First responders, firefighters, medics, and police officers come into frequent close contact with the public, which leaves them vulnerable to dangerous infections. But even when they’re hanging out at the station before a shift, first responders are frequently exposed to viruses, bacteria, and mold that can cause serious illnesses.
Why are first responders more susceptible to infections?
Serving the community means close, frequent contact—and all of those germs that come with community exposure. Between your typical cold and flu illness and the Covid pandemic, first responders are often put in harm’s way by attending to sick and contagious members of the community with fire, EMT, and police work. With such constant and close contact with both the public and fellow responders, it’s easy for a disease to sweep through a station.
Skin and bloodstream infections like MRSA and staph also threaten first responders. Out in the field, first responders may encounter carriers of MRSA and staph. While they may not show any outward signs of disease, these carriers can easily pass along the bacteria to unsuspecting first responders.
Also, fire stations and police stations create an environment similar to a locker room, where gear may be shared and there is some skin-to-skin contact with peers. Without proper sanitizing, MRSA can survive for as long as 6 months on common items that first responders use daily, like FireDex gear, kevlar vests, and portable stretchers. While usually treatable, such infections can result in complications, amputations, and even death.
With all of these risks, it’s not surprising that up to 20% of firefighters are now carriers of MRSA – which is ten times higher than the carrier rate in the general population. Every year, firefighters, police, and medics are taken out of the field by these infections, so they need better protection.
How can we protect the protectors?
Not only can infectious disease go around a station and harm first responders, but it can also have devastating effects on the community at large. When first responders are out sick, the diminished staff puts a strain on community and government resources, burning out other first responders and leaving some areas potentially underserved. Education and sanitation are the keys to keeping first responders safe from harmful diseases and in working shape.
Does your first responder team know when to self-isolate or how to cover an open wound? Education is the first line of defense against an outbreak in your station. Keep your first responders up to date on the latest Covid and flu season information, and make sure they know the best practices for self-isolation. Also, remind the team about proper wound care – including specific information on when to clean, cover, and when to consider it healed.
Still, you can’t prevent everything. Once a possible outbreak is identified, take every precaution to prevent spreading by encouraging frequent handwashing and limiting gear sharing. When working with the public, employ the use of PPE like gloves, masks, and eye protection. And, of course, make sure to frequently sanitize all gear, equipment, and surfaces inside workstations or vehicles.
Get the Funk Out with Decon Zone
Sometimes there isn’t enough gear to go around, and items have to be shared. Or, situations can escalate quickly and there isn’t enough time to make sure everyone is grabbing their own personal gear. No need to worry – Decon Zone can protect first responders even in the most urgent situations.
Decon Zone takes the time, hassle, and potential damage to gear out of sanitizing. By harnessing the power of ozone, our Decon Zone sanitizing system eliminates viruses, bacteria, and molds to keep first responders out serving the community. In under an hour, the Decon Zone chamber uses a dry cycle to sanitize gear, without leaving behind any oils or residues that could diminish any of your gear’s protective qualities. Once the cycle is over, the gear is rid of pathogens and ready for immediate use.
In addition to the sanitizing benefits, Decon Zone gets the funk and odor out of frequently used, often sweaty gear. After the ozone cycle, your first responders will smell fresh and be protected from harmful pathogens.
Are you interested in learning more about Decon Zone? Get in touch.