By Robert Jackson
I cannot remember the exact year but I believe it was in the 2007-2008 time-frame that I attended a presentation at FDIC on HCN. Specifically I recall that CO and HCN levels at The Station nightclub fire were incompatible with life within 90 seconds. Then the instructors discussed the Providence, RI documentation on HCN. This presentation really garnered my attention.
As a Fire Chief this information was something substantial that I could take back to my department; information that would help to create a policy that would make a difference in the Safety and Health of each firefighter.
We are a single station Volunteer Department that runs on average approximately 1000 calls annually. We only had one 4-Gas meter at that time and I am guessing that only a few knew how to use it and really understood what information the meter actually processed. Well that was then.
I did my own research and reviewed everything I could find from the “Fire Smoke Coalition” including the 9 minute video I found on You Tube. That video is now mandatory for everyone to review so we all have the same information and understand the hazards associated with HCN. Additionally we review on an annual basis as a reminder of why we wear respiratory protection and meter at every fire regardless of the magnitude of the fire.
Through one purchase at a time we now have a 5-Gas meter for every apparatus. Initial and continuing training is mandatory on how to use the meters, how to read the meters and what the meters are actually telling us. In a cost saving effort we purchased single CO meters and placed them in an outside mesh pouch on our medical bags. This has proven advantageous on at least two separate incidents where we responded to medicals and the CO meter alerted us to a potential problem. We typically do not meter on medicals but these small meters are always on and are used as a safety net for our firefighters responding to EMS calls.
Our meters are important tools; just as important as a TIC or any other tool for fire ground operations. The use of meters is a step change and we still remind each other that metering the outside perimeter (where respiratory protection is typically not worn) is as important as metering interior whether it is a light smoke showing condition or an overhaul situation.
Thanks to the Fire and Smoke Coalition for all the research and your efforts to educate the fire service community.