Bellevue Fire Department Develops Innovative Way to Help Keep First Responders Safe During Supply Shortages

  • 31 March 2020
  • Author: Phil Davidson
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Bellevue Fire Department Develops Innovative Way to Help Keep First Responders Safe During Supply Shortages

As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to impact Bellevue and communities throughout the country, the health and safety of Bellevue citizens, employees and first responders is of the utmost importance. All of the City of Bellevue’s first responders have adjusted their procedures, during this pandemic, to help ensure the safety of all involved with any kind of emergency call or situation. Due to the increased demand throughout the country, personal protective equipment is in high demand and often times hard to acquire at all.

During frequent staff meetings now occurring due to COVID-19, Bellevue Fire Chief Perry Guido has given the direction to his command staff to think outside of the box on how to protect our firefighters and citizens as this pandemic continues. One of the identified areas was the current and future shortage of N95 personal protective masks, which are currently one use only. Several individuals have been researching the UV technology that University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) Biocontainment Unit was using but were all falling short in finding availability of those specialty UV disinfectant products because they were out of stock. It was at that point that members of Bellevue Fire reached out to a local sign manufacturer and asked that if individual UV parts could be located, would they be able to build cabinets that would house the UV lamps to decontaminate the N95 masks? They said yes and directed the department to a local HVAC shop, because they utilize germicide UV in their business on a daily basis.

Research was done to see if HVAC and swimming pool UV would work for this project, and it was quickly identified by the manufacturer of the HVAC UV bulbs that they indeed did have products available that could be used to build these cabinets. The HVAC shop built two different cabinets with two different types of UV lamps in them.  A local engineer reviewed the technical data provided by the original UV lamp manufacturer and stated that additional testing should be performed to confirm that the cabinets with the UV lamps were meeting the required UV levels. With the current workflow, the UNMC Biocontainment Unit Lab is currently unavailable to test these cabinets and a manufacturing company in Brookings, South Dakota offered to allow us to bring our new cabinets to Brookings, where we could use their UV testing equipment to verify UV level. On Sunday, March 29th, multiple tests were completed and submitted back to the engineer for review. After a review of the data provided by the Fire Department, the engineer made a recommendation that states if the N95 masks were placed in the new UV cabinets that have been constructed and were processed for ten minutes, we would be meeting and exceeding the standards that are being used by UNMC for their decontamination of N95 masks. The newly constructed cabinets hold twelve N95’s at once.

Bellevue Fire Department’s EMS division is working diligently to create a program similar to UNMC Biocontainment Unit to decontaminate N95 masks in the event that we have a shortage of this particular piece of personal protective equipment. Bellevue Fire and all of the people involved in this project realize there is no medical grade certification on this project, and everyone involved is trying to be part of the solution. Our number one goal is to provide the best level of protection and care, so we reached out to people from other industries to help us confirm that what we had built was going to meet and exceed recommendations from other medical facilities currently using this process. These units will be available and ready to put into service in the near future.   

The City of Bellevue is proud of the efforts of the Bellevue Fire Department and this outside the box thinking, which will help the first responders in our community continue to serve as safely as possible!

For more information on this innovative program, please contact Bellevue Fire Chief Perry Guido at 402-320-9063 or via email at perry.guido@bellevue.net

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