Health & Safety

Structure Fire Overhaul: Respiratory Hazards and Personal Protective Equipment

Issue 3 and Volume 161.

BY JEFFREY L. HERBERT Even after the main fire is extinguished, firefighters still face many hazards in overhaul operations. However, the greatest danger is also the one that is largely ignored—poisonous gases resulting from incomplete combustion that exhausted firefighters may breathe in. In addition to examining these invisible dangers firefighters face during overhaul and the respiratory protection equipment available, this article will discuss the results of a Phoenix, Arizona, firefighter survey concerning the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during overhaul. During active firefighting, visibility is often zero, the structure’s tenability is decreasing, and the environment is hot. The fire department thus focuses on safety and training. In the operational phase following fire extinguishment, overhaul, the emphasis on rescuing civilians and putting out the fire has passed. In practice, overhaul is a transitional phase. Although many physical hazards exist during overhaul, common sense, experience, and awareness of your surroundings usually…

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