Fire fighters pop pills

Friday 18 January 2013

Fire fighters pop pills

Victorian fire-fighters ingested a capsule capable of relaying live data about their health during a simulated training exercise which saw 50 volunteer fire-fighters evacuate 20 people from a burning medical centre.

The exercise was part of a pilot study investigating heat stress in fire fighters.  The study aimed to help fire-fighters learn more about how their bodies reacted to working in hot, stressful situations and when to take breaks, according to CFA Health and Wellbeing Officer Peter Langridge.

“This data has resulted in a change in work patterns and exposure times to increase the safety of fire-fighters. If we see their core body temperature increasing then we know to remove them from the fire and put them into the rehabilitation area,” said Mr Langridge.

 “Working in hot environments will stress different people at different rates. There is no set formula for how long a person can fight a fire before they start suffering from heat stress or dehydration and management is the key to protecting our fire fighters,”.

“The capsule fed us excellent live data about the heat stress and welfare of individual fire fighters and where they were located".

“While Personal Protective Clothing has minimised the amount of radiant heat our fire-fighters are exposed to, we still need to manage the risk of heat-related illness,” said Mr Langridge.

The study took place during a simulated training exercise in Echuca, which saw volunteer fire-fighters from three different brigades work together to evacuate 20 people from a burning medical centre.

By ingesting a body temperature capsule and wearing chest monitors, the 50 fire-fighters provided real-time performance data including core body temperature, heart rate, skin temperature, respiratory rate and effort, as well information about location and body movement.

The study used the Equivital EQ02 LifeMonitor which adopts state-of-the-art technology and provides the fire-fighters with a wealth of information about their vital signs.  

"The next step is a national study involving other fire agencies as more research needs to be done in the area of heat stress in fire-fighters,” Ben Greenaway, Managing Director of BMedical said.

Pictured: Local fire fighters may eventually be equipped with the new technology.

The Equivital EQ02 LifeMonitor is already being used by fire fighters in the UK, US and China. The systems are also used by the Defence Science Technology Organisation to evaluate fitness for military roles, AFL Players, racing car drivers,

Bear Grylls from the Discovery Channel Show and numerous research projects in Universities across Australia. Redbull Stratos also used Equivital to monitor Felix Baumgartner vital signs during his world record jump.