JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The ongoing pandemic has made personal protective equipment like face masks scarce during a time when it has never been needed more.
Master Sgt. Christian Bond and Tech. Sgt. Timothy Bilbrey, biomedical equipment technician instructors with the 382nd Training Squadron and JBSA’s resident “handymen and DIYers,” recently came up with a solution.
Many clinics and hospitals are currently using a hydrogen peroxide-type decontamination unit that is costly with supplies as difficult to find as the PPE they are meant to decontaminate.
“We went through a few different ideas, but they ended up being financially out-of-reach,” said Bilbrey. “We wanted to make something that could easily replicated and made with items you could find at your local hardware store. We didn’t want any power tools or anything that might be hazardous, this way a doctor or nurse could make one at any hospital anywhere in the world.”
After a couple of trips to their local stores, Bilbrey and Bond made a working decontamination unit out of PVC pipe, light bulbs, a timer switch and wiring.
“We didn’t even want the wires to be hard-to-find, so we tested it with wiring we cut from a regular orange 100-foot extension cord,” said Bond.
The resulting prototype was sent to Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, which is the largest hospital in Air Education and Training Command, and bordering Louisiana which is suffering from a high COVID-19 infection rate.
Bond and Bilbrey also made a how-to PDF format handbook available online, which can be downloaded for free by anyone who can build their own. The small unit uses UV-C bulbs and is intended to decontaminate N95 masks for reuse for those treating COVID-19 patients. It is easily adaptable for use with whatever equipment is available. Instructions can be found here: https://bit.ly/3erpp0R.
“There are doctors and nurses staying in the [intensive care unit] for their entire 12-hour shift or longer so they don’t have to waste their personal protective equipment,” said Bond. “This makes it safe to reuse the equipment without having to worry about cross-contamination.”