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Other operational considerations for fire and rescue services

  • Approach upwind and uphill as appropriate (note Firemet information).
  • Any decision to use controlled burn tactics at a fire should be made on the basis of prior discussion with the site safety officer/adviser, or other subject matter advisers, and a thorough written risk assessment.
  • The use of water should be minimised and any run off should be prevented from entering water courses.
  • All staff and other responders should be strictly controlled to restrict the potential for exposure, including restricting the number of staff entering the hazard zone.
  • A thorough safety brief must be carried out before personnel are deployed into the hazard zone
  • The incident commander or hazardous materials adviser should maintain constant liaison with the on-site specialist or safety officer/adviser. The incident commander should also appoint and brief safety officers to strictly supervise the inner cordon; this cordon should be based on pre-planning or specialist advice.
  • Personnel should be made aware of the potential risks of disease and infection at off-site incidents such as animal incidents and road traffic collisions.
  • All responders should be prohibited from eating, drinking and smoking whilst at the incident.
  • At animal testing establishments, the likelihood of biologically infected animals escaping during an incident is remote, however, capturing such animals could be dangerous and no attempt should be made without specialist advice.
  • Where an intense fire is involved and microorganisms could be carried into the atmosphere by convection currents, downwind evacuation should be considered.
  • In cases of suspected exposure to HIV or Hepatitis virus, incident commanders should consider the need for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) within one hour.
  • When dealing with incidents involving sheep, incident commanders should be aware of the risks of infection to women firefighters who could be in the early stages of pregnancy; women firefighters can become seriously ill and possibly miscarry if infected with chlamydia psittaci (enzootic abortion).
  • Specialist advice about on-site decontamination may be required, especially if the incident involves group 3 or 4 pathogens.
  • Generally, personal protective equipment should be washed down with disinfectant (hypochlorite solution of 10,000 ppm recommended) but advice from subject matter advisers must be sought.
  • Contaminated chemical protective clothing and other equipment should not be removed from the incident until thoroughly disinfected, and then only with authorisation from subject matter advisers

The level of PPE required will depend on:

  • The nature of any biohazard present
  • The potential for exposure to known biohazards and taking the nature of the incident into account, whether those biohazards could reasonably be expected to be present (e.g. at animal rescues, road traffic collisions, etc.)
  • The advice of biohazard subject matter advisers
  • Operational circumstances (e.g. immediate life saving rescues, fires etc.)

Other hazards to consider:

  • High security levels, including electronic locking mechanisms, preventing unauthorised access
  • Premises containing hazard group 3 & 4 are required to maintain negative pressure (up to -50Pa) to prevent the release of biological agents outside the building
  • An uninterruptable power supply to lab equipment and building facilities
  • Regular disinfection of labs generally takes the form of gaseous formaldehyde fumigation over a 12-hour period
  • The presence of:
    • Various types of animals used for research purposes
    • Other pressurised gases, including nitrogen, hydrogen, helium and oxygen
    • Chemicals, including acids, bases, alcohols, volatile agents and toxic or carcinogenic organic compounds
    • Radiation sources for sterilisation

Records of anyone exposed to biohazards during operations should be kept, together with details of the organism encountered. Medical advice should be sought.