The Forgotten PPE, Part 1

By Scott Cook

Whenever I watch firefighters — my own and others — work, I notice the little things we don’t do. We’re great at the big stuff like cutting up cars, putting out fires, helping little old ladies cross the street and so forth. But, as they say, the devil is in the details. As you know, I am a proponent of wearing full PPE at all times. That means head-to-toe hood, SCBA turnouts — the works!
But when we’re not fighting the fires or doing patient care, we often let PPE slide. Sure, we don’t need full turnouts to roll hose, but what PPE should we be wearing when we do?
Let’s say we’re rolling hose that has been dragged through a burning building and debris, such as broken glass, wood, metal, wire and a host of other items that can be nasty to our health. Also, the supply line has been dragged around and is laying in the street.
What piece of PPE should we be wearing as we roll up the hose?
The obvious answer: gloves! Get a pair of leather work gloves from the local Wal-Mart, and keep them in a diddy bag or someplace where they’re easily accessible. I don’t recommend keeping them in your bunker gear, as they will get wet, dry out and stiffen up. They might even get moldy!
Here’s a true story to illustrate the importance of wearing gloves: About 15 years ago, a guy I knew received a small puncture to his ring finger from a stick pin. He wasn’t wearing gloves at the time. He squeezed some blood out and thought everything was cool, but it really didn’t heal. A month or so later, the injury started to fester. A few days later, the doc had to amputate his finger. A few week later — all of his fingers. A few months later — his hand. Something nasty had gotten into his hand and the infection spread. And that was just from a stick pin. Think about all the debris we encounter on firegrounds! The bottom line: Wear your gloves any time you’re performing manual labor of any kind.

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