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Uniforms for Disasters, Chemical and Biological Threats
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Uniforms for Disasters, Chemical and Biological Threats

The current trend towards fashionability compromises the safery of first responders.

(1) Short-sleeve shirts and short-sleeve pants should be prohibited for first responders. Instead long-sleeve shirts which may be rolled up should be substituted. Polyester should be banned. Ideally the shirts should be cotton, denim or Nomex (fire resistant). Polyester clothing was used throughout the Navy and then there were serious burns from this clothing during the Falklands War and then with the Stark. Such clothing is inappropriate for those who will potentially be exposed to fire.

Everyone knows about "Level A" clothing to be used when there is a chamical or biological hazard. But what when there is no defined threat. Only a potential encounter.  The assumption is that these substances are only dangerous when inhaled.

Not so.

Uh-oh.

Nooooooooooooooooo.

Militarized chemical agents can act transdermally. That is, upon skin contact. A single pin-head of VX or G on the skin may cause death. Mucosal surfaces (eyes and mouth) are more vulnerable. Long-sleeved shirts give a person a chance to get out of the vicinity as fast as their legs can carry them!

A complete lack of understanding fo this basic rule by the Chief of the NYFD and the NY Police Commissioner has results (as it has in many other cities) to permit first responders to such incidents to wear short-sleeved shirts. The belief system is that a particulate filter mask is sufficient. Plan stupid.

Years ago I handled numerous live agents and wrote protocols for dealing with these agents during a short period as Deputy Director, Plans, Readiness and Surety at an Army installation manufacturing nerve agent.

(2) The New York Fire Department has also changed the uniform of the paramedics.  From white cotton shorts that could be decontaminated with bleach from both agents and bacteria such as mtb (tuberculosis) to dark blue uniforms that are impossible to decontaminate. A decision that causes me to question the sanity of the Department(s).

Has anyone read Voltaire and met Dr. Pangloss?

"Indeed this is the best of all possible worlds!"

One of the first major breakthroughs against tuberculosis (around the time a 1904 Nobel prize was won for discovering ultraviolet radiation would kill the organism) was the introduction of hospital whites and shoes for nursing personnel and physicians at the turn of the century. In the year 2010, we are rediscovering the wheel.
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