Appendix I: Required equipment and explanations on use

By J. Judson Wynne

NO GEAR used in caves within a WNS confirmed or suspected area (i.e., state) may be used in areas where the disease has not been confirmed or suspected (USFWS 2016).

  1. Required equipment
    1. Supply checklist for procedures prior to entry and after exiting a cave or mine
      The amount of disinfecting supplies required depends upon team size, number of days in the field, and number of sites visited. Generally, the supply list provided below will accommodate a six-person team for one week. Isopropyl alcohol (70%) wipes are a more benign decontaminant than the other disinfectants listed in the decontamination protocol. Thus, it would be more appropriate for backcountry work. We used Lysol® disinfectant wipes during protocol development. Further, if caves are characterized by walkable passage, then one pair of disposable coveralls per person per day will be sufficient. If not, at least two pairs of ballistic nylon coveralls per person should be considered.

      • Disposable coveralls or ballistic nylon coveralls (1 pair per person, per study site)
      • Duct tape (2 large rolls)
      • 70% isopropyl alcohol (70%) wipes (2 canisters; 44-count)
      • Large (10–15 gallons) heavy-duty plastic garbage bags (40-count box)
      • Plastic zip ties (25-count)
      • Heavy-duty resealable ziplock freezer bags (2 boxes [10-count] each of quart and gallon sizes)
      • Properly laundered bandanas or rags (number depends on number of sites visited)
      • Biodegradable/all-natural hand sanitizer (2 bottles; 12 oz. container)
      • Compressed air (two 10-ounce cans)
      • Trauma shears (2 pairs)
      • Small nylon scrub brush (1 per person)
      • Nitrile gloves, powder-free (2 boxes; 100 count; at least 2 pairs per person, per day, per study site required)
      • Permanent black markers (1 box; 12-count)
    2. Full decontamination supply checklist
      • Tyvek® or ProShield® coveralls (1 pair)
      • Tyvek® or ProShield® slip-on shoe covers (1 pair)
      • Disinfectant cleaner (1 gallon; refer to decontamination protocol; USFWS 2016)
      • 5-gallon buckets (number of buckets required depends on number of full decontaminations required; minimum is 2 buckets per full decontamination with the rinse bucket being reused)
      • 2 scrub brushes, nylon-bristled
      • Plastic zip ties (25-count)
      • 2 pairs rubber cleaning gloves
      • Biodegradable soap (16 fluid oz.)
      • Biodegradable wipes (2 boxes; 30-count)
    3. Personal gear checklist (WNS-related)
      • Clothing (1 set of clothing per site; at least 1 set for transit between study site and camp/vehicles)
      • Knee and elbow pads (at least 2 pairs)
      • Caving gloves (synthetic leather/nylon; at least 2 pairs)
      • 1 pair PVC boots or hiking boots (number of pairs of hiking boots required will be determined based on number of sites visited and time required for boots to completely dry following decontamination)
      • 1 PVC caving backpack
      • 2 pairs gaiters (only if hiking boots are used)
      • Dry bags (recommended)
  2. Equipment explanations and disinfecting recommendations
    We provide explanations on select items listed in checklists A through C. We also provide recommendations for disinfecting personal and project equipment not discussed in these checklists. The instructions provided in the most recent version of the WNS Decontamination Protocol (e.g., USFWS 2016) must be used for decontaminating all personal gear, equipment, and clothing.

    • Tyvek®, ProShield®, or ballistic nylon coveralls and duct tape
      Coveralls should be large enough to fit over underclothing and knee/elbow pads. Use of coveralls will further limit contact of underclothing and knee/elbow pads with the cave environment. In caves with walkable passage, Tyvek® or ProShield® coveralls are appropriate. Coveralls may be purchased with elastic cuffs on wrists, or duct tape can be used to secure the sleeves close to the wrists. Duct tape is used to affix the pant legs of the coveralls to boots or gaiters. In caves with constricted passageways requiring belly crawling or moving through narrow passageways, ballistic nylon coveralls are preferred. Upon completing work at a study site, coveralls are isolated and properly stored in a heavy-duty plastic garbage bag or gallon-sized, resealable ziplock bag.
    • Quaternary ammonium compounds
      We used Lysol® IC™ Quaternary Disinfectant Cleaner. However, the WNS Decontamination Protocol (e.g., USFWS 2016) provides several alternatives that have been confirmed to kill P. destructans conidia.
    • Nitrile gloves
      Applying and removing duct tape while wearing nitrile gloves ultimately results in torn gloves. If gloves are torn during decontamination procedures, immediately wash hands and put on a new pair of gloves.
    • Trauma shears
      For cutting duct tape from wrist cuffs and around pant legs to detach disposable coveralls from boots/gaiters.
    • Reusing decontaminated equipment among different study sites
      For equipment that requires decontamination by submersion in one of the known disinfectants/applications (e.g., gloves, knee/elbow pads, hiking boots, and gaiters), the number of extra pairs required will depend upon the number of different study sites visited in rapid succession and the amount of time needed for recently decontaminated equipment to completely dry before reuse. For most xeric regions in the southwestern United States, one extra pair of each item (gloves, knee/elbow pads, hiking boots, and gaiters) will probably be sufficient; the second pair may be worn at the next study site while the recently decontaminated pair is drying. In more mesic regions (e.g., the Pacific Northwest), drying time may require two or more days. Workers will need to determine if (1) the equipment will dry adequately following decontamination so it may be reused while in the field, or (2) a pair of each item is required per study site.
    • Clothing
      One set of clothing per person per study site is required. These sets of clothing will be designated for underground use only. Upon completion of each site, clothing is isolated in a gallon-sized, resealable ziplock bag and is properly decontaminated in the field or once field personnel have returned to their respective homes. Additionally, a “clean” set of clothing, which never comes into contact with dirty caving equipment or the cave environment, is required for use in transit between the study site and vehicle/camp.
    • Gloves
      At least two pairs of synthetic leather/nylon gloves per person are recommended. Rubber or nitrile gloves easily tear when abraded on rock surfaces. Synthetic leather/nylon gloves are more durable and are invaluable to work safely underground.
    • Knee and elbow pads
      At least two sets of pads per person are recommended.
    • PVC boots or other footwear/gaiters
      One pair of Wellington or knee-length-style PVC boots per team member is recommended. These boots are easy to clean and dry quickly. However, these boots often do not fit as well as hiking boots; as a result, it may be difficult to safely navigate cave passages and scramble over boulders and rocks. Consequently, some workers may choose to use hiking boots and gaiters rather than PVC boots.
    • Cave packs
      One PVC cave pack per person is recommended. It is easy to clean and dries quickly.
    • Helmet
      One helmet, two light sources on the helmet, and at least one additional light source within the caving bag per person are recommended. Before entering each study site, helmets will be decontaminated with isopropyl alcohol (70%) wipes. The use of porous headlamp straps can be eliminated by mounting the primary light source directly on the helmet.
    • Miscellaneous gear
      When possible, additional gear should be stored in sealed ziplock bags or PVC dry bags within cave packs and accessed as needed. This includes food, urine bottles, solid human waste disposal bags, medical supplies, and tool kits. Any items used underground are properly cleaned, isolated, or disposed of as appropriate. Water should be stored in containers (hard plastic bottles or stainless steel containers) that can be easily disinfected. Water bladders are not recommended because they are difficult to disinfect.
    • Electronic sampling equipment
      We recommend disinfecting electronic equipment between study sites using (1) compressed air to carefully clean the equipment and (2) isopropyl alcohol (70%) wipes to wipe down those areas lacking movable parts, buttons, or screens. Isopropyl alcohol wipes are one of the cleaning agents recommended by the WNS Decontamination Protocol (USFWS 2016). Compressed air may help remove fungal spores/conidia from keypads and other components. Care should be taken when wiping down electronic equipment with alcohol wipes because some surfaces may be damaged.
    • Headlamps and batteries
      Headlamps are disinfected by (1) removing the elastic head straps and submersing them in solution following steps identified in the WNS Decontamination Protocol (USFWS 2016), and (2) wiping down the electronic parts using isopropyl alcohol (70%) wipes. Backup headlamps and batteries should be stored in sealed individual ziplock bags, kept in cave packs, and accessed as needed.
    • Vertical caving equipment
      All technical caving equipment must be designated for site-specific, regional use within a WNS confirmed, suspected, or unaffected area (USFWS 2016). When moving between study sites within one of those designated areas, all equipment should be cleaned following the manufacturer’s specifications (USFWS 2016).
    • Exposed skin
      We recommend wiping all exposed body parts with all-natural/biodegradable wipes or soapy water following decontamination procedures. This is done not as part of the decontamination protocol per se, but rather to reduce accidental chemical exposure to any areas of skin. For example, accidental exposure may occur after handling decontamination equipment, recently decontaminated equipment, or personal gear. Users of isopropyl alcohol wipes should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s occupational health guidelines (CDC 1978).

NOTE: Once all equipment and personal gear are disinfected, we recommend using a clean bandana dampened with water or all-natural/biodegradable wipes to remove chemical residues from surfaces. This will reduce chemical exposure of field personnel

Literature cited

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 1978. Occupational health guidelines for isopropyl alcohol.

USFWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service). 2016. National white-nose syndrome decontamination protocol, Version 04.12.2016.

Last updated: July 27, 2017