So you decided to be a firefighter. You went through countless hours of training to be a volunteer or you graduated from an academy to become a career firefighter. You are now Superman and Superwoman and you can defeat any enemy or obstacle that comes your way! You have been trained for countless hours on how to don your departments Class A and Class B Hazmat suits and you are trained as a Hazmat Technician who can enter the hot zone, right? Your department has access to plenty of suits to combat a chemical spill or a biohazard situation like Ebola right? Well let’s face it you are assigned to an engine company, a truck company, or a rescue right? You have received the necessary training to identify a hazard and alert a specialized team to respond right? How long will that specialized team take to arrive? What do you do while you are waiting for the specialized team to arrive? This is not to say that every first responder is not trained to handle situations involving hazardous materials, because we are. But the training stops at identifying and limiting exposure to the public. What about us?
The simple fact is our first responders are not even trained to put on Level A suits unless they are part of a specialized unit. Why? Well the simple fact is the suits are extremely expensive and most departments do not have them in inventory. In order to even put this suit on you must be trained on how to wear it. Why? The suit has limited visibility, its cumbersome, and the very thought of doing work with this suit on causes the wearer anxiety. When you have this suit on and enter a danger zone you cannot simply take the suit off if you become overheated or need a break. You must go through decontamination to even remove the suit. So what is a Level A suit? This suit is a suit that encapsulates the breathing apparatus or SCBA and all voids are sealed and double sealed. This is done to prevent airborne particulates, vapors, and chemicals. A Level B suit is one that is worn with the Breathing Apparatus on the outside of the suit and not worn for airborne or situations that involve vapors.
So what can be done? We exist as a charity to protect our first responders and prevent death/injury, and to reduce or eliminate mental health issues that affect them. We are going to be establishing a fund in which a department can submit for a grant to purchase much needed personal protective equipment, but we need your help! Please donate to All Hands Working and help us take action for our brothers and sisters!