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Control measure
Establish firefighter decontamination

Control measure knowledge

The type of decontamination will be based on a number of factors:

  • The level and type of personal protective equipment (PPE) (structural fire kit, liquid-tight or gas-tight chemical protection or re-usable or disposable protection)
  • The type and quantity of contaminant
  • The type and availability of decontamination additives
  • The ability to monitor and/or detect contamination
  • The availability of drainage and/or containment options
  • The conditions of the weather (rain and wind)
  • The topography of the area
  • The availability of equipment to conduct the decontamination

The location of the decontamination area should take into account the following:

  • The topography of the ground - it should be a flat area or sloped away from unprotected personnel in the cold zone
  • Wind direction should be blowing away from unprotected personnel
  • Any drainage in the area should be identified as either surface, foul or combined drainage and then blocked using a suitable drain blocker or mat
  • It should be set up in the cold zone until ready to receive contaminated members of personnel, at which point it should become the warm zone
  • It should be appropriately marked to prevent unprotected people from entering the decontamination zone
  • Operational circumstances and the risk assessment
  • The level and method of decontamination
  • The weather conditions
  • Location of breathing apparatus (BA) entry control
  • Location of a pumping appliance if wet decontamination is being provided

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Put systems in place to assess contamination of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other kit
  • Provide suitable equipment to conduct a decontamination process, or range of decontamination processes, based on the types of contamination likely or possible to be encountered during operational incidents in their area
  • Ensure personnel that respond to hazardous materials incidents are provided with the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding to operate decontamination effectively
  • Provide hazardous materials advisers (HMA) to determine appropriate decontamination including the use of any additive to assist in removing the contaminant
  • Provide a system to contain all run-off before seeking approval for disposal (see National Operational Guidance: Environmental protection)
  • Provide a system for contacting the environmental agencies and/or local water company before disposal of run-off
  • Consider providing structured reference documents that detail the appropriate decontamination procedures
  • Provide arrangements for dealing with contaminated equipment, including equipment used inside the hot zone and the decontamination equipment used for the decontamination process

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Ensure that decontamination should be available before any fire and rescue personnel are committed to the hot zone
  • Use any reference documents or aide-memoire
  • Contain all run-off from the decontamination process
  • Contain all hazardous waste in suitable containers
  • Provide a route in and route out of the decontamination zone
  • Provide decontamination personnel in suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) to assist contaminated personnel
  • Provide support personnel in structural fire kit to assist decontamination personnel
  • Take advice from a hazardous materials adviser (HMA) on arrangements for contaminated equipment and other wastes
  • Consider firefighter decontamination arrangements prior to committing personnel to the hot zone 

  • Contain all run-off from the decontamination process until disposal arrangements are agreed