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Committed to the Health and Safety of American Firefighters

Over the course of the past few years as concern and awareness regarding occupational cancer has escalated, most Fire Departments acknowledge Fire Ground where a majority of the dangers that can adversely impact the health and safety of today’s Firefighters.

Dräger offers a variety of products that address health and safety during all phases of a fire — throughout the Fire Ground, and training. Every Fire Department and each jurisdiction varies. The products and firefighting tactics highlighted in this document only provide some suggestions of potential use. Chiefs and Command Officers may consider how to optimize the use of Dräger resources on the Fire Ground.

Safety training systems at a fire ground

Every Fire Ground Is a HazMat Scene

An Underwriters Laboratory study from 2014 highlighted the change in building materials as well as contents of structures that lead to faster combustion at a higher heat with more toxic by-products.

With the recent recognition of rising rates of occupational cancer among Firefighters, these elements have combined together to lead toward protecting Firefighters more and instituting some challenging changes on how Firefighters traditionally operated.

At the very core may be overcoming some of the common fire-ground behaviors that became accepted practice or normative behaviors prior to the rise of occupational health risks among American and Canadian Firefighters. Among the best examples is that of “salty” gear, meaning that a turnout ensemble and helmet with signs of soot from fighting a fire is considered a sign of tenure or credibility. 

Ask us how we can help keep your team healthy

Continuously Improving Protection

Dräger has long understood the need to protect the men and women who trust Dräger products. Dräger commits to using the research and discoveries unfolding every day and to utilize resources to meet the challenges of modern firefighting. Dräger sees its role as follows:

  • Provide products that improve protection from toxic gases and cancer-causing particulates on the Fire Ground.
  • Provide products that inform of dangers on the Fire Ground directly to Fire Chiefs, Command, Firefighters, and other on-scene personnel.
  • Give information that’s actionable to Fire Department or Incident Command, directly supporting decisions made on the Fire Ground and eliminating uncertainty.
  • Provide controlled environments that allow for training of Firefighters in, not only firefighting, but in healthier and safer procedures.
Dangerous Toxic Twin Toxic Gases for FirefightersPlay video

Protection from the “Toxic Twins” on the Fire Ground

Two of the most dangerous smoke-borne gases that firefighters encounter are carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen cyanide (HCN). They’re called the “toxic twins” because where you find one, you usually find the other. While each gas is toxic on its own, the combination is exponentially more dangerous – combining to form a chemical asphyxiant that can put the firefighter in cardiac arrest.

Measuring each gas against its individual threshold does not provide effective protection. That’s why Dräger created a new technology for the X-am 5000 series of multi-gas monitors that measures these gases against a combined threshold. It could save your life.

On-site cleaning

Initial, on-site cleaning plays a vital role in reducing long-term dangers

Initial, on-site cleaning (“gross decon”) must occur before stepping outside the Warm Zone, whether it’s during the Incident itself or in the accompanying processes of Overhaul and Investigation.

That line, at the border between the Warm and Cold Zones, is known as the Decontamination Line. It assures that personnel and equipment exposed to the IDLH have been processed through initial, on-site cleaning.

Moving from the Hot Zone, through the Warm Zone and eventually to the Cold Zone, a Decontamination Corridor  may be established, both for consolidation of resources and accountability. This also serves as a good hand-off for victims found within the IDLH that may need medical evaluation or attention.

Fireman cleans the scene of the fire

Is a “real” firefighter, a “dirty” firefighter?

The popular image of a post-event firefighter covered with soot has become an iconic vision of a “strong” person. However, the truth is that this firefighter is engulfed in toxic byproducts that can cause cancer years after the incident. That’s why we need to question the myth that a “real” firefighter is a “dirty” firefighter.

There are numerous ways firefighters are exposed to carcinogens. One common danger is when firefighters remove their SCBA too soon, before the air has been deemed safe. This can cause direct exposure through inhalation and skin exposure to toxic gases. To identify the presence of toxic and carcinogenic substances, it is important to analyze fire suppression at the incident and make sure that best practices are followed.

How to… Clean a Dräger SCBAPlay video

Cleaning, safe-handling, and maintenance are critical

After the flames die and the fire has been extinguished, toxins from fumes and soot linger on the surface of the firefighter’s personal protective equipment, mask and skin. It is imperative that personal protective equipment be properly cleaned and handled so potential toxins are not spread to other people in transportation vehicles, fire stations, or their homes. Just as decontamination is the only way to remove toxins from PPE, showering immediately after the incident is the only way to remove toxins from the skin.

It’s therefore fair to conclude that a professional firefighter does not need to be portrayed as “dirty and sooty” – but rather as someone who dons clean PPE and conscientiously follows the necessary safe-handling workflow routines. This is how they save their own lives, in addition to the lives of others.

Get in touch with Dräger

Contact Us Safety

Draeger, Inc. – Safety

7256 S. Sam Houston W Pkwy., Suite 100
Houston, TX 77085