One of the biggest challenges for firefighters is keeping cool while wearing Personal Protective Clothing (PPC). The heavy clothing prevents the cooling effect of sweat evaporation, making conditions uncomfortable, and even dangerous, for the firefighter.
Recent UCRISE PhD graduate and experienced firefighter, Dr Anthony Walker, has been conducting research on the thermal stress experienced by firefighters for many years and his latest study has appeared in the April 2016 edition of Asia Pacific Fire Magazine.
Dr Walker’s research involved 145 volunteers from ACT Fire & Rescue completing a 20-minute search and rescue task in a specially-built heat chamber, with the temperature set at 100 degrees Celsius. This was followed by a 10-minute recovery period where they removed their jackets and drank cool water.
Their heart rate, skin, and core temperature were monitored electronically and they were asked two self-report questions every five minutes: “how hard are you working?” and “how hot do you feel?”
The research found that several firefighters experienced dangerously high core temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius and that the heart rates of participants reached approximately 90 per cent of their maximum, due to elevated core temperatures.
Another significant finding was that, during the recovery period when they were asked “how hot do you feel”, with their jacket removed, they reported lower levels than were indicated by their core temperature measurement.
Their self-report, however, was tied to their skin temperature measurement, which did not provide a true indication of their core temperature.
Self reports of temperature during a break, with jacket removed, are used in the industry to determine whether a firefighter is ready be sent back to work and this research suggests that the practice may be unsafe and that a cost-effective tool for measuring core temperatures in the field is needed.
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To read the full article, see: Asia Pacific Fire Magazine (Issue 57, April 2016)