Firefighters' Notebook: Fire Truck ‘Decon 1' Improves Firefighter Safety in Pasco County

A group of firefighters and their gear outside of the Pasco County Decon 1 vehicle

To protect firefighters from prolonged exposure to dangerous toxins and carcinogens, a Florida fire department unveiled a groundbreaking solution: "Decon 1," a decontamination fire truck that is redefining safety standards in the field.

Pasco County Fire Department's Innovative Approach to Reducing Carcinogen Exposure

Firefighting operations expose firefighters to a wide range of toxic substances, chemicals and carcinogens in smoke, soot and building materials. John Schmidt, Health Safety and Wellness Division Chief at Pasco County Fire Rescue believes addressing carcinogens and other toxic exposure as early as possible is the best prevention method to promote long-term health and safety for firefighters.

Using over 36 years of experience in the fire service, Chief Schmidt worked with Frontline Communications to design “Decon 1,” a customized decon truck which travels to emergencies alongside other emergency response vehicles.

Unlike many traditional decontamination methods, where firefighters must wait until they return to the fire station for cleaning, "Decon 1" brings the battle against carcinogens to the front lines, implementing a thorough decontamination process right at the scene. As a result, the overall time firefighters are exposed to hazardous chemicals and carcinogens is significantly reduced.

The innovative truck includes built-in features like an external shower for rinsing off surface-level toxins and a decontamination washer for helmets, masks and SCBAs. The unit also features two interior compartments to separate clean and contaminated gear and prevent cross-contamination.

 The truck has been crucial in safeguarding Pasco County Firefighters from prolonged carcinogenic exposure and will continue to be an integral part of the department's overall on-site decontamination process.

According to Chief Schmidt, the Pasco County Fire Department is always finding innovative ways to improve firefighter safety.

"The design and development of "Decon 1" is a testament to our goal of keeping our firefighters safe," he said. "They risk their lives to keep our community safe, and we will do everything in our power to ensure we are keeping them safe in return."