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State Launches New Effort to Help Protect Firefighters

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State Fire officials yesterday (February 19) announced a new effort to help protect firefighters and their families across New York State from the threat of cancer, which they experience at much higher rates than the general public due to increased exposure to toxins.

A new basic protocol for decontaminating gear after a response call has now been developed, which research has shown can reduce toxic and carcinogenic exposure for firefighters and their loved ones by up to 85%.

“State Fire is taking the lead in New York to help firefighters make the changes necessary for protecting their health,” said New York State Fire Administrator Francis Nerney. “Smoke from every fire contains toxic chemicals linked to cancer and by taking basic steps to educate our brothers and sisters in the fire service, we can begin to change the culture and get the safe behaviors we are promoting into action.”

Experts from the state will now be out promoting the new protocol to departments across the state, which includes the following preventative actions:

  • Firefighters are rinsed off with a garden hose at low pressures to remove large contaminates upon completion of their work at the scene.
  • They are then sprayed with a liquid dish soap and water solution and scrubbed with soft bristled brushes
  • The Firefighter is rinsed again with the low-pressure garden hose and then washes their helmet
  • Finally, the gear is bagged for transport to prevent contamination from spreading and subsequently washed following their individual department’s policy

When turnout gear isn’t decontaminated properly after a fire, firefighters can carry a host of harmful chemicals with them to their firehouses and homes, which then poses risk of cross-contaminating co-workers and family members.

According to two studies conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer at a nine percent higher rate than the general public, while experiencing cancer-related deaths at a 14 percent higher rate.

“We can decrease the exposure to the dangers we face if we want too,” said New York State Association of Fire Chiefs Director Timothy Boel. “Decontamination is such an easy task to accomplish why would you want to expose yourself, other personnel or your family to the dangers we face in our job to protect others. Take the time, energy and effort to make the job you enjoy and have chosen to do the safest it can be.”

New sessions are being scheduled on a rolling basis.

If you are a firefighter and looking for an educational session near you, or would like to host one at your department, view the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control’s training calendar, or contact your County’s Fire Coordinator.

Video below from NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Fire Prevention:

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