What is the Purpose of Decontamination?

One of the principal goals of decontamination at a hazardous emergency is to limit the spread of contaminants from the release area or better known as the hot zone to include the cleaning of responders and their equipment. Decontamination even includes the cleaning of contaminated victims from a wide range of events these can include industrial emergencies, mass-casualty incidents, both accidental or intentional.

Decontamination or Decon for short is always done after an event has ended and is usually done after emergency services are wrapping up. Decon jobs are always performed at the end stages of an event and would not even be considered to be part of an important or seen as essential to a high-quality response.

Most of the time, responders focus on decision making and task completion where decor jobs merely become an after-thought. An important part of every decon job is to wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) The most important part regarding decontamination is to prevent chemical exposure to prevent any chemical agents from coming into contact with the technician.

 There are three basic methods of decontamination physical removal, chemical removal, and chemical deactivation, and biological deactivation of the agent. The most common problems with potential decontaminants are irritation of the skin, toxicity, ineffectiveness, or high cost.

To prevent from being contaminated from hazardous materials or substances one should not walk into the area that is known to be contaminated nor touch the substance in question. Use the right handling, sampling, and container-opening techniques. Cover equipment and tools with strippable coating which can be removed during contamination.

Encase the source of contaminants. An important thing to remember is that when the contaminant has permeated a material it may be difficult to detect which can lead to unintended exposure to the chemical agent.

Five major factors can affect the extent of permeation. Contact time, the longer it is in contact with the object the greater the possibility and extent of permeation. Concentration, molecules flow from areas high in concentration to areas low in concentration as rates increase so does the rate of permeation to the PPE. Temperature, an increase in temperature generally increases permeation rates. Size of contaminant molecules and pore space. Permeation rates increase as the molecule becomes smaller. The physical state of wastes. Gasses, vapours and low-viscosity liquids (liquids such as honey are high-viscosity liquids) tend to permeate faster that high-viscosity liquids. (water is an example of a low viscosity-fluid). Now that you have a basic understanding of what decontamination entails, when you encounter hazardous material, call our local decontamination services to effectively and safely remove the substance from the area in question.