August 2019 marked the 4th edition of NFPA 1851
which sets requirements for how fire departments select, track, inspect, clean,
repair, store, and retire PPE. It provides a general guideline for ways
firefighters can meet the requirements to ensure the performance of the gear during
its service life.
While the new standard took effect August 2019, as with all NFPA PPE standards, there is a one-year grace period. The new edition will become mandatory August 2020. This gives you eleven months to prepare. You can read more about the changes in this article authored by Jeffrey O. and Grace G. Stull.
One of the fundamental changes to the standard has been defining exposure to products of combustion as “contamination.” This has two effects. First, contamination warrants advanced cleaning. Second, a requirement has been added for fire departments to undertake “preliminary exposure reduction” also known as gross decontamination when contamination occurs. This includes either rinsing firefighters off at the scene while still on air or using dry brushing to remove external contaminants. This is then followed by bagging and storage of the gear for further advanced cleaning. Because the preliminary exposure reduction procedures might not always be practical, the annex provides specific recommendations for how the protocol can be implemented in various circumstances.
Bagging and storing the gear can be a challenge for many departments, including career and volunteer. A new line of encapsulation bags makes this task much easier. The DOT System is a series of fire gear decon bags and accessories designed to encapsulate contaminated gear, tools, and equipment after a fire to minimize exposure to harmful contaminants.
The components are highly durable polyester reinforced polyvinyl chloride and are designed to be re-used for many years. The encapsulation bag benefits include:
Prevents gear from off-gassing
Can be taken in the cab without cross-contamination
Roll-top indicator strip rolls red for dirty gear, green for clean
Washes easily in an extractor or washing machine
Air dries quickly
Multiple variations available for gear, tools, and equipment
Gear bag provides compartment for storing clean clothes and clean surface to stand on
All variations unzip completely to allow easy access