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When handling and transporting contaminated patients to the hospital, make sure precautions are taken to protect personnel, equipment and the transport vehicle from contamination. Ensure that the hospital you are going to has the capability to handle patients with chemical contamination; otherwise, you will spread the contamination. Treatment may be delayed if you are turned away from a hospital that is not capable of handling contaminated patients.
Notify the medical facility as soon as possible so it can prepare. Once the material has been identified and proper protective clothing has been selected and put into use, make sure only the necessary number of personnel are used. Keeping other personnel and bystanders away from the area will reduce contamination.
As part of pre-incident planning, become familiar with the pesticide applicators in your response area. Visit them and note aircraft controls and safety features. Safety levers open aircraft doors from the outside, allowing access to the pilot. These are usually marked “Rescue” and allow the doors to be completely removed so they will not bar access to the pilot. A single escape lever will release the pilot’s safety harness in an emergency. Know the location of shutoff valves for the chemical tanks and bins as well as the fuel tanks. Become familiar with storage and loading facilities used by the applicator, since fires and spills can occur during filling and mixing and in storage. Know whether storage tanks contain full-strength or diluted pesticides, as characteristics can change drastically.
In fixed storage, pesticides are full strength when in original containers. The container types vary from several gallons to 250 gallons. They are required by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to be placarded and labeled in storage as they are in transportation until the product is used up and the container is purged. This may make a difference in protective clothing requirements or the flammability and toxicity of the chemicals.
Additional information on pesticides, aerial spraying and training can be obtained from state and national trade organizations. Agricultural spraying aircraft may also be used to drop water on fires in grass or brush, and could become involved in accidents.
Thanks to Roth Aerial Spraying of Milford, NE, and Jim’s Agri-Air of Sutton, NE, for technical assistance and photo opportunities in the preparation of this column.