Almaeda County (CA) Fire Department Assistant Chief Rob Schnepp’s “Smoke Symposium” workshop took an all-inclusive look at the issues of fire smoke and smoke inhalation. Attendees learned about the components of fire smoke and why it’s hazardous to firefighters and civilians, focusing on the “toxic twins” of smoke—cyanide and carbon monoxide. Schnepp also discussed the signs and symptoms of smoke inhalation present in the field as well as the different antidotes available to treat smoke inhalation victims, including hydroxocobalamin. He explained smoke exposure prevention by using and understanding a firefighter’s main line of defense against smoke—the self-contained breathing apparatus.
Schnepp also welcomed several guest speakers to the floor, including New Haven (CT) Fire Department Lieutenant Frank Ricci, North Las Vegas (NV) Assistant Chief Bruce Evans, and Emergency Training Solutions Onsite Training Director Chris Pepler.
The speakers provided cyanide data and information that showed it as a toxic and deadly component of smoke, with Ricci presenting several training videos addressing the issue. Schnepp took the floor once more to talk about fireground air management and smoke prevention methods. According to Schnepp, “Many departments throughout the United States are finally adopting guidelines and protocols relative to metering, monitoring, and treating cyanide exposure but, comparatively speaking, many is few.”
“Hopefully,” Schnepp continued, “attendees came away with a newfound appreciation of the dangers of fire smoke and of ways to prevent acute exposures and debilitating long-term health effects.”
Additional information on this topic can be found in Schnepp’s article, “Decon Technology from the Military,” which appeared in the December 2009 issue of Fire Engineering.