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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fire/EMS Department Operate Under a "Heat Stress Watch"

Prince George’s County, Maryland, is in the midst of a string of days with temperatures in the unhealthy levels and a forecast of daytime temperatures remaining in the 90’s. Firefighters and paramedics have handled an increased number of responses since the June heat arrived and continue to deal with the responses and coping with the heat themselves. The Fire/EMS Department has been operating under a “Heat Stress Watch” whereas the Risk Management office has prepared a safety message to keep personnel of safety measures to remain healthy and injury free.

Dispatchers at Public Safety Communications broadcast a prepared message every two hours while under the Heat Stress Watch reminding personnel of the dangerous and unhealthy conditions. Throughout the course of the day dispatchers provide the following information over the Fire/EMS Departments radio system:

“A heat stress watch is in effect for emergency operations.

Incident Commanders; heat stress injuries to fire service personnel are likely.

Consider limiting active work periods to 2 breathing air (SCBA) bottles or 40 minutes before directing crews to rehab.”

Crews, maintain pre-incident hydration by drinking eight ounces of water every hour throughout your shift.”

“Prevention before response ensures everyone goes home.”

Despite the heavy workload, personnel have remained healthy. Attention to the health and wellness of firefighters and paramedics is of the utmost concern at all times and particular care and precautions are administered during periods of high temperatures and unhealthy air. After being involved in firefighting operations all personnel must report to a rehab area. Water and ice packs are provided for hydration and to help the cooling process.  Paramedics monitor vital signs and have personnel remain in the rehab area until vitals are documented as being within normal limits. Incident commanders are quick to request additional resources based on incident status. These resources include; Paramedics, air conditioned buses, additional staffing and a canteen unit.

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