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County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service invests in mechanical cleaning systems

23 September 2021

COUNTY DURHAM and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service has implemented Dräger’s Cleaning Solution package as part of its new state-of-the art decontamination facility, which is purpose-designed to ensure optimal cleaning and disinfection of firefighter equipment.

The move will not only help protect firefighters from harmful carcinogens and germs, but the innovative nature of the new decontamination and cleaning regime will also assist in improving the useful working life of the equipment the firefighters use.

Dräger’s Cleaning Solution package includes Harstra’s Wash 9DR and Wash 6DR mechanical cleaning machines plus additional self-contained breathing apparatus and associated equipment to enhance operational logistics.

The compact Wash 9DR stainless steel cleaning machine is an automatic solution for cleaning breathing masks that has low water and energy consumption. The Wash 6DR is a solution for cleaning higher volumes of complete breathing apparatus, including full face masks, compressed air breathing apparatus, helmets and back plates (without the cylinder).

In-built dosing pumps ensure consistency of cleaning, while the high-pressure, four-sided bayonet nozzles maintain water pressure during the cleaning process, preventing moisture from filtering into equipment. Two compartments prevent cross-contamination. The doors are electrically locked during wash procedures.

Modular in design and simple to use, the mechanical cleaning machines can be configured to suit specific workshop areas and capacity requirements, with washing and rinsing cycle options available in as low as 5, 10 and 22 minutes and featuring in-built water softening.

Remodelling programme

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service’s new decontamination facility is part of a remodelling of its existing training facility, and now provides additional showering and changing areas for firefighters as well as distinct areas for washing, drying and servicing equipment.

New protocols have been introduced to minimise cross-contamination of equipment and firefighters’ exposure to combustion products from leaving an incident to shift end.

The decision to commission the facility is part of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service’s commitment to its core values of pioneering innovation, prioritising firefighter well-being and safety and driving improvements in managing contaminants. The Fire and Rescue Service is part of a Working Group that brings together firefighters, fire chiefs, estates, governance, the Fire Brigades Union and various public organisations to agree on Best Practice.

Dan Wootton, fire officer at the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, has stressed that, while mechanical washing of equipment is something new for UK Fire and Rescue Services, in recent years the benefits have really come to the fore.

Wootton observed: “Dutch Fire and Rescue Services have invested in mechanical washing over recent years, leading to clear benefits in terms of disinfection and cleaning consistency. An awareness of this is what drove us to move away from manual cleaning.”

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service opted for Dräger’s solution as the company is able to provide the right approved equipment for the Fire and Rescue Service’s needs (including capacity and wash cycle lengths) and, critically, was able to provide on-the-ground logistical support in terms installation and for ongoing servicing and maintenance.

Logistical support encompasses ensuring that there’s enough equipment ready for use at any one time and, with firefighters now being required to spend less time manually cleaning, also advising on operational processes that maximise working capacity.

Welcome cultural shift

Liz Millward, marketing manager for emergency and rescue services at Draeger Safety UK, has affirmed that, in recent years, there has been a welcome cultural shift in terms of a greater awareness of firefighters’ long-term health.

“We now know that carcinogens on dirty kit have a long-term impact on firefighters’ health, which has been compounded by the pandemic,” explained Millward. “As part of our ‘Health for the Firefighter’ campaign, we surveyed firefighters and found considerable concern around their long-term health in respect of both carcinogens and COVID-19.”

Millward went on to state: “It’s testament to County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service’s culture that it’s trailblazing proven advancements for cleaning and disinfection for the sole purpose of furthering firefighter health and well-being.”

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service implemented a staged introduction by initially only using the new facility following training exercises. This gave crews the opportunity to feed back and hone the process with heavily exposed equipment to ensure a streamlined introduction to wider use.

“Other Fire and Rescue Services are keen to see how it all works and how well firefighters have adapted,” noted Dan Wootton. “We have various video and online communication tools that we’ve used to ensure firefighters have been on board with the changes at every step of the way.”

In conclusion, Wootton told Fire Safety Matters: “Overall, through our new facility we’ve been able to improve firefighters’ working conditions and support their health and well-being. We’re proud that both of these key areas have served as the driving force behind the investment that has been made.”

*For more information on Dräger and its products visit www.draeger.com