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.

M8 Test Paper - One pack per kit. M8 paper works on the color change principle like litmus paper. (Gold = G series nerve agent, Green = VX nerve agent, Red = H series blister agent) There are 25 pages per package. These strips can be attached to PPE, used to sample decontamination runoff or used to check patients.

M9 Test Tape - One roll per kit. M9 Tape also works on the color change principle, but it is not as accurate as the M8 Paper. Red dots appearing on the tape indicate exposure to a chemical agent, but cannot indicate which agent is present. The tape can be easily torn from its dispenser and attached to PPE. It is recommended that one piece be attached left shoulder, one piece attached to the right wrist and a final piece attached to the left ankle. These locations serve two purposes. The three locations monitor at three different heights. The different locations also make it easy for crewmembers to monitor themselves and the other members of their crew for chemical agent exposure.

Field Equipment Bag - One bag per unit to hold the materials mentioned above. The bad should be stored in a compartment to protect it from the weather. If there is room, the bag could be kept in the crew compartment to facilitate donning without having to exit the apparatus into a possibly contaminated atmosphere.

Is The Kit Cost Effective?

The following prices were pulled from several popular suppliers of equipment to the fire service. These prices are straight from the catalogs and do not include shipping, volume discounts, etc. This example will provide enough equipment for a company of six firefighters.

  • DuPont Tyvek Tychem SL Coveralls (Case of 6, $26.67 per suit) $ 159.99
  • Ansell Sol-Vex, 11 mil, 13" Nitrile Gloves (Pack of 12 Pair, $1.90 per pair) $ 22.74
  • Onguard Latex Boot Covers (6 Pair @ $4.18 per Pair) $ 25.08
  • Kappler Chem-Tape (1 Roll) $ 27.00
  • M8 Test Paper (1 Package of 25 Sheets) $ 12.90
  • M9 Test Tape (1 Roll) $ 26.48
  • Field Equipment Bag (1 Each) $ 39.99
  • Grand Total $ 314.18

This breaks down to approximately $ 52.36 per firefighter. To build this entire kit to fully protect six firefighters costs less than a single component of structural firefighting gear. This is a small price to pay to ensure that our members are adequately protected in a chemical agent atmosphere.

Additional Notes

2. Respiratory protection is not included in the WMD Kit. The respiratory protection is provided by the SCBA already carried on the apparatus. Respirators may be used, but issues such as fit testing and agent compatibility arise. Should respirators be used, the agent must be identified first to ensure the proper cartridges are used.

3. The WMD Kit should not be utilized for company level training. Designated training suits should be utilized for this purpose to ensure that the WMD Kit is available for use at all time.

4. The WMD Kit may be used for other emergencies such as fuel spills, but it is recommended that apparatus carry a separate fuel spill kit for this purpose. The Tychem coveralls, Nitrile gloves and latex booties provide much better protection for dealing with a fuel leak as opposed to structural turnout gear as they are disposable. In many cases, cost recovery is possible by billing the responsible party.

5. Chem-Tape should be used to tape seams. M9 Test Tape or Duct Tape are not suitable for this purpose!!

6. Air monitoring is generally thought of as a Hazardous Materials Technician level skill. The M8 Paper and M9 Tape have been adapted from military technology. The M8 and M9 are designed for ease of use on the battlefield in the hands of non-Technician certified personnel. For this reason, it is deemed acceptable for use by line suppression personnel.

7. M8 and M9 are meant to be used as quick identification tool only. Any decisions regarding PPE, medical care, decontamination, etc. should be made only after the M8/M9 results are verified through more reliable means such as the M256 Kit, APD2000, etc.

8. The Level B equipment specified in this article should provide protection for emergency responders operating outside of a structure only. Personnel operating inside the structure should operate in Level A until the chemical agent can be identified.