Protection, handling, and cleaning of PPE are critical to the health and well-being of a firefighter. Unless gross decontamination occurs on scene, gear that is exposed to smoke, carcinogens, and toxic chemicals can convey those contaminants back to the firehouse. Because gear releases carcinogens into the atmosphere through off gassing, it is critical to store PPE in an enclosed room with a dedicated mechanical system designed to capture and remove the carcinogens from the breathing environment of the station. Compared to traditional storage methods of locating gear lockers or storage hooks in the bays, the enclosed PPE room also provides the benefit of eliminating additional surface contamination of the gear created by contact with contaminant-laden diesel exhaust gases circulating in the apparatus bays.
It also is important to provide a decontamination room immediately adjacent to the apparatus bays so breathing masks, helmets, hoods, gloves and other protective gear are easy to clean on your return to the station. Emphasizing the health of the crew, decon rooms should provide a two- to three-compartment stainless steel sink with integral drain boards (and possibly foot pedal controls) for cleaning smaller pieces of gear. The decon room must be easily washable and should also be equipped with a commercial washer and dryer located adjacent to the PPE storage room for easy flow of the gear as it is cleaned and stored for use on the next call.
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