January 2011

Your Fire Department: A Source of Decontamination Refresher Training

A close working relationship with the Roseburg Fire Department gives Mercy Medical Center, Roseburg, OR, a source for professional refresher training on decontamination procedures.

Mercy formed its decontamination team several years ago to be ready to respond to situations, such as hazardous waste spills, which might require the decontamination of patients. "The hospital is located near Interstate 5, which has the potential for traffic accidents involving vehicles that haul hazardous materials," said Peggy Bones, safety officer for Mercy. "For six years now, we've applied for and been awarded grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that we use for personal protective equipment and training for our Patient Decontamination Team."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that decontamination team members receive annual refresher training to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. This training may be purchased from vendors, but Bones found another source. "At the suggestion of Davina Nolten at Franciscan Health System in Tacoma, WA, we reached out to our local fire department," said Bones. "Of course, we have worked with our fire department for many years on community health and emergency response issues. We learned that, as first responders, firefighters also need annual refresher training in decontamination procedures. They invited our team to join in their training."

The day-long refresher training includes classroom and active components. "We spend the morning on decontamination gear and procedures," said Bones. "In the afternoon, we have a simulation exercise."

The shared training has built an even closer relationship between the hospital and the fire department - and, it lowers the hospital's cost for decontamination refresher training. "The fire department doesn't charge us for the training," said Bones. "They see it as a good thing for our community. And, we are able to use some of the grant funds we receive from the HRSA to pay for the time our employees spend in training.

"We absolutely encourage all CHI market-based organizations to reach out to local fire departments for this type of training," added Bones. "It's a great way to collaborate on improving the emergency readiness of your community."