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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Firefighters "Rehab" Policy Under Heat Stress Watch

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

Firefighters are accustomed to operating in "hot" conditions.  However, when air temperatures and quality become dangerous and unhealthy, injuries and illnesses to emergency personnel become likely and preventative measure are required.  For example, a firefighter was admitted to a local hospital on Monday, July 25, suffering a heat related illness after battling a Hyattsville house fire

Firefighters battled a fire in a vacant home on Wednesday morning in Boulevard Heights. At about 11:45 am Fire/EMS units were alerted to a house fire in the 4200 block of Byers Street and arrived to find a 2-story structure with fire showing from a basement with extension into the 1st floor. The cause of the fire is under investigations and fire loss estimates are still being considered.

In addition to battling the fire, firefighters also had to deal with “pack-rat” conditions throughout the house. There were about 30 firefighters and paramedics on the scene. It required about 15 minutes to extinguish the fire. The Fire/EMS Department is currently operating under a “Heat Stress Watch” in which heat related illnesses to firefighters are possible. To prevent against the illness and injuries firefighters are required to go through a “rehab” area after battling a fire or other strenuous activity. During rehab firefighters rehydrate themselves and have vital signs monitored by paramedics. Once the cooling process is complete and vital signs are within normal limits, firefighters are cleared to perform additional duty.

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department issues a heat stress watch or heat stress warning when heat conditions present a safety hazard to personnel involved in emergency operations.

Incident Commanders and Unit Officers are encouraged to take appropriate steps to monitor and protect their crews during these conditions. The Fire/EMS Department takes the safety and wellness of our personnel very seriously. Constant reminders are broadcast over the radio system during the course of the day while operating under heat stress watches and warnings.

Members of the Fire/EMS Department take these steps to stay healthy.

Prevention Measures

• Pre-Incident hydration – Drink 8 oz of water every hour during your shift, not to exceed more than 12 quarts of fluid over a 24 hour period

• Establish work/rest periods, share workloads and alter the pace of work based on conditions

• Provide ventilation and good air movement in work areas

• Utilize the “buddy” system and emergency incident rehabilitation to prevent heat stress injuries

Emergency Incident Rehabilitation

• Crews remain intact and accountable to the Rehab Officer

• Safe and cool area to rest, rehydrate/eat, and replenish SCBA bottles and other equipment

• Relief from PPE and heat conditions in the work environment for 20 minutes

• Drink 12 to 32 oz of water or sports drink during rehab sessions and during a 2 hour period post incident

Emergency Incident Rehabilitation Triage Criteria

• Employees/members with the following conditions are referred for EMS treatment/transport:

o Injury, chest pain, SOB, severe fatigue, nausea, altered mental status

o Heart Rate >120 (> 10 minutes)

o Temperature >100.4 F (> 10 minutes)

o Blood Pressure – Systolic >200 or <90, Diastolic >110 (> 10 minutes)

o CO-Hg – Non-smokers >5%, Smokers >10% or symptomatic

• All other personnel are cleared for incident rehabilitation

Emergency Incident Rehabilitation Discharge Criteria

• Heart Rate <100

• Temperature <99.5 F

• Blood Pressure – Systolic between 100 and 160, Diastolic <90

• CO-Hg – Non-smokers <5%, Smokers <10% and asymptomatic

By firefighters taking necessary precautions and following prescribed guidelines before, during and after periods of intense work in high heat conditions is keeping Safety First to Ensure Everyone Goes Home.

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