During the recent heat wave, IAFF affiliates are taking the proper precautions to ensure members have the resources necessary to avoid heat-borne illnesses while on the job.
You know what it’s like to walk outside to in the summer heat. Now imagine you’re carrying 60-80 pounds of gear and battling a blazing house fire under the same conditions.
It’s all part of the job experience for fire fighters during these scorching hot summer days.
“We remind our members every day to hydrate, minimize or cancel any training during a heatwave and limit exposure outside,” says Fairfax County, VA Local 2068 President John Niemiec.
He says his local uses these practical methods, as well as a rehab unit to prepare and combat the extreme temperatures that can put members’ health in danger.
Green Bay, WI Local 141 President Chad Bronkhorst also makes sure his members have access to a rehab unit that includes Gatorade, air conditioning, water and energy bars.
The rehab unit is usually near shade or in the back of an ambulance. While cooling down, members can hydrate and have a medical check. As the incident progresses, fire fighters may circulate through a rehab unit more than once to recover.
According to Louisville, KY Local 345 President Brian O’Neill, the local Red Cross provides a rehab space in a city bus to help his members cool down in the heat.
Fire fighters answer calls to numerous of heat-related incidents throughout the summer – often in response to patients who disregard warnings or advice about staying cool and hydrated, so in addition to creating routines and protocols to protect themselves from the effects of the heat during this especially hot season, IAFF members are also teaching people in their communities about the importance of taking steps to stay cool and avoid heat illness.
Furthermore, fire fighters are responding to a number of heat-related cases this summer that involve children and pets neglected in cars.
“Even 70 degrees outside it is too hot to leave a child or pet in the car, let alone when it is 90 degrees. So many horrible tragedies result from leaving pets and children in the heat in a car,” says O’Neill.
Many affiliates conduct campaigns to educate residents in their community about heat-related dangers and to limit any outdoor activities to early morning.
“The message is simple: do whatever you can to make sure you’re hydrated throughout the day,” says Niemiec.
Social media has been an effective way to warn residents and spread the word. Green Bay Local 141 also publishes tips on its web site on how to survive the heat, such as wearing loose-fitting and light-colored clothing, drinking plenty of fluids, limiting activity and avoiding being outside during the hottest part of the day (usually 3:00-5:00 p.m.).
In Fairfax County, residents can check their public information office for information on the heat index and ways to minimize exposure outside.
Niemiec says efforts to keep people safe in the heat are working. Camp counselors, for example, have headed the warnings and are now limiting time spent outside and making sure campers cool down and hydrate before resuming outdoor activities.
Through practical daily routines and rehab, IAFF members are staying safe and healthy, while also making sure the public knows what to do when temperatures become hazardous.