Firefighters are exposed to various sources of heat, most commonly environmental heat exposure (weather conditions) and thermal exposure (during fire suppression and fire rescue).
A large part of heat illness prevention starts before firefighters even arrive at the station, however. A comprehensive plan to fight heat illness should include fitness, acclimatization, hydration, and proper gear. We can look at what each of those entails but first, what exactly is heat illness?
What Are the Stages Of Heat Illness?
Heat illness can range from heat rash to heatstroke. Heat rash is a mild form of heat illness. It appears as blotches of small red blisters on your skin, usually on your neck, groin, or chest.
The second stage of heat illness involves heat cramps. These typically don’t occur outside of physical exertion.
Heat exhaustion can cause fainting, headache, and other debilitation symptoms and should be considered a warning sign of the most serious stage of heat illness: heat stroke.
What’s the Role of Fitness in Preventing Heat Illness?
Firefighters who maintain a proper fitness regimen are far less likely to suffer heat illness. Workouts and routine exercise help firemen maintain healthy circulation, which can help a body better regulate its temperature through sweat.
Those most susceptible to heat illness are the elderly, children, and people who are overweight.
Acclimatization means adapting to an environment or condition. For firefighters, it means getting accustomed to rescue attempts while in full turnout gear and going through maneuvers in hot conditions over a period.
Ideally, acclimatization drills should be conducted with a physician on hand to monitor.
How Much Water Is Needed to Prevent Heat Illness?
Sweat is your body’s natural defense against overheating. Dehydration can cause your body to fail at regulating temperatures, so it needs ample fluid before, during, and after work. During fire suppression activities, a firefighter evaporates about 1 liter of sweat for each hour of work.
The least amount of water a firefighter should consume, per day, is 64 ounces. Don’t ever rely on thirst as an indicator of when water is needed. If you feel thirsty, your body has already begun to suffer dehydration.
How Does PPF Impact Heat Illness?
PPE will increase physical heat, so it’s crucial you choose PPE and turnout gear that’s protective yet comfortable. Fire-End proudly carries LION turnout gear, one of the most trusted brands of turnout gear on the market.
LION Redzone gear, like the LION’s RedZone Particulate-Blocking Hood, is specifically made to be air-permeable to help manage core temperature and heat stress.
Learn more about LION’S Red Zone. We are an authorized dealer for LION products on the NYS contract. Contact Your Local Fire-End Rep to set up a meeting or price out a garment to meet your specifications. We have outside sales reps in most areas of New York.