There are four ways by which hazardous materials can invade your body. These are known as the routes of entry:

  1. Inhalation
  2. Skin absorption
  3. Ingestion
  4. Injection
In consideration of the potential exposures to hazardous chemicals through these routes of entry, first responders must be able to recognize the hazards associated with their emergency response and establish methods of preventing the exposure.

At this level of training, absent Personal Protective Equipment and a higher level of training, the only tactic to be used would be defensive. Awareness level training is designed to give those "first on the scene" better control through defensive conduct to prevent unnecessary exposures to chemicals and resultant injuries through the above routes of entry.


Full Protective Clothing

Full protective clothing includes the helmet, self-contained breathing apparatus, coat and pants customarily worn by firefighters (turnout or bunker coat and pants), rubber boots, gloves, bands around legs, arms and waist, and face mask, as well as covering for neck, ears, and other parts of the head not protected by the helmet, breathing apparatus or face mask.

Special Protective Clothing

Special protective clothing refers to clothing specially designed to protect against a specific hazard. Special protective clothing is classified into four levels, A,B,C and D.

Level A - Highest level of respiratory, skin and eye protection.

Recommended Equipment:

  1. Positive Pressure SCBA or supplied-air respirator with escape SCBA.
  2. Fully encapsulating, vapor tight, chemical resistant suit.
  3. Inner chemical-resistant gloves.
  4. Chemical-resistant safety boots/shoes.

Level B - The same level of respiratory protection, but less skin protection than Level A.

  1. Recommended Equipment:
  2. Positive pressure SCBA or supplied-air respiratory with escape SCBA
  3. Chemical-resistant clothing (one or two-piece splash suits, disposable one-piece suits)
  4. Inner and outer chemical-resistant gloves.
  5. Chemical-resistant safety boots/shoes.
  6. Hard hat

Level C - The same level of skin protection as Level B, but a lower level of respiratory protection.

Recommended Equipment:

  1. Full-facepiece, air-purifying, canister-equipped respirator
  2. Chemical-resistant clothing
  3. Inner and outer chemical-resistant gloves
  4. Chemical-resistant safety shoes/boots
  5. Hard hat

Level D - Lowest level of protection. No respiratory protection. Other equipment as needed to safely handle the material (gloves, goggles..)


  1. Before emergency personnel should attempt rescue at a hazardous materials incident, they must consider:
  2. Rescuer protection
  3. Victim contamination
  4. Decontamination of personnel


  1. Personnel must wear the proper protective clothing
  2. Remove victim's contaminated clothing
  3. Complete skin flush with water
  4. Containment of run-off
  5. Cleanup
  6. Location of the treatment area