January is firefighter cancer awareness month and Governor Kathy Hochul has announced a state cancer prevention effort to protect firefighters and their families.
Part of the announcement is new decontamination protocols to reduce a firefighters exposure to toxic contaminants by up to 85% as well as the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control expanding their classes and training to include cancer awareness and prevention education.
New York State Fire Administrator Jim Cable said, “We are thrilled to continue our program educating members of the State Fire Service on immediate steps they can take to protect themselves following an incident response. Sadly, cancer is now the leading cause of firefighter deaths in the nation. Our goal is to reduce occupational illness by educating our brothers and sisters in the fire service on specific measures they can take to reduce exposure to contaminates and lower their health risks.”
Firefighters are more likely than the general public for cancer risks due to exposure to an increased level of toxins found in smoke during structure fires. State Fire Officials will work to help ensure firefighters are aware of the potential threat and also know how to limit their own risk.
New basic protocols have been developed for decontaminating firefighting gear following a call. Officials will travel throughout the state to promote their use by firefighters. Meetings will be conducted by State Fire and officials will distribute firefighter decontamination kits to those who attend the meetings. The kit contains information on decontamination immediately after an incident response and items including a 5-gallon bucket, post-fire wipes, hose, detergent, brush, and a spray bottle.
If firefighting turnout gear is not decontaminated properly after a fire, firefighters risk exposing harmful chemicals to their firehouses and homes, potentially harming co-workers and family members.