Inside look at how fire stations sterilize against COVID-19 contamination

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GREENWOOD, Ind — As first responders take precautions against COVID-19 contamination, those efforts include extensive measures to sterilize fire stations and equipment.

Crew members from Express 911 Board Up spent several hours Wednesday using different methods to sterilize the White River Township Department headquarters in Greenwood.

Express Restoration President Robert Turner explained how ozone gas is used to disinfect fire and ambulance equipment inside an enclosed trailer parked outside.

“We’ve got an EPA registered device that produces ozone gas that we’re going to enclose all of the equipment in this trailer,” Turner explained. “We’ll let it run for 15 minutes, which will then disinfect all of the contents inside.”

Chief Jeremy Pell said sterilizing gear and equipment is a vital step every time firefighters return from an emergency call.

“We can make sure that there’s no contamination to our crew’s clothing, to our ambulances, to our equipment, and therefore, we’re not contaminating or exposing our patients,” Pell said.

Express crew members also spent time in full-body protective gear in order to sterilize the building’s training room. They used a atomized mister to spray down and wipe up surfaces with a disinfecting agent called Mediclean Blue.

“Get the surface wet, we’ll let it set for three to five minutes, kill all organisms that are on the surface, and then we’ll come behind it and wipe down any residue,” Turner said.

On the second floor of the building, a lesser-known technology was in use in the station’s common area. Crew members used a hydroxyl generator, which uses ultraviolet light attached to a large fan, to convert water vapor into a virus killer.

“We are injecting water vapor into the back of the machine,” Turner said. “It is off-gassing or producing vaporized hydrogen peroxide in O-H, which are natural germ sanitizers or killers.”

The hydroxyl generator works in tandem with several other fans placed around the large room, creating a vortex that keeps the sterilizing substance circulating for several days.

“This is a continual sanitation, so you don’t have to repeat the procedure over and over and over,” Turner said.

Last month, 10 members of White River Township Fire went into precautional isolation for several days after coming in contact with a patient with flu-like symptoms. Although COVID-19 tests came back negative, Chief Pell says the experience was an eye-opener. 

Since then, he’s placed even higher emphasis on sterilizing his department’s buildings and equipment.

“We take a calculated risk in the right personal protective equipment, we go in, and we save a life,” Pell said. “We come out, we decontaminate, and we go back to work, and that’s what this will allow us to do.”

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