I have read a lot of information from around the country in regards to departments beginning a program to monitor the air quality during interior firefighting operations, especially during overhaul, and requiring their members to keep on air until these quality checks come back negative for CO and other harmful gases.  I am interested in beginning this for our department as well being we have nothing set up as far as when you can come off air, and I see members going in to the building with packs on, but mask dangling at their waist's while their is still active fire.  Overhaul is a joke...practically no one wears their packs and it concerns me with all of the press regarding firefighters and cancer rates, as well as respiratory illness...its staggering and unbelievable to think that we still refuse to wear our packs during overhaul.  Is it the "Macho" thing??

My question is; does anyone have an SOP already in place that I could review, to get some ideas of how we can write one custom for our needs?  Does anyone have any additional information you could share as far as statistics, actuall experience's, or case studies involving respiratory illness and cancer being attributed to being exposed to these gases during overhaul stages?  Basically, anything I can use as ammunition when I go to our next officers meeting and begin the process of starting some kind of program for our department.

Another question is; should we even write an SOP right away or just use actuall real time experiences to guide the process and judge what we would need as far as the SOP, and just use our new 4-gas meter to assess air quality and not allow anyone to enter without pack?

Any input would be greatly appreciated, I am not afraid to admit when I do not know enough about a topic and ask for help and advice from others who might know more then me.

Thanks in advance and stay safe.

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We still don't have a written SOP on the subject but we started some time ago assigning one individual to monitor air quality inside a structure following initial attack. We usually use a small 4 gas monitor like the BW Gas Alert Micro. We do not doff our air packs until CO levels are below 10ppm. You could monitor other gases also but CO is a good indicator of overall conditions.

Protect your lungs. They're hard to replace.

I would like to invite you to view Drager's website webinar's on my research addressing HCN/CO. These informational viewings will help you to understand the toxicity of what is inside structures not only from a gaseous phase but also on a particulate phase.

Monitoring is good, however, even though you receive a zero reading doesn't mean the environment is clean. There are other toxic substances lower than CO's threshold that are much more hazardous to an unprotected individual which will create severe health consequences not only to your firefighters, but to the building occupancy once you leave.When the PPV fan is turned off, the negative air allows everything inside that structure to off-gas again to elevated levels

The only SOP that should be adopted should state, "Everyone who enters a structure during any phase of a fire event (this includes overhaul and investigations)will continue to wear your complete SCBA UNTIL you completely exit the structure" As an added suggestion, contact your Risk Management Manager and see what they will not do during a work related respiratory injury. I'm sure the term DECLINED will be stamped on the Notice of Injury Form due to not wearing all of your prescribed PPE.

Feel free to contact me at: e7hazrick@bellsouth.net

I have to agree with Rick on this one. Many members on our department do not wear SCBA's while actively fighting fire or during overhaul which I have expressed my concerns on a number of occasions. At our last training meeting an attachment was introduced that connects to your mask where the regulator normally goes and looks like nothing more than a particle mask and when I asked about HCN or Phosgene protection there was silence! Fortunately I have my own SCBA and wear it during all phases of a fire. Safety first.

Excellent point about off-gassing after ventilation ceases. We'll look at that. Thanks

 I will check through our SOPs and send you a copy asap. 

Thanks!  I will try and call you later, will you be around?

Thanks everyone for your responses and input.  I agree, we should be wearing the SCBA or some type of respirator or particulate masks during overhaul and investigations stages, but I just want to cover our department and say that we at least have a program and SOP in place to safeguard our firefighters, coupled with a training regimine to back it up and added requirements to our safety officers duties.  I feel it is stupid for us to get these respiratory illnesses for nothing...the fire is out, the building is probably going to be demolished by insurance company no matter how much of it you saved...why the hell should we still be jeopardizing our health??  How many of us want to be with our families for as long as we can??  Will the homeowner of the house you "saved" feel any pitty for us if we contract lung cancer and help our families financially when we are gone??

I wear my air, and now that I am a chief officer I will make it so my department wears air, and hopefully have an SOP in place to back it up and start training our crews at every drill about the importance of wearing air at all times.

Thanks again for the input, any more would still be appreciated though!  Keep it coming.

Have a Policy in effect which is included with "Risk Assessment Guidelines" which states prior to removing SCBA Face-Mask air monitoring will be performed and continued. Though it is common sense, there is certainly not an over-abundance of such with regards to self-preservation. However it MUST be enforced, and that requires individual committment followed by absolute, uncompromised enforcement by Company and Administrative Officers.

Thanks Jeff.

Im in the process now of getting it started.

A ten minute video that amazes most firefighters on how little of fire we actually need to have toxic levels of CO and HCN.  The Fire Smoke Coalition has done some great studies on the reason why firefighters must wear an SCBA and how we must monitor the atmosphere post fire knockdown before doffing the SCBA mask.


Thank you for the link, that is a great eye opening video and it is short and sweet, will realy grab their attention.  Thanks!

I am going to see if these guys will come out this way and do one of the symposiums for our county, because we realy need it.

Thanks again!

We, like many other fire departments I am sure, have not drafted an official SOP for air quality monitoring during fire operations.  However, we have initiated the program through training delivery of best practices.  We were fortunate to be able to establish "buy-in" from the commanding/company officers to consistently enforce our members to remain in full BA until the building has been deemed to be at acceptable levels of CO and HCN.  We use the Draegar XAM-5000 for our monitoring and it has been a very reliable monitor for our purpose.

I would recommend obtaining a single gas monitor to complement your 4-gas monitor so you can monitor HCN levels as well.  The symptoms of CO and HCN poisoning are very similar, but the diagnosis and treatment are worlds apart, often resulting in ineffective treatment for CO when HCN is the offending component.

"Lead by example and train for safety"

Our policy is everyone is on air until the co detector reads zero then we use a p-95 mask. I will talk to my chief about getting a policy for you...hows that?

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