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Fire Fighting: The Destructive Firefighter Essay

Fires expose firefighters to not only flames. During a fire the main hazard is obviously the flames, but there are many other dangers that you don’t see. Those are the dangerous carcinogens that are burned in the fire and those carcinogens are very dangerous. “The smoke from a structure fire has a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. ” (Goodson 182). Besides oxygen, these gases are known carcinogens which means that they are cancer causing when inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Carbon Monoxide alone will cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and even unconsciousness if exposed for an extended period of time. After the attack on the World Trade Center (WTC), a big number of firefighters who were at the scene and helped the cleanup efforts, began to have signs of respiratory problems”(Devone). These carcinogens still linger during the overhaul phase. During overhaul some firefighters feel that it is not necessary to wear all of their protective equipment because the main fire is now extinguished but they are mistaken. “Overhaul involves those operations that happen once the main body of the fire has been extinguished. ” (Goodson 881).

Overhaul is when firefighter’s go in after the fire to look for remaining and hidden fires and find the cause of the fire. While there may be no or few flames during overhaul the carcinogens and toxic gases are still present in the building. When attempting to find existing fires, firefighters are tearing down ceilings, opening walls and floors, putting in their own safety entries, and moving or carrying debris. All these procedures can release stagnant gases into the air which can then be inhaled. All these airborne gases and substances pose a very serious threat to firefighter health and ven their life, but it can easily be prevented by the proper and consistent use of a firefighter’s personal protective equipment. Due to the hazardous environments in which they work, firefighter’s require the best protective equipment for the job. “Personal protective clothing is the garments firefighters must wear to protect themselves while fighting fires, performing rescues, and providing emergency medical services. ” (Goodson 166). Each piece of this protective equipment protects in its own way. Helmets protect the head from impact from anything that could fall on the firefighter, it also protects from the heat or cold.

Along with the helmet is the Protective hood, this piece is attached to the helmet and it protects the ears, back of the neck, and parts of the face. Next is the protective coats and pants, these are often called turnout because they are the first piece of equipment that must be on before a firefighter even leaves the station. The protective coats and trousers have three layers: the outer shell, a moisture barrier, and a thermal laver. These garments protect from flames, hot water, steam, corrosive liquids, and cold environments. Gloves are also very important, they protect the hands from cuts and burns.

Along with the “turnouts” goes the safety boots, these protect the feet from burns and other wounds. One of the most important pieces of equipment is the SCBA or Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, this is the face mask and oxygen tank. This piece of equipment protects the firefighter from heat smoke and airborne carcinogens and also gives some eye protection. Last but one of the more important pieces is the PASS or the Personal Alert Safety System and this is an alarm that sounds when a firefighter does not move for a limited amount of time.

This will alert other firefighters of an incapacitated or trapped fellow firefighter. There is a difference between structural and wildland firefighting gear. “Personal protective clothing used for structural firefighting is too bulky, hot, and heavy to be practical for use in wildland firefighting. ” (NFPA). Wildland firefighter’s need equipment too, but due to the fact that they are doing different types of physical labor to battle the flames and are not as threatened by the flames. This is how protective equipment protects the firefighter’s.

However the equipment is useless if it is used improperly or not complete. Firefighter’s must know when to use to use their protective equipment. The fireman’s line of work isn’t safe and they need to know when their equipment is needed. According to the book, “The Essentials of Fire Fighting”, ‘When at any emergency scene, firefighters must wear protective clothing and equipment for that incident. “(Goodson 167). There are many different types of scenarios where protective equipment is needed. First is the response to a structure fire. Structure fires are any fire that is within a house or any type of building.

These fires have many different substances are being burned most of which when burnt release harmful carcinogens into the air which are very harmful to the body. The dangers of a structure fire are not only the airborne carcinogens. When there is a fire within a building the heat is contained so the fire’s temperature is higher than what a normal fire would be at. Also the fire will cause the structure of the building to become unstable and the building will begin to deteriorate and fall apart which introduces a new hazard which is falling objects or collapsing portions of the building falling on the fire fighter.

After a structure fire, the overhaul happens. Overhaul is defined by the NFPA as “Those operations that happen once the main fire has been extinguished”. During overhaul The building is be torn apart to find anymore existing fire and this cause the airborne carcinogens from the fire to be stirred up again and pose a threat once again and objects may still pose a risk of falling which is why the protective equipment is necessary. These hazards are why protective equipment is necessary to the safety of a firefighter and why they should wear whenever a hazard is present.

However, firefighter’s must know how to use the equipment properly. Firefighting protective equipment works very well to protect, but if it’s used improperly it is useless. “Many firefighter injuries can be prevented or lessened if protective clothing and equipment are used correctly. “(Goodson 165). Protective equipment is made of many pieces and all must be put on properly or the cannot protect to the best of their ability. Helmets have flaps for the ears and neck and this must be used during a fire.

Helmets also have chin strap so that the helmet stays on the head of the firefighter using it. Protective hoods must be used in addition with SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus). The hood must be put on under the jacket so that it further covers the neck and it must be pulled over the SCBA mask covering all remaining skin. According to “NEPA” “all coats used for structural firefighting are made of three components: an outer shell, moisture barrier, and thermal barrier. ” The layers in the turnout coats must be intact for the coat to be used to its full protective ability.

The jacket must be clipped and sealed properly to protect the torso. The collar of the turnout jackets must be turned up to protect the user’s neck. The wristlets must be used to prevent burns in the area where the gloves don’t seal completely. The gloves themselves must fit properly so the hand can be used. Turnout pants follow the same codes as turnout coats. They must be sealed at the zipper and suspenders must be used to keep the pants at a height where they are not restricting movement and are protecting the legs from outside hazards.

Foot protection must fit well because if they do not they can actually cause health problems such as blisters. Finally SCBA, this consists of the breathing mask and oxygen tank. The SCBA mask must be sealed and tight to the face to create an airlock seal to prevent smoke from entering the mask and the protective hood must go over the edges of the mask to protect remaining skin. The mask must also be sealed to the air regulator, which connects to a firefighter’s oxygen supply, to prevent any outside air from entering the mask. Koeppen) Along with the proper use of protective equipment it must be inspected and cleaned regularly. Along with proper use of protective equipment, taking care, inspection, and cleaning is also important to a firefighter’s safety. “Personal protective clothing must be maintained. ” (Goodson 179). Helmets need to be cleaned because it improves the durability and life of the helmet. Any part of the helmet that is damaged should get replaced. The entire helmet should be replaced if it doesn’t fit right because this affects its ability to protect the head.

Protective coats, pants, and hoods must be cleaned because the outer shells have tter protection when clean, and washing also removes any carcinogens that may be caught in the turnouts, these then can be absorbed by the skin and can cause cancer. Boots and gloves must be cleaned regularly for sanitary purposes. Routine cleaning must be after any use where the clothes could have become contaminated or dirty. Advanced cleaning occurs every six months and is far more thorough.

All clothes must be dried but this takes time due to how thick the clothing is and speed drying may ruin the turnouts. Firefighter’s must become familiar with their clothing”(Stull). SCBA must be inspected and maintained after each use or weekly by the firefighter whom it belongs to. Cylinder pressure should be filled, gauges must be checked and read the same as each other. Alarms should be turned on and sound when tested. Facepiece should be cleaned after each use and checked if its in good shape with no cracks or visible damage. Finally all harness straps need to be checked and should not be torn and must be durable.

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