HEPA filter vs COVID19

As the need to protect people in all circumstances grows, newly developed measures are diversifying - but which ones are the right ones?

April 13, 2021

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been on our minds a little longer than expected. As the need to protect people in all circumstances becomes more urgent, newly developed measures diversify - but which ones are the right ones? The ASB ambulance service in Berlin and the patient transport service in Stahnsdorf near Potsdam have made the decision to install Webasto high-performance air filter systems in their vehicles.

In March 2020, a small team of Webasto employees at the company's site in Molinella, Italy, brainstormed on how they could contribute to the fight against the pandemic by leveraging their expertise in cooling and air distribution in vehicles. After only four months, the first HEPA filter systems were already available for fitting to all types of vehicles.

The "HFT 200", "HFT 300" and "HFT 600" correspond to the HEPA filter class H14. This means that they are capable of filtering out 99.995% of particles smaller than 0.3 micrometers in the air. These particles include, for example, viruses, bacteria, aerosols and respirable dust, thus also the coronavirus, which have a diameter of about 0.12-0.16 micrometers. Depending on their size, these filtration systems can decontaminate between three and ten cubic meters of room air per minute. To replace all of the ambient air every minute, simply select the appropriate number and size of filter systems. In emergency vehicles, the filters, used in conjunction with personal protective equipment, significantly reduce the risk of infection for EMS operators and patients.

Employees were involved in the equipment decision

"We carefully considered how best to protect our patients and staff during the acute phase of the pandemic and involved our colleagues in the decision," explains Maximilian Barletta, head of central services at ASB Rettungsdienst Berlin gGmbH. "We need healthy rescue workers who can help others," he continues. As a first step, ASB Rettungsdienst equipped its intensive care ambulance with an HFT 600, which can decontaminate ten cubic meters of air per minute, because more than 90 percent of the patients transported in this vehicle are affected by COVID-19. After a pilot phase, the Berlin service plans to equip its other rescue vehicles and ambulances with Webasto HEPA filters at a later date.

Installed at their own expense to protect all passengers

In Stahnsdorf, near Potsdam, the Größer Ambulance Service transports mainly immunocompromised cancer patients and dialysis patients to their appointments. In order to provide the best possible protection for the drivers and passengers travelling in the Ford vans, the transport service equipped each of its six vehicles with an HFT 300. The installation was carried out by T&S GmbH Autotechnik & Elektrik in Stahnsdorf, with one vehicle per day, to ensure that as many vehicles as possible could remain actively deployed. "Before the pandemic hit, we sometimes transported two or three patients at a time, but now we can only take one passenger per trip," is how Ilka Größer describes the situation at her company. "Although we do not receive any public funding for this purpose, we nevertheless want to protect everyone traveling in our vehicles as best as possible and have therefore opted to install Webasto HEPA air filters." Patients welcome this commitment by the Potsdam-based company and also report that the noise produced by the air filters does not bother them. "The sound is comparable to that of a hair dryer, almost monotonous and soothing," Größer explains.

The equipment can be flexibly adapted to the size of the vehicle

Filter versions with a length of 60 or 120 cm are available for vehicle interiors of different sizes. Several filters can be combined to decontaminate larger areas. They have a diameter of 20 centimeters and can be installed both horizontally and vertically. If desired, Webasto can supply suitable mounting brackets. With these brackets, installation is possible in only 30 minutes. The filter systems only require a 12 or 24 volt connection. The filter is hermetically sealed with a cover before it is replaced, which means that the filter can be changed without contamination with the usual protective clothing.

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