As much of the country tries to seek relief from triple digit temperatures, the heat throughout the United States and Canada, is especially challenging for fire fighters this time of year.  Several media reports this week have reported the plight of fire fighters.  In Tulsa, fire fighters are working in 10-minute rotations at fire scenes.  Fire recruits are sweating it out in Atlanta.  We’ve received numerous TwitPics (Twitter photos) from IAFF members cooling down during the recent heat advisories.  It’s miserable outside, we can expect more hot days to come, and fire fighters must be prepared.

Heat stress and heat stroke can kill and cause debilitating injuries, as well as reduce a fire fighter’s physiological performance.  Heat can also diminish the fire fighter’s and fire officer’s ability to make critical decisions.  Thousands of fire fighters are injured each year from heat stress and heat stroke.  Even the most fit of fire fighters can succumb to a heat-related illness if they haven’t taken steps to prevent injury.

The IAFF, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Fire Administration, has developed a rehab specific website  that includes our Emergency Incident Rehabilitation manual, as well as a training curriculum, SOPs, and many additional resources and case studies.

Fire fighters can be ready to safely deal with the hot temperatures if they gradually acclimatize their bodies to the heat. Michael Ong, battalion chief and member of Phoenix, AZ Local 493, gives some good advice in this column.  He stresses that acclimatization is a process and fire fighters should never make the mistake of testing how much their bodies can take during extreme temperatures.

Every fire department must establish high temperature benchmarks for initiating rehab operations and address training limitations during extreme heat.  However, as we have addressed in our rehab program, proper and monitored training in the heat can assist in acclimating fire fighters.

Of course, hydration plays an important role in combating heat related illness as well. It’s recommended that fire fighters consume at least two quarts of water while performing strenuous activity.

Make your health and safety a priority. Fire fighters can’t control the temperatures, but can better prepare themselves for the summer heat through aggressive fitness, hydration and rehabilitation programs.

You can always stay up to date on the latest health and safety news by visiting the IAFF web site.

Stay Safe! Acclimate and Hydrate!!!