Thoughts from Greg Jakubowski
Greg Jakubowski, P.E., CSP, FSFPE
Principal and Chief Engineer
I have heard, and have had my own concerns regarding the use of various pressurized sprayers for “disinfecting” emergency vehicles and other confined spaces using materials that are flammable. My take, and you are welcome to share, is this – I have worked a good deal over the past 30 years with facilities that have used alcohol. alcohol-based and other flammable (and non-flammable) solutions to spray and even mop down equipment and rooms where the space may not be specifically designed to accommodate this. In one specific case in Latin America, a woman mopping down a clean room with alcohol was burned horribly in a flash fire – dying in the hospital several days later. There are other examples as well and we have always worked to find ways to avoid using flammable sanitizing agents. How many incidents have we been on when someone was using a flammable solvent to clean paint or whatever on a floor with an ensuing fire/explosion? There are entire sections in the International Fire Code and NFPA codes discussing precautions to take when spraying flammable liquids. Inside of ambulances or fire apparatus do not meet those criteria. Many of the agents present toxicity issues as well as potential oxidizer/oxidation issues.
We should be using a sanitization agent that is not flammable or does not create a flammable atmosphere for these spaces.
COVID-19 is a virus, the product used should be a disinfectant recommended by the CDC. Small amounts of alcohol-based sanitizer can be used for hand cleaning in accordance with CDC and manufacturer’s recommendations – in spaces with ventilation.
You actually can see a good list of disinfectants here, only a very few of which are actually alcohol based – mostly wipes. Many of the products on this list have been used extensively for years to disinfect research and manufacturing facilities for biological products. Note that contact times are important, and folks should be looking carefully at the Safety Data Sheets for these products to determine the proper protection for the people applying these materials as they may require various PPE including respiratory protection.