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Decontamination of a CSA carrier (exercise)

Decontamination ( abbreviated to decon in Germany ), also called decontamination ( deco for short ) in Austria , is the removal of dangerous impurities (contamination) from people, objects or unprotected areas and is therefore part of NBC protection . The hazards can be radioactive , biological or chemical reasons. In the pharmaceutical industry , disinfection measures in clean rooms are called decontamination.


In the event of a fire, many pollutants are released along with the combustion gases and ash , which settle in the fire protection clothing, which makes it necessary to decontaminate the equipment after the use of breathing apparatus . Since the contamination ( fire gases ) cannot be detected directly or simply, decontamination usually has to be carried out unspecifically.

Decontamination of serious chemical , biological or radioactive pollution, for example after accidents or terrorist or military attacks, must be carried out specifically. The contamination must be known both qualitatively and quantitatively in order to be able to make a statement about the degree of decontamination.

With every type of decontamination, self-protection is important in order to prevent endangerment of the decontaminating persons as well as further contamination of the environment. This means that, along with the contamination, the agents used for decontamination and personal protective equipment (such as washing water, brushes, filters, gloves and clothing) must be collected and properly disposed of or specifically cleaned.

If the object to be decontaminated is movable, decontamination can take place at a special decontamination area . Decontamination can then be carried out provisionally with simple means or professionally with special equipment. What both have in common, however, is the organization of a corresponding place in which one area is defined as a contaminated and one as a pure zone.

It is always important that life-sustaining measures come before decontamination. Self-protection is essential here.

Decontamination scenarios

A distinction is made between disaster and occupational medical decontamination. The former considers cases such as wars, accidents in industry or due to natural causes (e.g. volcanic ash , epidemic focus) that affect a large number of people and where the rules of medical care are shaped by the principles of emergency care (possibly triage ) become. Emergency plans are drawn up for these and emergency services are trained, for example by the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief . In the case of occupational medical decontamination, in contrast, mostly only individual persons who were exposed due to locally limited accidents are freed from contaminants (decontaminated).

Limit values

During the decontamination, the people involved can be exposed to, for example, ionizing radiation . Therefore, each person must be equipped with a dosimeter in the event of radioactive contamination . Personnel must be changed before limit values ​​are exceeded, for example the permissible annual dose.

People are decontaminated in a three or four step process:

According to the standard terminology, one speaks in the civil area of:

  • Decontamination: describes the process.
  • decontaminate: describes the activity.

Only the first term is used in the military field.

Types of decontamination

A distinction is made between the following types of decontamination (the abbreviations commonly used in Germany are given in brackets):

  • Decontamination of surfaces (Dekon Fl or Dekon-Fl)
  • Decontamination of vehicles (Dekon F or Dekon-F)
  • Decontamination of devices (Dekon G or Dekon-G)
  • Decontamination of people (Dekon P or Dekon-P)
    • Decontamination of emergency services (Dekon E or Dekon-E)
    • Decontamination of civilians (Dekon Z or Dekon-Z) / possibly mass decontamination
    • Decontamination of injured persons (Dekon V or Dekon-V)

The procedure and equipment vary accordingly.

Levels of decontamination

Decontamination during a dangerous goods accident exercise

In the civil sector, these levels are differentiated according to the required personnel and logistical effort, in the military sector according to the result to be achieved.

Military area

Decontamination drill by the Soviet Army in 1987
  • Immediate decontamination:

The decontamination measures, which are carried out with the help of self and comrades , and which allow the limited further execution of the order for a limited time. It is not possible to reduce personal NBC protection.

  • Operational or makeshift decontamination:

The decontamination measures that are necessary for the unrestricted further execution of the order. Examples: Decontamination of the supply openings on battle tanks, telephones, etc. A reduction in personal NBC protection is not necessarily possible and must be checked on a case-by-case basis.

  • Thorough decontamination:

The decontamination measures that allow unrestricted use of the material by adults in normal handling. The remaining residual risk (ICt5) is defined and must be observed. A reduction in personal NBC protection is possible.

  • Return decontamination:

Measures that enable unrestricted further use of the material allow the material to be returned if the material no longer poses any hazard. Example: Change of operating fluids, lubricants, adsorbing plastic parts, etc. This stage is not defined in the Bundeswehr and is understood there as part of thorough decontamination.

  • B-decontamination:

Regardless of the above classification, the decontamination of infectious loads poses a particular risk to the emergency services, which is why appropriate pilot projects have been started.

Fire brigade and aid organizations

Decontamination in Germany

In Germany , the decontamination of units in ABC use is divided into three stages according to FwDV 500. Besides these three decontamination stages compliance with a at each use, even in operations that are not related to hazardous substances, in principle, employment places hygiene regulated. For example, food and the consumption of tobacco products in the deployment area must be avoided, as is the rule with all other decontamination processes.

  • Decon level I (emergency decontamination):

Decon level I can be set by almost every fire brigade and must be able to be carried out by every fire brigade with appropriate NBC emergency personnel. This decon level must be set up as soon as an operation involving NBC hazards is carried out or is foreseeable. As a rule, a water supply in the form of a bucket syringe and a space lined with foil are sufficient to start this stage. Here, too, it is important that the black and white areas are strictly separated in order to prevent the spread of contamination. If available, a higher decon level should be used.

  • Decon level II (standard decontamination):

This decontamination stage is the standard decontamination when used with special equipment ( CSA , contamination protection suit, etc.). The equipment is usually held by special hazardous goods trains .

  • Decon level III (extended decontamination):

The highest decontamination level is set up when a large number of people need to be decontaminated or the pollution can no longer be managed with level II. For example, a complete decontamination area for level III is set up on the Decon P.

Regional solutions

Different country concepts such as B. Baden-Württemberg or North Rhine-Westphalia show the increased focus on the decontamination of unable to walk, lying or injured people ("Decon V"). An important approach is the implementation of this task in the Federal Medical Task Force .

Furthermore, there is the approach in the Rhine-Main area that one does not separate into black and white areas, but into red (contaminated), yellow (cleaning) and green (clean).

Means of decontamination

Substances and agents that are kept ready for the decontamination of people, i.e. that are procured in advance for the intended purpose of the decontamination, are medical devices . In Germany or Austria, they are subject to the respective medical device laws , as they aim to "treat, alleviate or compensate for injuries or disabilities" in accordance with Section 3 (1b) MPG. Most of the funds used are part of emergency and disaster pharmacy and are described in special literature.

The most common decontamination agents are water or soapy water. These agents are suitable for many substances, do not pose an additional burden for patients, are inexpensive and are available almost everywhere. In some cases, such as the decontamination of radionuclides or water-insoluble chemicals, only specially designed decontamination agents can be considered. These are listed in the GESTIS substance database , for example . Special cleaning agents and disinfectants are also useful for biological hazardous substances.


  1. CBRN writes in teaching materials of the THW (section 3200 Dangers and requirements due to CBRN 3 - (ABC) situations, technology, transport accidents and major fires 3 ). In the THW the collective term "CBRN" for "chemical", "biological", "radiological" and "nuclear" is used with the same meaning as the term "ABC" for "atomic" (= radiological and nuclear), "biological" and "chemical". Catalog of application options (page 99 in PDF) accessed December 5, 2018

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wanner, Wolf-Dieter: Disinfection in pharmaceutical clean rooms. Pharm. Ind., Volume 75, No. 3, 2013, pp. 399-402.
  2. Confederation
  3. Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief: Pilot Project Analytical Task Force Biological Hazards ( Memento from January 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  4. B-decon
  5. ^ Judgment
  6. MPG
  7. BBK (PDF).

Web links

Commons : Decontamination  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: decontamination  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations