Home Podcasts THMG027 – Decontamination, Part IV

THMG027 – Decontamination, Part IV


In this episode, Mike and Bob finish discussing general decontamination before moving into EMS and hospital decontamination over the next two episodes.

Complete Show Notes

7:45 Technical Decontamination

  • Process designed to remove contaminants from responders and their equipment
  • Trying to minimize the spread of contamination and ensure that responders are safe
  • Decontamination processes vary – can be very simple or very complicated

9:35 Commonalities Across Decontamination

  • Setup and establishing the hot zone
  • Establishing the cold zone, which starts wherever decon is over
  • Warm zone is always the decon zone
  • Soap (or bleach) and water are always involved – water is the universal solvent that holds everything

15:10 Technical Decontamination

  • Scrubbing
    • Rinsing off in contained pools creates less gray water, which is essentially the water that rinses off of us when we decon
    • We also need to scrub in order to agitate the soap and water – use both large and small scrub brushes
    • This process is much different in the field than it is when you’re in training
  • Rinsing
    • Mike and Bob recommend going from the bottom up when you’re using soapy water – when you go from the ground up, you can see what’s already been hit
    • Rinse off afterwards – you can use everything from a garden hose to PVC with spray nozzle heads
    • Follow the KISS method – KISS means “keep it simple, stupid”
  • Cleanup
    • Once you finish decon, you have to get rid of things and clean up, including gray water
    • You can use everything from plastic pop-up pools to cardboard boxes with liners
    • You may even be able to filter the gray water and return it to the world – this isn’t true with chemicals, though, as they can go through filters
  • Check for Contaminants
    • Use whatever method possible to make sure you’ve picked up chemicals – on both objects and people
    • You can check with meters, pH paper, etc.

22:45 Haz Mat Guys Training Nugget: Titration of Acids and Bases

  • Sponsored by Hazsim Training Systems
  • You can do this drill in firehouses with low potential acids and bases
  • In this example, we’ll take a small sample of a 50-gallon drum that we have a problem with and titrate it out to figure out exactly what we need to hit the sweet spot between 5 and 9 that’s necessary to mitigate
  • Start by taking a small sample jar – dip your pH paper into the drum (it reads 2)
  • We don’t know the concentration, which is why we’re titrating this
  • 2 is acidic, so we know we need a base – mix up a base slurry and put it on the floor (you’ll have an unknown concentration of base)
  • Take a pipette and stick it into the unknown drum and pull out 20 drops – pull one drop out of the slurry and drop it into the small sample jar – test it, and there’s no change
  • Keep taking drops, testing them, and observing whether there’s a change – the colors will change on your pH paper – this lets you know when you can pour your slurry solution into the drum using a spackle bucket
  • With this method, you won’t overshoot your mark

25:50 Biological Decontamination

  • This is essentially a specific form of technical decon, but we’re using disinfectants (like bleach) instead of soap and water to kill the organisms
  • We’re using all of the same equipment, though – pop-up pools, water, etc.
  • With biological decon, we may choose not to rinse – you may be able to dry with an evaporator or use blotting pads
  • Then, over pack in a bag – might have to be marked for bio sampling or something like that

27:00 Emergency Decontamination

  • Hands down the most common type of decon that’s out there – any time a firefighter is removing something from a person, it’s always emergency decon
  • This is the same thing EMS responders use
  • Decon MUST be established before we start emergency decon – doesn’t have to be much, but you need to have a backup team and a decon team
  • Emergency decon is also one of the easiest decons to do – just remove the product as soon as possible
  • Lots of different ways to do this – garden hose, shower, sink, hydrants, pools, lakes, oceans, etc. – anywhere that has a water supply
  • There’s no one “right” way to do emergency decon, but there are definitely some ways that make it harder
  • Make sure the water isn’t too hot, especially if you’re putting them in the shower – hot water opens up pores and gives chemical a good, quick path into the body
  • Always remember to use copious amounts of water – rinse for at least 15 minutes
  • Runoff isn’t your top priority – you can test the water if the patient is stable and ready for transport, but nobody really cares if you’re capturing the water when doing an emergency decon

35:15 Mass Decontamination

  • Emergency decon in large numbers – i.e. needing to decon hundreds of people
  • Helpful to use decon trailers, which can decontaminate hundreds of people in a short period of time
  • Use large flow streams if large numbers of people have caustic substances on them – don’t wait for trailers
  • Can be controlled or chaotic depending upon the contamination of the masses
  • You don’t really need to worry about runoff – life is always more important than property

38:55 Radiation Decontamination

  • This is similar to other types of decon, but there are procedural differences
  • We need to protect the respiratory system of the victim(s) as soon as possible – if the radiation contaminates someone, there’s a good chance it will end up in the respiratory system
  • Always have your SCBA on

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