Snohomish County fire agencies innovate to preserve PPE

by South County Fire

As first responders nationwide cope with scarce supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), Snohomish County fire agencies are finding innovative ways to preserve PPE and protect firefighters. Agencies across the county have now added ultraviolet (UV) light units and electrostatic cleaners to their arsenal of tools used to fight COVID-19.

South County Fire
Ultraviolet (UV) light unit. Photo courtesy of South County Fire.

UV lights will be used to disinfect N-95 masks, enabling firefighters to safely reuse masks a limited number of times. These UV units sanitize without harsh chemicals and will also be used to clean items like radios, cell phones, pagers and other items firefighters use daily.

While conservation efforts have helped stabilize PPE supplies at most county fire departments for now, agency leaders are preparing for possible future supply issues.

“We know our need for PPE won’t let up until we have a vaccine,” said Shaughn Maxwell, EMS Operations Section Chief for the county’s Fire Operations Center and South County Fire’s Deputy Chief of EMS. “We’re looking down the road at whether manufacturers can produce enough PPE to meet our needs in a timely manner. UV light gives a safe way to extend the life of our PPE and protect our firefighters so they can continue serving the community.”

South County Fire
Portable electrostatic cleaner. Photo courtesy of South County Fire.

Portable electrostatic cleaners will also be deployed at local hospitals and some fire agencies to thoroughly and quickly disinfect patient EMS transport vehicles and fire stations. Electrostatic cleaners emit a charge that helps a sprayed cleaning solution cover all sides of an object, without touching or wiping.

These methods and others have developed as Snohomish County fire agencies continue coordinating their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This historic effort encompasses fire departments serving about 680,000 residents, more than 80 percent of the county’s population.

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