The article this week headlined, 'New research highlights MRSA hazards for responders,' is a great reminder about the importance of following basic infection control procedures all the time, to limit secondary contamination and prevent bringing infectious and toxic agents back to our fire stations and/or homes.
It also highlights the fact that hazardous exposures don't just occur outside the firehouse.
Many firefighters spend long periods of time together, in close contact (for a workplace), in facilities that are occupied 24 hours/day, 365 days/year. Under these circumstances, cleanliness and personal hygiene are not optional.
We don't just clean the bathrooms because we need something to do between calls; it can actually help keep someone from getting sick or potentially contracting an illness.
The same thing goes for kitchens, floors, furniture, etc. Given the constant use and abuse to which firehouses are subjected, it's also a good idea to select and maintain furnishings that can be easily cleaned (not necessarily an old fuzzy sofa someone brought in from their home).
We're not helpless against MRSA. There really is no substitute for doing the simple things we all learned early in our careers: clean your clothes, clean your towels (don't share towels), clean your sheets, and clean the station.
Remember that you're not just protecting yourself, but your brother and sister firefighters.
About the author
With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.
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