Home Podcasts THMG040 – PPE Selection Secrets, Part II

THMG040 – PPE Selection Secrets, Part II


In this second episode on PPE selection, we continue to explore why we wear what we do and go through several scenarios.

Complete Show Notes

00:50 SCBA

  • This is hands down your best option for respiratory protection
  • SCBA is 10,000 out of 10,000 on the protection scale
  • We can use SCBA in every type of environment – high IDLH, low or high O2, flammables, etc.
  • It’s the best choice all-around and does the best job of keeping us safe in terms of respiration
  • It does have its downfalls, though – not useful when you’re wearing it for hours, though

3:00 APR

  • For the most part, this is some kind of carbon filter that allows us to breathe atmospheric air that’s been cleaned up
  • For most firefighters, this is adapted to snap right onto a facepiece
  • It’s lightweight and great for long-term operations
  • It also has its downfalls – you can’t put it on unless you know the chemical you’re dealing with
  • You also need full O2 and the chemical concentration must be below IDLH
  • Breathing through an APR can be tiring after a while – you’re using the muscles in your lungs to pull air through your lungs, so it’s hard to do after a while

4:30 PAPR

  • This is an adapted APR that mechanically pushes air through a filter and blows it onto your face
  • This makes PAPR just as easy to breathe in as an SCBA
  • We have the same limitations with PAPR that we do with APR, though – full O2, chemical concentrations below IDLH, etc.
  • It’s also a backpack, so it’s another thing you have to carry and worry about

7:30 Fire Gear vs. Chemical Gear

  • We have this conversation a lot with our operations-level guys because they do a lot in their fire gear
  • We tell them not to use bunker gear, but when they see us using bunker gear they’re confused
  • We have different goals than operations-level guys because they’re doing defensive operations – this includes things like life safety
  • They can wear fire gear to retrieve people because they’re not exposed to the chemicals for as long as hazmat guys are
  • We’ve been extensively trained on how to wear bunker gear and need it because we’re more exposed to the product for longer periods of time
  • Scenario 1: Acid spill outside
    • Ask if there’s any chance of flammability
    • Determine what level of protection you need
    • Consider doing a recon to gather information and do a scene size-up
    • Have your pH paper with you to figure out what’s going on
    • Work with the wind and elements to make sure you stay safe
  • Scenario 2: Acid spill inside
    • Ask which floor it’s on
    • In your mind, you should double all of the hazards you’re exposed to because it’s inside
    • Use SCBA and bunker gear and always keep an eye on your pH paper
    • Determine whether the substance is flammable
    • Mark the point or line where your pH paper changed so you can reference it later
    • Determine whether you need to break windows or open doors
    • Figure out how to handle HVAC, too
    • If the atmosphere is corrosive, put on your Level A to avoid exposure to any vapors
  • Scenario 3: Ethylene oxide release
    • Gas that’s often used in a hospital setting to sterilize kits, tools, etc.
    • Flammable from 0-100% and unbelievably toxic – measured in ppb
    • Can be a gas or a liquid depending on the temperature
    • Figure out if there’s any way to reduce the flammability without spreading it – if there isn’t, try to minimize the area that’s flammable
    • Consider wearing bunker gear during recon and then multiple bunker gear entries to limit exposure (similar to time, distance, and shielding)
  • Scenario 4: Chlorine leak
    • Figure out whether you’re dealing with a gas or a liquid
    • Determine your ventilation profile
    • Wear your SCBA and bunker gear to protect yourself during recon
    • Bring pH paper, chlorine meter, etc. to give yourself as much information as possible
    • Consult with people who run the building to figure out whether it’s appropriate to use the emergency ventilation system

13:45 Hazmat Drill Nugget from Hazsim Training Systems

  • Improving communication between members of your team
  • Go to Toys “R” Us and pick up any toy that requires assembly and directions – Legos are a great option
  • Split your team up between two rooms – one team gets the pieces, and the other gets the directions
  • The team with the instructions reads them to the team with the Legos over the radio

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Author: The Hazmat Guys