Force Protection for Fire Department Line Companies

In a perfect world, firefighters would handle fires, hazardous materials technicians would handle chemical incidents and the two would never cross paths due to the differences in personal protective equipment (PPE) required.


In a perfect world, firefighters would handle fires, hazardous materials technicians would handle chemical incidents and the two would never cross paths due to the differences in personal protective equipment (PPE) required. While many hazardous materials teams are staffed by firefighters performing a dual role, most firefighters would like to have nothing to do with hazardous materials. The possibility of a terrorist attack involving chemical weapons has forced the fire service to consider providing more chemical protective clothing to line personnel.

In most fire departments prior to 9/11, the Hazardous Material Team was the only unit that carried chemical protective clothing. Some companies may have carried Tyvek or similar suits for use on fuel spills, but not much more. In today's environment, this is not enough. Each company must have the capability to donn chemical protective clothing to assist in mass decontamination operations should a large number of casualties result from an attack involving chemical weapons. For this purpose, the Greensboro Fire Department instituted the use of the WMD Kit for all line companies.

Should a WMD incident occur in Greensboro, the Hazardous Materials Team would handle the entry into the hot zone to conduct air monitoring, agent identification, reconnaissance and victim rescue. Due to the potential number of casualties, line personnel will establish and staff the mass decontamination corridor. While line personnel could staff the corridor wearing their structural firefighting gear and SCBA, it was decided that member safety was paramount and chemical PPE should be provided. This gear is carried in a dedicated equipment bag carried on all apparatus.

WMD Kit Bag Contents

DuPont Tyvek Tychem SL Level B Coveralls - Each kit contains four or five suits depending upon the authorized staffing of the unit. Suits can be ordered in several different sizes to accommodate all personnel. (Remember, it is always better to have suits that are too big as opposed to too small. Most suits carried range from XL - 3X.) These suits can be ordered with or without booties, which needs to be taken into consideration as the excess material in the booties will take up room in the toe of the turnout boots creating an uncomfortable situation. This especially applies to the newer leather turnout boots that generally fit better than the older rubber turnout boots. If suits without booties are ordered, make sure that line personnel are trained to place the leg of the suit over their boots as opposed to inside. This boot/suit seam should be taped. This will help prevent water runoff from accumulating inside the boot.

Ansell Sol-Vex, 11 mil, 13" Nitrile Gloves - One pair of gloves is included for each suit in the kit. The gloves have an embossed texture for improved grip and also protect against abrasions and cuts. The gloves are one size fits all and can be used with a wide range of chemicals.

Onguard Latex Boot Covers - One pair of boot covers is included for each suit in the kit. Boot covers are used to protect the issued leather turnout boots. (Leather cannot be decontaminated.) These covers can also be used to protect rubber turnout boots as well. Size XL will work for most boot sizes, but they can be difficult to apply over larger sizes. The boot covers are disposable and may have to be cut away upon termination of the incident. If not, they will probably rip as they are removed.

Note: The suit, gloves and booties can be vacuum packed in one convenient package for ease of storage, sizing and packaging within the WMD Kit.

Kappler Chem-Tape - One roll per kit. The Chem-Tape is used to tape the seams at the wrists, boots, SCBA facemask and as an added safety for the front zipper. Kappler Chem-Tape has been tested in accordance with Military Standard 282 using several chemical agents. Other tapes may be used, but their compatibility with hazardous materials and chemical warfare agents should be verified beforehand. The Greensboro Fire Department chose Kappler Chem-Tape as a safety issue due to its extensive testing.

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