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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

HOT HOT HOT: The Impact of Heat on the Public Safety Athlete-Responder

Firefighter in rehab.
The Metro Fire Chiefs recently sponsored training sessions on responder rehab and heat- related issues at emergency scenes. The session was coordinated by the Emergency Preparedness Resource Group. Scott Tomek, MA—Allina’s risk manager and a paramedic—began the session with a comparison of firefighters and extreme athletes, including a section called “Sims and Diffs.”

Some of the sims (similarities) were: personal commitment, highly specialized training, lifestyle impacts, high levels of exertion, highly specialized equipment, a rotation of “players” in and out of the “game,” and high levels of risk.

What struck me more were the differences. For responders, there is no time to stretch or warm up, no time to hydrate ahead of the event, and no idea when the “competition” will occur. It is like training for a marathon, and you have no idea when the race will start or even what day it will happen.  

Scott explained the “inter-relational changes” that start occurring during exertion in hot weather: the body strives to maintain body function and regulates fluid volume while it tries to preserve a normal blood pressure. The blood thickens, and that further stresses the heart. “Look for who is not sweating,” he advised.

Rehab can keep you in the game.
He also shared some “hot statistics:” At 37 degrees, a healthy, physically fit person can do 95 minutes of hard work. At 104 degrees, that drops to 33 minutes—and there is a sharp decline in performance after 10 minutes. A 1-2% drop in hydration will decrease work performance 35-48%. The impact of heat is cumulative, and “you do not rebound.” You have got to get ahead of the problem. He ended with photos of professional athletes drinking sports drinks, while large fans and water misters blew across them. In the background were the team trainers who were monitoring the athletes. It looked a lot like rehab at a fire scene.

Allina EMS South Operations Manager Jeff Lanenberg presented the second part of the presentation, which focused on the Metro Fire Chief’s rehab program and the use of EMS at large events and calls. It made sense, and the comparison to professional athletes was effective.

Make rehab and planning for heat part of your operating procedures. Take advantage of the events that are scheduled—the special events and community festivals—and plan for the summer heat. Make hydration a briefing item during training or roll calls briefings.  When it is hot, we need to watch each other and help each other.

Preparation and rehab lets you stay in the game.


Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time… “Level 3 Performance - The Highest Level of Professionalism”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.

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