Rescue: Hazardous materials

Control Measure Knowledge

When evacuating ambulant casualties, fire and rescue service personnel should be aware of the difficulty in communicating with the casualties and the potential of failing to identify a place of relative safety. To minimise this hazard, it is important that the place of relative safety is identified before personnel are committed to carry out rescues.

Until specialist responders from other services arrive (HART, SORT, police service CBRN(e) responders) fire and rescue service personnel have the only available access to the personal protective equipment (PPE) suitable to carry out immediate rescue within the scene of contamination and therefore should be the only people to enter this area.

Casualties identified as breathing and conscious but unable to walk should be regarded as a high priority to be rescued. They should be moved from the perceived area of greatest contamination and taken to an area of relative safety. At the earliest practicable opportunity, these casualties should be helped to disrobe and, if possible, undergo improvised or interim decontamination.

It is recognised that the time taken to don gas-tight suits (GTS) may compromise the ability to rescue non-ambulent, saveable life casualties in a timely manner. In these circumstances, the fire and rescue incident commander should consider the use of other acceptable PPE ensembles. Fire and rescue service structural firefighting PPE combined with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) provides less protection than gas-tight suits (GTS). However, research has demonstrated that protection factors provided by this level of PPE reduces the risk to fire and rescue service personnel to a level that may be considered acceptable in circumstances where saveable-life rescues could potentially be carried out.

For more information see ORCHIDS – Optimisation through Research of CHemical Incident Decontamination Systems

It cannot be over-emphasised that this guidance is not an instruction to deploy responders into a potentially contaminated area in structural firefighting PPE and SCBA in every circumstance. The purpose is to provide incident commanders with guidance to allow them to make calculated risk-based decisions, based on all available information, on whether to deploy staff in structural firefighting PPE and SCBA as part of a plan to rescue saveable lives.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions