to be considered as a high risk activity, it is also when we tend to reduce RPE and PPE levels. The potential for increased gas and particulate inhalation and absorption make this high risk. The only practical way to properly protect crews is with the use of structural PPE and RPE in the form of SCBA. Remember a petrol PPV fan will entrain CO and other gases into compartments, so it is essential that you use a 5 channel gas monitor, and check levels before handing back to the occupier/owner.

QUESTION: My Fire Kit smells of Smoke/Fire is that bad?

ANSWER: Just because it smells, doesn't necessarily means it's dangerous. If your PPE has visible contamination then, it requires appropriate laundering. For example you might smell of food stuffs following cooking the Sunday roast, but it doesn't mean you need to decontaminate/wash your clothes. You should take into account the incidents you have already worn it to, and the types of materials that have been involved to make an informed decision on washing PPE.

QUESTION: What's specific about the Toxic Twin (Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen Cyanide)?

ANSWER: Carbon Monoxide attacks the bloods ability to carry oxygen to the organs, Hydrogen Cyanide impacts on the organs and cells abilities to use oxygen. This is why they are considered toxic twins, because together they are widely regarded as acutely toxic. Levels of 50ppm are general regarded as immediately dangerous to life and health. Workplace exposure levels are set as low 0.5ppm for HCN. Gas Monitoring is the only way to detect these. Which exist at ALL fires, but the concentrations are worse during the initial development stage and the decay stage of a fire.