P100 masks provide added protection for Beech Grove firefighters

Firefighting equipment being used to battle coronavirus

BEECH GROVE, Ind. (WISH) — The Beech Grove Fire Department is screening its firefighters multiple times a day and has some great protective equipment, but one of its best tools against the virus was already in their hands before the outbreak.

Beech Grove firefighters are using a strange-looking mask called a P100 for every call. On each side of the device, there’s a filter made out of a more durable material than N95 masks. This was Beech Grove’s way to help firefighters breathe easy during a fire, now it’s a virus-stopping necessity.

“We already had some in stock,” Operations Chief Jim Pierce said. “So I guess you could say we were a little bit more prepared than we knew we were when all this started.”

Each of the 37 full-time members of the Beech Grove Fire Department have an assigned mask. The filters on the sides are good up to a month but can’t be used full time if there’s an encounter with the virus.

“Now, if we feel like it’s a patient that has the virus or potentially has the virus, then we will switch those out and we have a recycling process based on CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to put them in paper bags, let them sit on a well-ventilated shelf for approximately nine days, which will kill off the virus,” Pierce said. “If the virus is on there, it will die off and then we can reuse them after that.”

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The P100s are expensive, about $30 apiece. Like the N95s, the P100 masks are in limited supply with no way of ordering more filters during the virus pandemic.

“We’re like everybody else,” Pierce said. “We’re worried about our supply depending on how long this lasts. So we’re trying to do everything we can to recycle and reuse when we can, but still keep our personnel safe.”

Even though Beech Grove firefighters will be dressed in protective gear regardless of the call, they say they still appreciate a heads up if you have virus symptoms.

“If we know for sure that there’s potential (virus patient) in a home, we don’t send an entire crew in,” Pierce said. “We’ll send one person in to make an assessment and make a determination just to limit our exposure and the amount of people we have in your home.”

The Beech Grove Fire Department says they don’t want the equipment or the fear of giving them the virus to scare anyone away from calling if they need help.