When the awareness and knowledge about occupational cancer among firefighters increased within the Huntley Fire Protection District they decided to take action. The first step was to implement a cancer prevention policy which led them to invest in a Solo Rescue® decon washer. After a couple of years’ use, it has now changed the mindset among their firefighters and raised the awareness of the importance of proper decontamination of all the protective gear.
About five years ago the Huntley Fire Protection District started doing some basic research about cancer among firefighters through the Illinois Fire Service Institute which led them to implement a cancer policy in the department. The policy guides the department in how they should work to prevent and minimize the threat of exposure to carcinogens. This includes an on the scene dirty wash where the firefighters should hose each other off, take their PPE off and put all the gear in bags to avoid contaminating the fire trucks. Once back at the station all PPE should be thoroughly washed and decontaminated. For the turnout gear this means washing it in an extractor but for the SCBAs, facepieces, helmets, boots, and gloves they did not have a machine-washing solution which meant that they had to decontaminate the gear the old fashion way using a brush and soap. Once everything is dried it can then be put back into service again.
We just lost a deputy chief due to line of duty cancer. We are trying to minimize that for the future. We are trying to implement this policy both for the future of the kids coming under the fire service, and also for the guys that are on now to be able to enjoy their retirement.
The cancer prevention policy is an important part of the department’s aim to take care of their staff. “We just lost a deputy chief due to line of duty cancer. We are trying to minimize that for the future. We are trying to implement this policy both for the future of the kids coming under the fire service, and also for the guys that are on now to be able to enjoy their retirement. And if there is way of minimizing the risk of getting cancer, we at the Huntley Fire Protective District are going to do the best we can to do that.” says lieutenant James Brown.
And the cancer prevention policy means a lot to the men and women working at the Huntley Fire Protection District. “The guys have embraced the concerns and the issues that are developing through fires and the by-products that we are absorbing. And they understand that this is a big issue. At this point they have embraced it to the point of now they are doing it after every fire like we should be doing.” Says Brown.
Investing in the Solo Rescue decon washer
When the cancer prevention policy was first implemented the firefighters had to decontaminate their PPE such as SCBAs by hand. “It took forever. We used a lot of soap. We can only do so much with the brush and water.” Brown says. They decided to look at alternatives that did not mean manual cleaning and decontamination and after doing some research they learned about the Solo Rescue. However, at that point the machine was not available in the US. After reaching out they finally received information that it would become available within the next couple of years and three years later the Huntley Fire Protective District decided to invest in their first Solo Rescue.
My first impression of the Solo Rescue decon washer was impressive. How much it cleaned and decontaminated our old air packs that we had. The water would start out clean and when we washed them it was dirty, I mean it was jet black water.
That was about two and half years ago and Brown remembers his first impression after it had been installed. “My first impression of the Solo Rescue decon washer was impressive. How much it cleaned and decontaminated our old air packs that we had. The water would start out clean and when we washed them it was dirty, I mean it was jet black water. And also, all the soap that came out our packs from cleaning it the old way, which tells you we didn’t really decon them that well.”
Main benefits of using the Solo Rescue decon washer
The Huntley Fire Protection District uses the Solo Rescue between 2–4 times a week depending on how many calls and fires they get and how much training they do, and it can be up to a full day of use. They bought the machine with all accessories which enables them to wash both helmets and gloves which is a big plus for them, especially the helmets. “Guys don’t like washing their helmets” Brown says.
A cycle only takes 8 minutes and it gets into every little spot of the gear compared to the old fashion way which took us 30 minutes to just clean one pack
Apart from being able to wash different types of gear in the machine they see time as the main benefit. “A cycle only takes 8 minutes and it gets into every little spot of the gear compared to the old fashion way which took us 30 minutes to just clean one pack”
A changed mindset
After installing the Solo Rescue, they have noticed a changed mindset among the firefighters. “The SCBA washer has changed the Huntley Fire Protection District’s mindset with the guys knowing that when air packs are being decontaminated through the washer with the data that we received and the training that we have done it gives them an ease of mind knowing that it is beneficial for them and for the long term of their health.”