During the recent heat wave, IAFF affiliates are taking the
proper precautions to ensure members have the resources necessary to avoid
heat-borne illnesses while on the job.
You know what it’s like to walk outside to in the summer heat.
Now imagine you’re carrying 60-80 pounds of gear and battling a blazing house
fire under the same conditions.
It’s all part of the job experience for fire fighters during
these scorching hot summer days.
“We remind our members every day to hydrate, minimize or
cancel any training during a heatwave and limit exposure outside,” says Fairfax
County, VA Local 2068 President John Niemiec.
He says his local uses these practical methods, as well as a
rehab unit to prepare and combat the extreme temperatures that can put members’
health in danger.
Green Bay, WI Local 141 President Chad Bronkhorst also makes
sure his members have access to a rehab unit that includes Gatorade, air
conditioning, water and energy bars.
The rehab unit is usually near shade or in the back of an
ambulance. While cooling down, members can hydrate and have a medical check. As
the incident progresses, fire fighters may circulate through a rehab unit more
than once to recover.
According to Louisville, KY Local 345 President Brian O’Neill,
the local Red Cross provides a rehab space in a city bus to help his members cool
down in the heat.
Fire fighters answer calls to numerous of heat-related incidents
throughout the summer – often in response to patients who disregard warnings or
advice about staying cool and hydrated, so in addition to creating routines and
protocols to protect themselves from the effects of the heat during this
especially hot season, IAFF members are also teaching people in their
communities about the importance of taking steps to stay cool and avoid heat
Furthermore, fire fighters are responding to a number of
heat-related cases this summer that involve children and pets neglected in
“Even 70 degrees outside it is too hot to leave a child or pet
in the car, let alone when it is 90 degrees. So many horrible tragedies result
from leaving pets and children in the heat in a car,” says O’Neill.
Many affiliates conduct campaigns to educate residents in
their community about heat-related dangers and to limit any outdoor activities
to early morning.
“The message is simple: do whatever you can to make sure
you’re hydrated throughout the day,” says Niemiec.
Social media has been an effective way to warn residents and
spread the word. Green Bay Local 141 also publishes tips on its web site on how
to survive the heat, such as wearing loose-fitting and light-colored clothing,
drinking plenty of fluids, limiting activity and avoiding being outside during
the hottest part of the day (usually 3:00-5:00 p.m.).
In Fairfax County, residents can check their public
information office for information on the heat index and ways to minimize exposure
Niemiec says efforts to keep people safe in the heat are
working. Camp counselors, for example, have headed the warnings and are now
limiting time spent outside and making sure campers cool down and hydrate before
resuming outdoor activities.
Through practical daily routines and rehab, IAFF members are staying
safe and healthy, while also making sure the public knows what to do when
temperatures become hazardous.