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Anthrax: Protective Clothing and Equipment

October 25, 2001

In response to a request from the IAFF, the CDC and NIOSH have released interim recommendations for the selection and use of protective clothing and equipment when responding to suspected biologic agent incidents.  Their recommendations are as follows:

Fire fighter turnout gear should not be worn when responding to suspected biologic agent incidents because decontamination procedures may damage some of the protective fabrics.

  • Incident Scenario 1: Suspected biologic agent, dissemination of suspected agent by letter or package, letter or package can be easily bagged, and an aerosol generating device was not used.

    PPE Recommendation: Full face respirator with a P100 filter or a power air purifying respirator (PAPR) with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.  Also use disposable hooded coveralls, gloves, and foot coverings.   
  • Incident Scenario 2:  Suspected biologic agent, aerosol is no longer being generated, splash hazard may exist.

    PPE Recommendation: NIOSH approved SCBA with Level B protective suit.
  • Incident Scenario 3:  Suspected biologic agent, dissemination via aerosol device is still occurring or has stopped but there is no information on the duration of dissemination or exposure concentration.

    PPE Recommendation: NIOSH approved SCBA with Level A protective suit.

  • Follow decontamination sequences currently used for hazardous materials incidents as appropriate to the level of PPE employed.
  • Equipment can be decontaminated with soap and water and 0.5% hypochlorite solution (one part household bleach to 10 parts water).
  • After taking off gear, emergency response employees should shower using copious quantities of soap and water.

    Full NIOSH PPE Recommendations


October 16, 2001

On October 11, 2001 the IAFF sent the following letter to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.  NIOSH has acknowledged our letter and is preparing a response and we will immediately notify our members of their full response.

October 11, 2001

Kathleen M. Rest, Ph.D., M.P.A.
Acting Director, NIOSH
Hubert H. Humphrey Bldg.
200 Independence Ave., SW
Room 715H
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Acting Director Rest:

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 dealt a staggering blow to the American people and the fire service in particular. As we have already seen, fire fighters and emergency medical personnel will be among the first victims of terrorist acts. It is now possible that biological agents have been used against American citizens in Florida. Emergency response personnel, our members, are again on the front lines of homeland defense.

On behalf of the 245,000 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, we call on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to immediately issue interim guidelines for the selection and use personal protective clothing and equipment for fire fighters and other first responders at suspected biological agent incidents.

Our members are facing these threats today and they need answers today.


Harold A. Schaitberger
General President

October 12, 2001

Mr. Harold A. Schaitberger
General President
International Association of Fire Fighters
1750 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

Dear Mr. Schaitberger:

On behalf of the National lnstitute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), I would like to extend my sincere condolences to you and your members for those heroic fire fighters who lost their lives in last month's tragedies. As you know, NIOSH has worked closely with fire fighters for many years and we greatly appreciate the personal risk you all take to protect and serve the public.

In response to your October 11 letter, please be assured that I fully appreciate the urgency of the need to ensure that fire fighters and other emergency responders are protected against the threat of biological and chemical agents of terrorism.  Toward that goal, NIOSH is accelerating its schedule for issuing certification procedures for self-contained breathing apparatus, and is expediting the development of new certification procedures for cartridge-type respirators.  NIOSH is committed to developing the appropriate respiratory protection standards as expeditiously as possible. This effort is a priority for us.

Also in an effort to address the urgent need now upon us, and as requested in your letter.  NIOSH is drafting and will issue within the next few days interim guidelines for selection and use of personal protective equipment at suspected biological incidents.  We appreciate the emergency nature of this need, and we are doing everything possible to expedite the completion of these guidelines.

Once again, thank you for the courageous efforts of the members of the fire service.  We will do all that we can to assist in making sure that they are protected against the immediate threats they are now being called upon to face.


Kathleen M. Rest, Ph.D, M.P.A.
Acting Director

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