Are Bed Bugs Biting Your Wallet?

Bed Bug media hype has spurned considerable action in the travel industry, hospitals, prisons, homes and (of course) fire stations. These pesky little critters have developed resistance to many pesticides (which may account for the recent increase in infestations), are particularly good a hiding, but remain visible to the naked eye. That’s right; you can see them! What you might not see so clearly are the unscrupulous profiteers hoping to drain your wallet with ridiculously expensive equipment and supplies. They’re out there, and some fire departments have already been bitten.

Noted Fire Service and EMS infection control expert Katherine West points out that a comprehensive bed bug control program involves minimal cost. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have outlined a simple yet comprehensive strategy of prevention and control.

Preventitive efforts include:
– remove clutter in sleeping areas
– seal cracks and crevices
– wash linen after each use in hot (> 120 degrees F) water and dry in a hot dryer
– vacuum beds and quarters frequently and discard vacuum bag after each use
– use mattress covers
– roll linen off beds (instead of pulling)

Control measures during an infestation include:
– spray surfaces with 91% isopropyl alcohol (kills on contact)
– ventilate areas after spraying
– allow surfaces to dry before placing clean linens/sleeping
– steam cleaning surfaces may be effective (done every 5-10 days until resolved)

Kathy West points out that 91% isopropyl alcohol is available at most drug stores for less than $2 per bottle. Departments may wish to spray surfaces prophylactically (as a preventative measure). For infestations, departments may wish to consider contracting with a pest control company. There is absolutely no reason to purchase expensive cleaning equipment, solutions, or supplies. There is also no reason under the sun to burn or discard linens and bedding items. Prevention is a responsibility we all share.

These same measures are equally effective for EMS cots, stretchers, equipment, and bags brought into homes and businesses. Changing linens after each use, vacuuming and spraying surfaces of equipment and bags with 91% isopropyl alcohol are wise prevention strategies. Like fire gear, EMS linens, bags, and equipment should never be carried into crew quarters.

Bed bugs infestations are increasing in every area of the world. Like any other health concern, an informed and common sense approach will protect your members, their families, and your community. There is no reason to waste money, time, or energy on expensive and unproven solutions when practical, inexpensive prevention and control stragies are readily available.

Reference: Joint Statement on Bed Bug Control in the United States from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/Publications/Bed_Bugs_CDC-EPA_Statement.htm.

Mike McEvoy
EMS Editor
Fire Engineering

Hold CPR: Get an Ambulance and Helicopter

Time is ticking away. You might want to put down those few hundred pages of Emergency Cardiac Care Guidelines 2010 and pick up a copy of the draft NFPA 1917 Standard for Automotive Ambulances. “Doesn’t affect me,” you say? I’d bet otherwise; if you ride a bus, aid car, rescue, box, ambulance, or whatever else you call that patient care and transport vehicle on wheels, this standard affects you. Once finalized in 2013, the feds will drop their KKK purchasing spec which is probably the guideline you currently live under. Have a look and see; comments are due back to NFPA no later than December 15, 2010.

While you’re in a reading mode, you might want to take a look at the proposed FAA Rules for Air Ambulances. These sweeping new regulations also affect you. Comments are due back to the FAA no later than January 10, 2011.

When you’re done studying the NFPA Ambulance Standards and the FAA Air Medical Rules, you can get back to your November 2010 issue of Circulation. Those CPR changes are going to take some time to make it out into the textbooks and teaching materials. While you’re at it, take a peek at our growing FireEMS page on the Fire Engineering website. We’re focused on keeping you up to date with the latest FireEMS news and information you need to stay on the leading edge of patient care!

Mike McEvoy
FireEMS Editor
Fire Engineering