85 Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Flight During COVID 19

Cpl Milne (left) administers an N95 mask fit test to a member of 8 Wing Trenton. 
Publication Date 
31 May 2020

Written By: Cpl Milne

Photo By: Sgt Burke

2020 has proven to be a very busy year for the members of 8 Wing Trenton’s Construction Engineering Support Flight’s Fire Prevention Office (FPO).  Having the responsibility of providing fire prevention and education to the largest and busiest airbase in all of Canada keeps the Inspectors extremely busy.  Aside from building inspections, the FPO is also responsible for: reviewing plans for all building projects, providing fire safety education, portable fire extinguisher training, conducting fire investigations and assisting with emergencies when required.  Members of the FPO are also the Respiratory Protection Program Administrators and Respirator Fit Testers for the entire Wing.  Having the unique equipment and qualification to fit test is a significant responsibility and one that is not taking lightly by members of 85 Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Flight (85 ARFF) who make up the FPO.  The health and wellbeing for users of respirators originates from having a properly fitted and tested mask.  From Firefighters and Medical staff to Aircraft Technicians and WFE techs they all rely on a properly fitted respirator.

Smaller and less sophisticated, however no less important is a tight-fitting N95 respirator.  With members of 8 Wing Trenton supporting both Op GLOBE and Op LASER, these masks are essential for keeping our military members, their families and the public protected against the spread of COVID-19.  As with any other respirator, these masks also must be sized and fitted to the user.  It is a common misconception that the N95 is a generic mask which fits all who wear it.  In reality, there is an abundance of different models, sizes, shapes and styles of the N95.  All of these masks fit slightly different than the other; therefore a thorough fit test is required to ensure maximum protection for the user.  At 8 Wing Trenton we utilize a TSI PortaCount Pro+ for our quantitative respirator fit testing.  Following the strict guidelines set out by both the Canadian Standards Association and the Canadian Forces Respiratory Protection Program, we take the user through multiple steps during their test.  These steps simulate all aspects of body movement along with getting the user to read a passage designed to stimulate muscles in the face.  This process ensures that once a successful fit factor is acquired, the user will maintain that same fit throughout their working activities.

During a normal week prior to the pandemic, the Fire Prevention team would see 1-2 members per week requiring the quantitative fit test.  Most likely it would be a new member of the Wing requiring the test in order to perform their duties or someone nearing their 2-year expiry.  Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the FPO has seen a 50 fold increase in weekly testing.  At its peak, anywhere from 50 to 100 members of 8 Wing were being tested on a weekly basis.  These members include but are not limited to: the medical team who evacuated Canadians from Wuhan, all medical personnel at 24 Health Services, Aircrew members and 8 Wing emergency services members.  As of this writing, the FPO has tested 500 personnel, which amounts to 150+ hours of fit testing.  It has been difficult, but a challenge the FPO has risen to.  The health and safety of members of the RCAF will always be a paramount concern and all necessary precautions, right down to a properly fitted N95, will be at the forefront to the fight against COVID-19.  The 8 Wing Fire Department is a proud member of the Construction Engineering Support Flight under the Mission Support Squadron and will continue to serve and support CAF missions, wherever they take us.

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