Air & Gross Decon

What is Gross Decon?

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Date July 10, 2023
Date July 10, 2023
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When a fire occurs, firefighters not only battle the flames but also face threats posed by hazardous materials and contaminants. One critical aspect of their response is gross decontamination, a process aimed at minimizing the risks associated with exposure to harmful substances.  

In this article, we will dive into the world of gross decontamination in firefighting, explaining what it is and when it becomes applicable. Understanding the significance of gross decontamination is crucial for firefighters, as it is proven to reduce cancer-causing contamination on turnout gear by up to 85% when done properly. 

What is Gross Decontamination? 

A firefighter uses a decontamination product to spray off another firefighter 

Gross decontamination serves as the initial line of defense in the decontamination process, focusing on swiftly removing as much of the contaminants as possible from affected individuals. Doing so helps minimize the absorption of hazardous materials into the body and prevents further contamination of the surroundings.  

In firefighting, gross decontamination, or field decon, typically involves using water, soap, and a brush to remove contamination from bunker gear. Some departments use dedicated decon systems and equipment that are easy to transport, set up, and use. 

Where Should You Use Gross Decon?

Gross decon is typically performed at the scene of the incident or in a designated decontamination area nearby. The process involves rinsing the affected individuals or objects with water or specialized decontamination solutions to wash away the hazardous materials. The choice of decontamination method depends on the nature of the contaminants and the available resources. Water is commonly used due to its accessibility, but decontamination solutions may be employed to enhance the removal of specific substances. 

The timing of gross decontamination is critical. It should occur as soon as possible after exposure to hazardous materials to prevent their further penetration into the body or transfer to other areas. Rapid initiation of gross decontamination helps minimize the health risks and potential long-term effects of the contaminants. 

When is Gross Decontamination Applicable in Firefighting?