We all know the importance of NFPA 1851. Codifying the guidelines for laundering PPE and requiring documentation are steps that are hoped will help reduce not just the instances of cancer in firefighters, but also mortality rates.

The present COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to follow these same guidelines in laundering PPE even more regular when making first responder calls. The bottom line: quality industrial laundry equipment has become immensely important for firehouses. However, funding several thousand dollars in laundry equipment for each house is a tall order for departments big and small. Below, are tips to assist fire chiefs in making their case to municipalities, fire districts and city officials.

  • Work with a leader. We’ve already discussed the importance of laundry equipment, it’s equally paramount to have a laundry equipment distributor who is an expert and can ensure you get the exact equipment to fit your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. How many other departments have they worked with? Can they quote NFPA 1851? Do they have a grasp of how your laundry needs differ from a hotel or nursing home?
  • Do your homework. Just like not all gear is created equal; neither is laundry equipment. Know the benefits and advantages that the equipment at the top of your list has over everything else out there. As you will present this information to municipal officials, you will undoubtedly be asked what other options you looked at. Remember, this equipment is as important as the PPE itself, make sure you have a grasp of its performance and how it will help the department. Remember, “sort of clean” isn’t good enough. You need the best. Likewise, have the staggering numbers related to the incidences of cancer in firefighting. Clean gear and the processes to document handling of PPE are paramount to saving lives. With these numbers top of mind, there’s virtually no argument against the need for laundry equipment.
  • Make your case to media and the community. Just like in the field, mutual aid is a good thing to have. The more people working together, the better. Work with local media and educate them on the current state and how the brave men and women protecting the community now need the community to help them. Meet with local service clubs such as Kiwanis and Rotary. Public support can go a long way in making things happen in government. Often, citizens themselves will lead the charge in raising funds from local businesses, organizations and community members.
  • Explore grants. Grants continue to be available to departments to assist with such expenditures. UniMac has partnered with Fire Grants Help, a website dedicated to helping departments find firefighting grants in their area, including grants geared toward laundry equipment. The UniMac program will send alerts as these specific grants become available and also provide resources to assist with applications.

Just like fighting a fire requires a well-orchestrated approach, so, too, does planning and funding your firehouse laundry. Focus on working with leaders, doing your research and using all the tools and resources available.

To learn how Framingham, Mass. Fire Department Fire Chief Michael Dutcher decided to work with UniMac and got support from his community, click here. To see how UniMac’s FireLinc system makes logging all gear cleaning simple and easy, watch this short step-by-step video.