Firefighter Decon Does Not Stop At Wipes

By Ricochet Gear March 29, 2022
Proper PPE cleaning after live fire training helps fight firefighter cancer.

You trust that your personal protective equipment (PPE) is made to properly fit and protect you not only from extreme fire behavior, but also from the lingering toxins that cling to you and your gear. Ricochet PPE is made not to meet, but to exceed NFPA 1999, 1951, and 1971 standards. Numerous rigorous tests are designed and conducted to guarantee the durability and effectiveness of the barriers to liquid and liquid-borne pathogen penetration under the extreme conditions that PPE may face in the field. As tough as Ricochet is with the NFPA standards, you need to be tough in cleaning and decontamination.

Ricochet is focused on assisting you with not only having quality structural firefighting PPE, but with thoroughly inspecting and cleaning it as well. Ricochet’s NFPA 1851 Instructional Guide gives you the best practices for regular and advanced cleaning of structural and proximity gear.

Research has shown that firefighters face a significant health risk due to the toxins found not only in structure fires, but in training fires as well. Some of the same compounds produced during an emergency fire are also produced during training fires. The burning of oriented strand board (OSB) produces high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and benzene. Burning pallets and straw produces volatile organic compounds and acid gasses. Even with the required use of SCBA, students and instructors both face repeated exposures to these toxins. Contamination of PPE also contributes to the biological uptake of these toxins, especially with increased exposure. Among all the efforts to reduce this contamination and cross-contamination, in-field decontamination and cleaning of PPE is just as essential as cleaning your skin afterwards.

Despite how a certain fire department may specifically do a field-decontamination on-scene and in training scenarios, some common necessary tasks in order should include: a rinse of the firefighter or instructor while they are still properly donned in full PPE in order to remove large and loose particles and contaminants, followed by a top to bottom scrubbing using a soap and water solution, and completed with a final rinse. Several departments have created specific ways to remove the PPE to limit contact with the wearer’s skin. If your department uses the research to create a decontamination and removal process, the goal is to reach as much decontamination as possible in the field, not just to have a wiped down firefighter and instructor and bagged gear.

Ricochet provides the necessary information for PPE inspection and laundering. The NFPA 1851 Instructional Guide complies with NFPA 1851 for the inspection, cleaning and decontamination of your structural firefighting and proximity PPE. The research reminds us that your PPE plays a large part in cross-contamination and is affected by firehouse culture. Proper cleaning and inspecting of your PPE go hand in hand with the safety and lessons learned in the training environment.