An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Spokane Valley Fire Uses Ultraviolet Light To Sterilize PPE

The Spokane Valley Fire Department is turning to a new tool to prolong the usable life of its personal protective equipment. The machine uses ultraviolet light to sanitize masks and other equipment used by first responders.

“They’re about the size of a small bread maker and there’s a drawer that slides out. Inside the drawer it’s mirrored so that you can put whatever you’re disinfecting in there and you don’t have to flip it over. You put it in there and hit the button and, five minutes later, it’s good to go," said Michael Charter, the department's division chief for emergency medical services.

Until now, Charter says the department used chemical cleaners to disinfect equipment. But those products have become more difficult to find and they slowly degrade the equipment.

“We are using this based on some extensive study that was done over on the west side, in the Everett/Snohomish County area. They did pretty extensive testing on the different types of masks, how long they could repeatedly clean them before they started to break down," he said.

Charter says, at about $250 per machine, the UV sanitizer became a viable option. He bought 12, including one for each of the department’s 10 fire stations. Country Financial Insurance gave the department $2,500 to defray some of the cost.

This could become a popular remedy for maximizing the life of personal protective equipment. Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz says researchers have discovered ultraviolet light kills the coronavirus.