Snohomish Co. firefighters now equipped to safely reuse N95 masks five times

Local firefighters get creative to preserve PPE

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — With new mask protocols and personal protective equipment still scarce, firefighters across Snohomish County say they’ve found a way to conserve critical PPE by using ultraviolet light cleaners that allow N95 masks to be disinfected and safely used several times.

“We’re currently safe and approved to do it five times through the light box before we have to dispose of the masks,” said Medical Services Officer Dan Schwartz, a firefighter with the Marysville Fire District. “So that’s going to take our very limited supply and stretch it as much as we can.”

Fire stations from Edmonds to Marysville, which have agreed to share critical resources during the pandemic as needed, are now equipped with the UV light boxes that will also be used to clean firefighter radios, phones and other items in minutes.

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Schwartz said the Everett Fire Department, Snohomish County Fire District 7, South County Fire and the Marysville Fire District also all have at least one electrostatic cleaner that will be used to more thoroughly clean fire stations, vehicles and transports.

“It takes the [cleaning solution], turns it into a mist, propels it out the end and gives it an electrostatic charge,” said Schwartz. “So that allows the mist to evenly coat all surfaces.”

These new tools and protocols mark a new normal that Schwartz said will not only improve safety for first responders during the pandemic but will help them be better prepared if there’s a second coronavirus wave and PPE supplies remain scarce.

“This is massively important for us moving forward,” said Schwartz. “Not only for being able to stretch the gear out but even when we have it, it’s a way for us to conserve resources and money.”