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Winter Safety and Health Checklist for Fire Fighters

The Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters has done a good job of asking residents in their state to help fire fighters in cold and snowy conditions. You can do the same by sharing these tips with your community in this article.

Fire Fighters should be careful to not neglect themselves when responding to emergencies in freezing temperatures. So, the next time you find yourself working in frigid weather remember the acronym COLD.

  • Keep it Clean—The dirtier clothing is, the less it will protect against cold weather.
  • Avoid Overheating—Firefighters who overheat and sweat excessively ultimately will be more susceptible to hypothermia.
  • Wear it Loose and in Layers—Air insulation between the layers of clothing is the most effective insulation. It also allows for adjusting the amount of clothing if conditions warrant it.
  • Keep it Dry—Water causes cooling 25 times faster than dry air. Replace wet clothing when extended operations are required in cold weather.

During the winter months, fire fighters should protect themselves by having all the protective gear they need. Pack extra socks and gloves and have them available at fire scenes. Boots should be taken off after each incident --- wiped out and allowed to dry.

To protect yourself from frostbite you can do the following:

  • Learn to recognize the warnings signs of frostbite and check on each other regularly.  People are usually unaware they have frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.  Look out for the following signs:
  • Skin that is white or grayish-yellow
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
  • Numbness
  • Wear appropriate clothing and wind protection
  • Cover exposed flesh, particularly those areas that are most susceptible to frostbite which are the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes
  • Avoid sweating and overexertion  
  • Work in groups of two
  • Have a warm shelter for rehab available

If you have to work for an extended period in snowy conditions, please be mindful of snow blindness and sun burn. Fire fighters should wear protective eyewear or goggles and use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.  Rehabilitation remains an essential element on the incident scene to prevent more serious conditions such as hypothermia from occurring. Accordingly, the IAFF has produced the Emergency Scene Rehabilitation Manual and curriculum materials to better educate and protect our members.

 

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