A CBS New York news story today highlights the dangers that firefighters face when responding to emergency calls during the summer. Under oppressive conditions, three firefighters suffered serious injuries while attacking a multiple alarm fire in the Wakefield area of the Bronx that severely damaged five homes. A fourth first responder, driving to provide mutual aid from neighboring Queens, was critically injured on his way to the call.
The difficult day in the Bronx, underscores how important it is for firefighters to stay hydrated and mindful of the health risks that exist before, during and after a fire incident when the weather is hot and humid. Under normal circumstances, the hazy, lazy days of July and August can slow people down, disorient some, cause exhaustion, and even lead to heart attack or stroke. Add in the extreme heat that firefighters confront and the heavy personal protective equipment they don to tackle flames and smoke, is it any wonder that firefighters across the country are experiencing nausea, cramps, pain, and dehydration? To combat excessive heat, more firefighters may be called to the scene to allow rotation of crews and rehabilitation areas can be set up at the incident scene to monitor firefighters’ vital signs and help them cool down before returning to the firefight.
In light of recent heat waves, four leading fire organizations, including NFPA, issued a statement this week reminding fire professionals about the importance of situational awareness and risk evaluation.
To learn more about fire department occupational safety and health and protocols related to firefighter training, apparatus, protective clothing and equipment, medical and physical requirements, health and wellness, and incident rehabilitation programs, access NFPA 1500 and NFPA 1584 free online.