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Thursday, November 6, 2014
Personal Protective Equipment For Biological Agents
Personal Protective Equipment For Biological Agents:
I have seen countless individuals trying to cash in on Ebola, Swine Flu, Avian Flu and the list goes on and on and I wanted to give you a little bit of guidance on what to get and what to avoid if you so desire to invest in this type of equipment. Just a little background on me as you have mostly seen bushcraft type posts from this blog: I have been a fire chief and emergency responder for the last eighteen years and hold nearly every emergency certification available in my state. I have been a Hazardous Materials Technician and Specialist with my county and state teams for the for the vast majority of my career and often teach in the areas of technical rescue, hazardous materials and incident command across the country. So now that the background is out of the way on to an overview of PPE types and a few recommendations you can get cheap that are effective for most incidents you may encounter.
Levels of Personal Protective Equipment:
1) Level A: This is the highest level of Personal Protective Equipment ("PPE") that offers both the highest level of respiratory protection (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus "SCBA") and the highest level of chemical protection in an encapsulating suit with only one way valves. This level of protection could have ballistic protection under the suit, EOD technician suit under the suit (very few individuals certified for this type of response) or thermal protection over the suit usually in the form of an aluminumized outer cover or a new composite material. Each suit has specific times that it can withstand each chemical (break through times) that responders must compare concentrations of the chemical in the atmosphere to in order determine safe working time in a hot zone. To do this you would need logistical support (suit specific charts, meter readings over time and plume projections) something that most non-professionals would not have access to. This PPE and required equipment to operate at this level would also cost nearly $10,000.00 at the high end which is also out of reach of most individuals. In this level of PPE you are limited to at most 1 hour of working time (except in rare circumstances when you may potentially utilize a shore line for long-term light duty operations). This type of PPE is utilized when entering an atmosphere where vapors would be harmful to ones body or equipment (corrosives, Chlorine, Fluorine, etc.). This suit and SCBA must be tested annually and the SCBA Cylinder must be hydrostatic tested every five years.
2) Level B: This level of PPE still affords the greatest level of respiratory protection in a SCBA but decreases chemical protection from fully encapsulating vapor proof suit to either a fully encapsulating suit with air vents or a setup as pictured above (also known as a modified level B). Some newer firefighting PPE can be utilized in-conjunction with an SCBA and chemical tape to make a level b suit. As with the level A you can add ballistic, explosives or flame resistive layers and you are once again limited on work time by the amount of breathing air in your SCBA. While this type of PPE is much cheaper to purchase and maintain you are still looking at over $5000.00 for this PPE at the high end due to the SCBA (assuming you purchase new and not as surplus). This type of PPE is typically used when there is a splash hazard but not a vapor hazard.
3) Level C: This level of PPE offers the most variations particularly in the respiratory protection category (full-face or half-mask, air purifying respiratory) and chemical protective clothing (overalls; two-piece chemical-splash suit; disposable chemical-resistant overalls). This level of PPE is usually utilized for biological and radiological agents and hazardous powders. This is the type of PPE I recommend for most individuals if you feel the need to invest in any type of PPE due to the fact it will protect against the vast majority of chemicals that don't require an SCBA, it much more economical and has a much lower learning curb and with minimal training you can determine if your PPE is proper for your environment. Note this level of protection will be the core of the PPE I recommend below. The high end cost of ownership can be well less than $50.00 if you go with minimal protection upto $500.00 if you go with the maximum protection. You can actually equip an entire group of responders in this for around $100.00 at the minimum protection level. Annual training and testing consists of 8 hours of hazardous materials training and respirator fit testing for the respirator of your choice.
4) Level D: This level of PPE is simply your everyday required work uniform (Structural Collapse PPE minus respiratory protection pictured). Essentially this should be your minimum base layer for all of the higher levels of PPE. Selecting flame and blood borne pathogen retardant materials such as nomex blends provide excellent advantages over traditional fabrics. I often utilize a set of nomex blend structural collapse PPE as my outdoors/bushcraft outer layer due to the ability to repel water, withstand flame and the fact that it is generally a very rugged material.
PPE I Recommend For Someone With Minimal Training:
1) Box Or Two Of Surgical Masks:No they are not as good as an N95; however, for pandemics the CDC and FEMA have tested these masks when doubled and find they are approximately 90% as effective as an N95 mask when doubled. These masks make great backups and outer covers for an N95 for a few cents, hard to pass up. Cost on the high end $5.00 a box.
2) Box Of N95 Masks Or Two For Each Family Member: These filters are great for nearly every biological agent the flu and other hazardous powders (I keep one in my pocket 24/7 for structural collapse incidents- think 9/11 and the amount of dust). Cost on the high end $15.00.
3) Goggles Or Safety Glasses: The eyes are absolutely essential to protect. I have been lazy about this in the past and relied on just my reading glasses on technical rescue incidents and without fail I seem to get something in my eyes. Get a pair they are cheap! Cost on the high end <$15.00.
4) Box of Latex Or Nitrile Gloves In Each Size Your Family Wears: Clean hands are essential and without this bit of gear you will not have clean hands no matter how many times you wash your hands. Your hands are often the places with the most skin breaks for pathogens to enter your body. protect your hands and wear gloves. Cost on the high end $15.00 a box.
5) Tyvek Suit In Each Size Your Family Wears: Preventing pathogens from reaching your skin is essential and these disposable suits are the ticket as they are perfect for stopping blood borne pathogens, liquid splashes and the like. Cost per suit on the high end $10.00.
6) Good Shelter In Place Kit: For those other disasters where you are unable to get out and away from a chemical spill or other disaster your PPE will not protect you from you can help keep your home safe by shutting off HAVOC systems, keeping all doors and windows closed and then selecting a room (usually a bedroom with a bathroom attached) and covering all vents, cracks, doors, etc. with plastic and sealing seems with duct tape. This is not fail proof but it has worked for major chemical spills in the past. Cost on the high end $30.00.
7) Simple Metering Devices: I highly recommend the Hazmat Smart strip and the RADsticker to be added to your kit. These are extremely simple to use, just stick them on the outer layer of your PPE or bag and it will tell you if any of these substances are present: Radiation (beta, gamma, x-ray), Chlorine, Nerve Agents, Acid, Base, Cyanide, Sulfide, Arsenic, Oxidizers, and Fluorine..... All things that will kill you in a hurry! Cost on the high end $30.00. Note if there is an oxygen deficient atmosphere or other hazardous gas not on this list you will not know it until your senses tell you and in the case of something like CO that will be too late.
There are countless PPE options available on the market today ranging from exotic and highly expensive to cheap and dependable. If you are not a millionaire then level A and most likely level B protection are going to be out of your reach. Level C PPE, to me is where you will find money well spent for disaster preparedness PPE. By selecting a flame and blodborne pathogen resistant outer layer for your level D daily wear and a good set of level C PPE you will be ready for a vast majority of what life will throw at you. If you add in the hazmat smart strip and RADsticker you will know when to get out of dodge for the most part. I highly encourage you to read up on the actual hazards you face in your community and make your PPE purchases based on those sound facts.
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