Chemical and biological agents are typical daily hazards for fire and EMS per sonnel, who regularly come into contact with household chemicals, blood or other bodily fluids, and even worse on serious hazardous materials incidents. MRSA is even a threat in the firehouse, although the reports of that have subsided recently.
Turnout gear and other personal protective equipment (PPE) can be an ongoing source of exposure and infection if not properly cleaned after being contaminated, as can uniforms worn in the firehouse. Washing clothing and PPE in hot water with detergent is often enough, but effective cleaning sometimes requires stronger mea sures and it’s important to know the difference between decontamination, disinfection, and sanitizatio.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard “NFPA 1851: Standard of Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Firefighting” was updated in 2014 to more fully address this issue.
Before using chemical detergents or cleaners, check to see if the product is safe to use on the material of the PPE in question. Some cleaners will weaken the integrity of certain materials. It’s advised to check with the manufacturer of the item before using any cleaner so as to further ensure the safety of the person using it and save in replacement costs if the item is inadvertently damaged.