LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Fire prevention a worthy mission
I commend Mark Chubb on his article, “Fire Inspectors: Bridging the Credibility Gap” (June 1994). He touched on several points that need to be addressed.
We in the fire service are not looked on as “expediters” of building certificates. In addition, as Chubb noted, some of our fire inspectors may be viewed by their civilian counterparts as incompetent in their field. Education may be the answer to these problems. But there may exist an even more insidious reason for fire inspectors being viewed in a less than complimentary light: Members of the fire service historically have looked on the fire prevention bureau as a place where the “losers” go to “mark time” until their retirement. Such an attitude goes far to discredit the work that fire prevention bureaus accomplish.
Until we in the fire service eradicate the attitude that fire prevention is not worthy of recognition and acknowledge that fire prevention ultimately makes significant contributions to the overall mission of protecting lives and saving property, we will not have an impetus to professionalize this most important facet of our departments.
Patrick T. Reynolds
City of New York (NY) Fire Department
Assistant Professor, OLFSP
University of Cincinnati
Proud of volunteers
I can relate entirely to “What Happens When You Leave” by Richard A. Marinucci (Volunteers Comer. June 1994). As the wife of a volunteer firefighter for 16 years, w hen his pager goes off, I still wrestle internally with the question, “Is it harder to listen to the scanner and know what is happening or not listen and wonder what might be happening?” However, despite the worry, the missed meals, the nights of broken sleep, and the interruptions to family activities, I wouldn’t think of asking him to give it up.
I can still see the tears of thanks from Chuck and Marge Murphy, both in their 80s, when two engines responded during the winter rains two years ago and sandbagged and pumped out their basement. And Mr. Woods still greets me and everyone else he meets with the biggest smile seven years after my husband and three other firefighters performed CPR until an air ambulance could transport him to the hospital. There are other faces of people I know, although I do not know their names, who know me as the wife of one of the firefighters who came when they needed help and who greet me with a nod, smile, or hug.
So. the next time the three tones sound. I’ll freeze a moment and take a deep breath and then go turn on one of the scanners and listen with some fear—but with more pride—as my husband and several close friends of ours respond to what they see as their duty and pray that they all come home safely.
Mrs. Dick Anders
I’m a fire protection engineer and (just recently started as) a doctoral candidate in fire and rescue tactics, working at the Swedish Rescue Services Agency. I read in the June issue about the 21^-galIon extinguisher. Many Swedish fire departments are using 12-kg (we don’t have gallons) drypowder extinguishers for initial attack as standard procedure w ith great success. Some departments are also using a small barrel w ith 300 kg of dry powder hooked up on the first-arriving truck/engine, for initial attack on residential fires. The Swedish National Testing and Research Institute also made some tests in the mid-’80s and found the following:
- It is very’ effective to use dry-powder portable extinguishers for room fires.
- A fire in a 20-25m room can be put out with 2-10 kg of dry powder.
- Dry-powder extinguishers are no substitutes for traditional methods (water through a hose), but they are time-saving because of their portability.
- There is no immediate danger of the fire’s flashing up again if the dry powder is used in a correct way and in a sufficient amount.
- The effect gets better the larger the fire, preferably post-flashover.
- Clothes and equipment get a bit messy.
- The procedure should be considered only when making an initial attack to one or a few rooms in a small house or to a small flat.
In some cases, you don’t even have to open the door to put out the fire; just use the mail-drop or a small window.
Swedish Rescue Services Agency
NFPA 1999 discussion continued
I would like to respond to two items published in recent issues of Fire Engineering regarding the relevance of NFPA 1999, Standard on Protective Clothing for Emergency Medical Operations. First, I would like to congratulate you for publishing a balanced article in the July 1994 issue that presented several perspectives on NFPA 1999. While I don’t agree with everyone’s opinion, I was pleased to see that the fire service is taking notice of NFPA 1999. There were, however, some inaccurate statements made that I would like to address.
One panel member indicated that the bacteriophage penetration method should be peer-reviewed before its adoption. This has already taken place, since the method used in NFPA 1999 is the same as in ASTM ES 22. a standard method that has undergone extensive peer review and interlaboratory validation, in addition to having appeared in medical journals (in some articles published by Food and Drug Administration researchers).
There is no doubt that NFPA 1999 is a standard that applies to the manufacture of protective clothing. NFPA 1581, Standard on Infection Control Programs, and NFPA 15(X), Standard on Fire Department Occupational Health and Safety Program, are the standards that apply to specifying when and how to use emergency medical protective clothing. This is true of all the other protective clothing and equipment standards for firefighting (NFPA 1971. 1972, 1973, and 1974) and SCBA (NFPA 1981), and there haven’t been any complaints about their representation.
On the issue of intact skin being a barrier to bloodborne pathogens, I believe the panel was nearly in agreement. While they agree with this statement in principle, they also believe in the need for using protective clothing because skin is not always intact. The OS HA standard on bloodborne pathogens could not be any clearer in its requirements that “appropriate” protective clothing is clothing that keeps blood or other potentially infectious fluids off the wearer’s skin or undergarments.
The second item 1 would like to address is a letter to the editor that appeared in the June 1994 issue under the title, “NFPA 1999: An Undue Financial Burden?” In this letter, I believe the author has dangerously misrepresented many aspects of NFPA 1999. Her main contention is that no science went into the development of the standard. Yet, a one-and-a-half-year-long study sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration helped to establish many of its performance requirements. This included not only the scientific selection and validation of product test requirements but also linking those requirements to EMS complaints about products then in the marketplace. The NFPA Technical Committee responsible for the standard’s development also took advantage of several other developments for test methods and evaluation practices used in the related medical industries.
Perhaps the most appalling of the author’s statements is that there is no basis for using gloves with the protection required by NFPA 1999. She even goes on to cite a study that says “when leaks were present, gloves presented hand contamination in 77 percent of instances, and quantitative counts of microorganisms were two or four logs less than counts on external surfaces of the gloves.” Listen to what this says. How would you like to be in the 23 percent that didn’t get protection? What she doesn’t say is that hepatitis B occurs in titers (concentrations) of up to 100 million viruses per milliliter. Four “logs” less is still 10,000 viruses per milliliter. Many gloves leak and leak at high rates because they are cheaply made or made from inferior barrier materials. Should the fire and emergency services have to accept that? I think not, and that is why a standard like NFPA 1999 should be recognized for the value it provides.
She makes an issue out of requirements for hair and shoe covers. NFPA 1999 does not require these items; but, if provided, they should meet certain requirements. This is yet one more example of a misunderstanding that could be avoided if time were taken to more carefully read NFPA 1999.
For all those who support or criticize NFPA 1999, the opportunity to make their opinions known has arrived. NFPA 1999 is about to begin its regularly scheduled revision later this year (see page 24). Anyone interested in participating should contact Bruce Teele at (617) 984-7482.
Jeffrey O. Stull
International Personnel Protection, Inc.
Chair, NFPA Task Group to revise/update