In 2018, members of the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) Steering Committee recognized the need to enhance their decontamination capabilities in fire/EMS and police operations. In response to this need, representatives from each discipline completed a needs assessment that identified gaps in policies, procedures, and equipment required for immediate decontamination on the scene of an incident. The MDERS Steering Committee allocated FY19 U.S. Department of Homeland Security Urban Area Security Initiative funds to fill these gaps, by supporting policy development and providing equipment for decontamination at the scene of an incident.
To complete this project, MDERS staff and stakeholders assembled a planning team composed of members from Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service (MCFRS), Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department (PGFD), Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), and Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD). The planning team worked to develop a plan of action, identify on-scene decontamination tools, and establish metrics to measure the project’s impact while sharing information on previous efforts.
Those representatives coordinated to write department policy and procedures, create a workflow for all personnel to be decontaminated, and identified a plan for program implementation. The interjurisdictional and interdisciplinary approach assured that decontamination would take place seamlessly during large scale events that involved multiple agencies.
The planning team enlisted managers from the apparatus and logistics sections from each fire/EMS department to provide input for the placement of the equipment on apparatus. The group chose simple tools to conduct basic decontamination on scene. Both fire/EMS departments chose to outfit each of their engine companies to carry the supplies, including buckets, hoses, wipes, and soap, to execute the decontamination function. Both police departments assigned their Special Operations Divisions (SOD) to facilitate the deployment of the decontamination supplies, including wipes and solution.
In December 2020, MDERS completed the FY19 fire/EMS and law enforcement equipment purchase, and delivered all decontamination equipment. Supported by policy, training, and equipment, all responders now have ready access to on-scene decontamination capabilities, minimizing threats to their health and safety.
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Firefighter decontamination supplies are stored in a five-gallon bucket. Each bucket contains (1) pump panel hose adapter, (1) 25’ section of hose, (1) nozzle, (1) scrub brush, and (1) container of Dawn dish soap. All engine companies within the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service and Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department carry these supplies, in addition to 1000 gallons of water. Firefighters from the engine company assemble and connect the equipment. The engine officer coordinates the assembly of personnel, sequence of flow, and completion of the action. This firefighter decontamination project provides safe, efficient, and effective decontamination services at the scene.
The decontamination process is initiated by the incident commander. A “Decontamination Team” is then assigned, and personnel are expected to follow the department policy and procedures of gathering equipment, deploying the hose, and connecting the nozzle. After the Decontamination Leader tells command the site location, personnel (in their firefighter gear) walk the decontamination line. Teams apply a soapy mixture with a brush and scrub exposed personnel head to toe. Each member exits the line after a complete water rinse down. Once complete, the crews reassemble to return to their fire station for additional clean-up activities. The unit and incident commander document the activities in the fire record management system.
Each engine company is supplied a tub of wipes to aid in the decontamination process meant for personnel to wipe down exposed skin areas after exposure in a fire. These supplies are part of the normal fire/EMS and police department supply inventory. All supplies in this project are sustained by the local department after the initial deployment.
In spring 2021, police officers in the Special Operations Division of MCPD and PGPD received a set of individual decontamination wipes. These products provide point of exposure tools to clear off any substances as early as possible. Combined with the brush-off supplies, these items start the decontamination process. The police officers training plan includes the use of these products in combination with the fire/EMS supplies. Once exposed, the officer uses the wipes and quickly moves to fire/EMS resources for a head-to-toe soap and water scrub down. Additional decontamination measures are completed with medical assessment and treatment.