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Cyanide Poisoning Treatment Coalition launches Safety Stand Down Training Program focused on Preventing Hydrogen Cyanide Exposure in Fire Smoke

INDIANAPOLIS – JUNE 16, 2010 – SMOKE kills. Firefighter deaths due to heart attacks may not be due to bad diets, but from exposure to hydrogen cyanide in fire smoke. Firefighters are trained to deal with thousands of hazards and situations on a daily basis. Unfortunately, preventing the avoidable fire smoke exposure is not one of the highest training priorities. However, it should be because of the deadly and long term health effects generated by smoke toxins inhaled and absorbed through the skin. By far, the most deadly toxins is hydrogen cyanide which affects the heart, brain and thyroid. Nationally, since January 1, six firefighters have literally dropped dead from heart attacks coming off of a shift of smoky fires and nearly 100 firefighters have been transported or hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

“The modern smoke environment at every fire is a toxic, asphyxiating and carcinogenic cesspool that threatens both the immediate and long-term survival of firefighters. There is no disputing that the casual approach to breathing smoke, which has long been an accepted risk of our profession has wreaked havoc on the lives of too many brothers and sisters to be ignored any longer,” said Capt. Mike Gagliano, Seattle Fire Department. “Does it really take the muffled cries of a choke-filled Mayday to get the leaders within departments to make the changes they know are needed? Or the far too numerous instances of bagpipes playing in homage to another line of duty death from running out of air, or dying a long and horrible death in some cancer ward? Every company and chief officer in the country should make it clear to their members that if they are going to put themselves and their team at risk by taking a complacent approach to managing their air, they will not be on the fireground. The message should be clear and uncompromising for fire service leaders who truly care about their firefighters and the families who depend on them: Don’t Breathe Smoke!”

This year the IAFC theme for Safety Stand Down is "Fit 4 Duty" which includes a variety of extremely important topics relative to health and fitness and encourages educational programs that reduce health and fitness-related deaths or injuries. The Safety Stand Down training program developed by the CPTC - Wear Your Air, Take a Shower & Wash Your Gear, sponsored by the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund can reduce health related deaths and injuries – if it is used.

As the nation’s leading authority on fire smoke, the CPTC developed this day-long training program to teach firefighters the fundamental facts about hydrogen cyanide in fire smoke, how it impacts the body, how to efficiently and effectively use and wear air, and the importance of removing hydrogen cyanide from their skin and personal protective equipment following every fire or at the very least, at the end of a shift. In a message to firefighters, Kevin Reilly, Ridgewood New Jersey Fire Department and president of the CPTC said, “Firefighting is inherently dangerous. With today’s advancements in technology, training, and the proper use of PPE, we can avoid unnecessary risks. Although acute smoke exposures are important to recognize, chronic exposures are often overlooked and preventable. I encourage all firefighters to use this training program. If you can’t do it during Safety Stand Down, then schedule it soon.”

According to Lt. Frank Ricci, “When firefighters are wearing SCBA and not utilizing it, the only thing they are doing is hurting their backs. The only way to avoid or prepare for a Mayday is to train and practice under artificial stress and if a mistake is made, recognize it, learn from it and share it. My advice is to use this training program and then share it with others.”

“Smoke is something that reaches out and touches a firefighter on a regular basis for an entire career. It’s critical that all firefighters know and understand how to protect themselves from acute and chronic smoke exposures, the importance of maintaining their personal protective equipment, and the hazards of fire smoke,” said Rob Schnepp, Chief of Special Operations, Alameda County (CA) Fire Department. “It is my hope that during Safety Stand Down all firefighters will take just a moment to think about why it is so important to wear their air.”

“Understanding air is the only line of defense to hydrogen cyanide exposure should be the only incentive required to embrace air management protocols. This comprehensive program highlights the need for education and provides the instruction,” said Shawn Longerich, executive director of the CPTC.
Nationwide, fire departments and firefighters must embrace hydrogen cyanide as a silent killer. On the other hand, beginning the educational and training process can be overwhelming which is why Wear your Air, Take a Shower and Wash your Gear is a free, turn-key training program that can be downloaded or accessed at

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