Protecting emergency services - also from the Toxic Twins
When a call is over, the danger isn ́t. Even in the safe surrounding of the fire station firefighters still could get exposed to carcinogenic substances. Dräger provides technological innovations to minimize hazards and risks.16 Jun 2020
The spread of harmful gases, vapours and particles could still be present on the PPE of the emergency personnel. Proper self-handling and maintenance is therefore equally important as the protection during a deployment.
After the flames die and the fire has been quenched, the toxins from fumes and soot linger on the surface of each firefighter’s personal protective equipment, masks and skin. Treating contaminated materials after the event of a fire plays a critical role in protecting their health and wellbeing. Personal protective equipment needs to be properly and thoroughly cleaned and handled in a safe and appropriate manner so as not to spread potential toxins to other people via transportation vehicles, fire stations, or even their homes.
A particular danger emanates from the Toxic Twins. Smoke from structural fires produces many toxic gases that put firefighters at risk, including carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) Together, they are known in the fire industry as the "toxic twins" – they create a deadly chemical asphyxiant that can put the fire fighter or fire victim into cardiac arrest at the time of the fire and cause cancer decades later. Because the combination of CO and HCN is exponentially more harmful than exposure to these agents individually, measuring each gas against its single alarm threshold is insufficient for overhaul operations.
Dräger has introduced a new signal processing technology specifically for the Toxic Twins that offers protection against the combination of CO and HCN. The default alarm thresholds for CO are 30ppm and 60ppm, for HCN 1.9ppm and 3.8ppm. Previously, the state of the art was to treat and measure CO and HCN separately - that is, no adjustment was made if both gases occurred at the same time.
Each exceeding of the alarm threshold was analyzed separately. However, insufficient attention has been paid to the toxic synergy of these substances. The new Toxic Twins signal processing, on the other hand, measures the gas values simultaneously and adds them up. An alarm is triggered by scaling the concentration of both substances. Dräger has integrated the Toxic Twins function into the Dräger X-am® 5000/5600 & 8000 gas detectors equipped with firmware 7.0 or later versions. This Dräger technology for the toxic substances CO & HCN is patented.
The innovative Toxic Twins feature increases the safety of firefighters based on scientific research conducted in the United States. With the new technology, Dräger offers emergency personnel the greatest possible security against the toxic-synergetic effect of hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide.
Maintaining equipment is the only option to diminish contamination from PPE and further spreading of toxins. In addition, demand has also increased for new processes which emphasize better asset management, safe cleaning processes, more frequent testing of equipment. Due to the higher frequency of maintenance effective and efficient post- incident solutions have become pivotal tools towards a healthy working environment in the Fire Services.
It is therefore fair to conclude, that a professional firefighter does not need to be portrayed as “dirty and sooty”, but as someone who dons clean personal protective equipment and conscientiously applies all the necessary safehandling work-flow routines so as to save our lives as well as saving their own lives.
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