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Dec. 8, 2009

On Sunday I was doing Dad's Taxi duty, waiting in a North York, Ont., shopping centre parking lot while my daughter attended one of her lessons. I don't mind these duties a few times a week for piano, theatre, choir or the track club. There is often a coffee shop or some other place with a WiFi hotspot, or I can use the time to grab a burger, get some work done on the computer or just read the newspaper. So I sat in my car with the weekend paper. I saw a fire apparatus parked on the other side of the lot and noted that it was parked out of the way of the lot's traffic flow.

December 8, 2009
By Peter Sells

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Not only is this practice
considerate of the shopping centre's patrons, it usually is easier for the
apparatus driver to manoeuvre in and out of the lot.
 

I figured that a couple of
firefighters were getting some groceries for the day and, sure enough, a few
minutes later two of them emerged with a few bags and walked across the lot
back to the truck. I got a strange sense of déjà vu, which I figured was
because a day or so earlier I had witnessed an essentially identical scene in
an essentially identical parking lot in Mississauga. I thought nothing of it
and went back to the newspaper.

In the paper there was a
very good photo of three firefighters in bunker gear and on air, using a
testing kit at what turned out to be a small meth lab in a private residence.
Their gear and SCBA were necessary to protect them from exposure to the
chemicals they were testing. That's when the déjà vu kicked back in.

We are issued bunker gear
to protect ourselves at fires and other emergency situations. The gear we have
today is very, very good for protection from heat, smoke, toxins,
chemical/blood splashes and sharp or jagged objects. We have comprehensive
maintenance programs to keep our bunker gear clean and keep ourselves as
healthy as possible. Part of that process is to leave bunker gear on the
apparatus floor. We have SOPs that tell us not to bring bunker gear into the
kitchen or dorm of the fire hall and not into office or classroom areas of our
training centres. All of this is compliant with NFPA 1851 Standard on
Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire
Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, which says in part:

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Although
great emphasis is placed on safety to avoid injury or inhalation hazards while
working on the fire ground, many of the toxins which lead to health risks are
being carried away from the fire scene on personal protective equipment used by
the fire fighter.

 So why, then, in both
instances I cited, was one of the firefighters wearing a bunker jacket as he
shopped – not the whole ensemble, just a bunker jacket against the December
chill, walking through a grocery store with gear we are not permitted to wear
in the living areas of our own facilities; items we know to be carrying toxins,
paraded through the produce, dairy, meat and bakery sections.

 If it is not a healthy
practice to wear bunker gear in the fire hall then how can it be OK to wear bunker
gear in a grocery store? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. So please
register your opinion with one of the following choices:

  • Our SOPs say we are not supposed to wear
    bunker gear in the hall; they don't say anything about grocery stores.
  • Our SOPs should reflect respect for the health
    and safety of the public as well as our own.
  • Common sense should have prevailed and those
    firefighters should have known better.

Thanks
for reading Flashpoint and this blog in 2009. Stay safe and have a Happy New
Year!


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