It is well understood that fire fighters are exposed to contaminants. Those contaminants soil fire fighter PPE (personal protective equipment) and other fire service gear. Cross-contaminated equipment and gear are suspected of adversely influencing long-term fire fighter health and wellness.
As a consequence, PPE and other gear are being cleaned more frequently. However, it’s not known if current or new cleaning procedures adequately remove contaminants. Two major research efforts are now addressing the question of “how clean is clean?” These are:
- PPE Cleaning Validation (Project 1)
- Fire Service Gear Cleaning Validation (Project 2)
- Improved PPE Cleaning Best Practices & Exposure Assessment (Project 3)
Project 3 (current) - Improved PPE Cleaning Best Practices & Exposure Assessment
This project will build on and augment research conducted from project 1 and 2 to establish and communicate comprehensive best practices the fire service can apply to effectively clean and sanitize firefighter PPE. The principal aims for this new effort are to comprehensively identify the most effective and practical decontamination approaches for each element of the firefighter ensemble (garments, helmets, hoods, gloves, footwear, and SCBA/PASS), to create simple, easy-to-implement tools that fire departments can use to assess PPE contamination from individual structural fires and the effectiveness of their internal cleaning procedures, and to fully establish metrics by which PPE material and clothing suppliers, ISPs, and cleaning equipment/supply companies can improve their products and services for efficient contamination removal. Funding for this effort has been generously provided through a DHS/FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Award No. EMW-2020-FP-00865.
Project 2 (completed) - Fire Service Gear Cleaning Validation
This project is addressed the validation of cleaning methods for fire fighter gear other than coats and pants typically cleaned by extractors, such as helmets, boots, SCBA, hand tools, etc. To the extent possible, other avenues of contamination transmission were addressed such as electronic equipment, hose, apparatus seat covers, etc.
This research project extrapolated upon the previous project (addressing PPE Cleaning Validation) and extended the same approach to address the other key components used by fire fighters that need to be regularly cleaned. The primary work for this multi-year effort is complete. Funding for this effort was generously provided through a DHS/FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Award No. EMW-2017-FP-00582.
Project 2 - video 1: "PPE Field Disinfection"
Project 2 - reports
As reports become available, we will post them here.
Project 1 (completed) - PPE Cleaning Validation
This project addressed the validation of cleaning methods for fire fighter PPE cleaned by extractors such as coats and pants. The primary work for this multi-year effort is now completed. Funding for this effort has been generously provided through a DHS/FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Award No. EMW-2014-FP-00403.
General cleaning exists for the stakeholder community in NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting. But more science is needed to support, clarify and enhance those procedures. An NFPA 1851 cleaning task group has been attempting to address this topic on behalf of the responsible NFPA technical Committee, and this task group is closely following the work of this research project.
Project 1 - video 1: "How clean is clean?"
How did this fire PPE cleaning project even come to be? This 7-minute video explains how the NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, cleaning task group work turned in to this AFG/NFPA/FPRF/NIOSH cleaning project.
Beginning in late 2015, a four-phase approach was initiated to use scientific methodology to identify and establish procedures for ensuring optimum contaminant removal from fire fighter PPE, focusing on coats and pants that are cleaned via extractors.
Project 1 - video 2: "Fire PPE cleaning validation kit"
As part of Project 1, the team created an instructional video that illustrates how an organization seeking verification would use a PPE Cleaning Validation Kit.
The video, available on YouTube, provides a step-by-step review of how to process the PPE Cleaning Validation Kit for use by fire PPE manufacturers and Independent Service Providers (ISPs) wanting to be verified in Advanced Cleaning and Sanitization as described in the 2020 edition of NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting (which is not yet published).
The narrative posted with the video on YouTube contains important clarifications related to the contents of the video and a table of contents with links to each segment of the video.
Related documents you may find useful with this video are:
- Sample PPE cleaning validation tracking form (PDF)
- PPE cleaning validation kit contents (PDF)
Project 1 - reports
The primary work for this project is complete, and the documentation (coming soon) is planned as nine reports in a series, as follows:
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Is this issue important to you? Do you want to help address fire fighter safety and health? If you want to be on our mailing list (used only for this project), please provide your e-mail address. We will notify you when interim and final reports/updates are available.
If you want additional information pertaining to the NFPA 1851 cleaning task group (handled separately from this research project), you can email the task group chair Tim Tomlinson.