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Another perspective on ‘Dirty Helmet Syndrome’ – and a simple way to reduce the risk

Fire Chief Marc Bashoor details his perspective on the topic and outlines what one Florida department is doing to keep its members safe

Download the FireRescue1 digital edition “Dirty Helmet Syndrome: Are you afflicted?”

Chief Bashoor introduces FireRescue1’s special coverage series “Dirty Helmet Syndrome.” Watch the video above or read the transcript below.

Video Transcript

Today we’re going to be talking about “Dirty Helmet Syndrome” and cancer prevention. Now I want to be clear: I am not one of those clean cab purists, nor am I one of those “why can’t we go back to the way it was when the dinosaurs were here?” people.

But first, I want to share with you what one state is doing to drive home the message to put the tools in every firefighter’s hands and, frankly, to put equipment on every fire truck in the state for the fire departments that apply for this grant program. That’s here in Florida.

At the 10,000-foot level, for the departments that apply, they receive enough of these kits for every fire truck in the state.

I think we’re doing a lot of good by decontaminating our folks on the scene after a fire. We’re doing a lot of good by that gross decon of the equipment and getting everything off of it, by getting all those carcinogens off of the SCBA and off of their jackets. We’re doing all those right things for either our communities who expect us to get off the fire truck and go to work and for our people who have time to get the gear on right and make sure that everything’s ready and that they’re good to go, that their SCBA straps are strapped on, that everything is where it needs to be, and that when that engine stops and the brake’s put on, that they’re ready to go to work. The officer is immediately ready to do the 360. The crews are immediately ready to extend an attack line or follow the order of that officer and go to work.

I think we send a pretty strong message to our communities that and we tell them that seconds count. But I think it’s a little bit hypocritical of us to show up at their fire and not have the seconds count as much because we’ve got to now get ready. And some will say, “Chief, it’s only 30 seconds. We’re good to go.” If you’re rushing through putting that gear on, I think there’s a high likelihood of mistakes in getting the Nomex just right and getting the gloves just right and getting the straps just right and getting all those things right, because you’re watching things evolve. Now is every fire that way? No, it’s not, but are you prepared to take that gamble, that this is the one that it’ll be OK to take those 30 seconds? I’m not ready to take that gamble.

What we’ve done here in Florida is what I consider a commonsense approach. Let’s take a look at how we deployed the green buckets from the state program. What we did in Highlands County was our own variation of the clean cab concept, and we call it the Green Bucket Concept. The state did the green bucket grant program for all fire departments in the state. We got enough for every fire truck.

When we design these new engines, and we’ve got four total, two of them being customs, in the compartment directly behind the crew cab, what would have been space for a forward-facing position, we took that space and created this cabinet that at the top levels is accessible both inside and outside, but down below here is the green bucket. Anytime there’s an IDLH atmosphere incident, the driver’s responsibility is to get the bucket, open it up and get it ready. Inside the bucket, you see all these different things – adapters to go from a two and a half to the garden hose outlet, two sections of garden hose, tarps, brushes, the cleanser, everything you need to be able to do a quick gross decon.

This was the approach we’ve taken with our new engines; it’s also in our older engines where we’ve deployed one of these green buckets to every one of those units and to the medic units that have engine company assignments. They all have these in place, and it’s all part of the protocol.

There’s nothing sexy about a dirty set of gear; there’s nothing sexy about the dirty helmet syndrome. Make sure before you get back on that fire truck, you’ve had this gross decon done, and make sure when you get back to the station, you’ve got a clean set of gear ready to go.

As for the FireRescue1 special coverage series on the “Dirty Helmet Syndrome,” I hope that these articles will help you sift through the topic and educate both you and your crew on the commonsense things that you can do to help break those old paradigms and to keep yourself safer. I hope that you’ll take time to check out all of the articles and ask yourself, “Dirty Helmet Syndrome: Are you afflicted?”

Review the full series and download the FireRescue1 digital edition “Dirty Helmet Syndrome: Are you afflicted?”

Chief Marc S. Bashoor joined the Lexipol team in 2018, serving as the FireRescue1 and Fire Chief executive editor and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board. With 40 years in emergency services, Chief Bashoor previously served as public safety director in Highlands County, Florida; as chief of the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Fire/EMS Department; and as emergency manager in Mineral County, West Virginia. Chief Bashoor assisted the NFPA with fire service missions in Brazil and China, and has presented at many industry conferences and trade shows. He has contributed to several industry publications. He is a National Pro-board certified Fire Officer IV, Fire Instructor III and Fire Instructor. Connect with Chief Bashoor at on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Do you have a leadership tip or incident you’d like to discuss? Send the chief an email.
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