Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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Response to firefighter heart attack research

Following research released today linking exposure to high temperatures to increased risk in suffering a heart attack, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) has responded to reassure firefighters and the public of the work they do to reduce health risk.

The study, published by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, showed a direct link between the heat and physical activity levels encountered by firefighters during the course of their duties and their risk of suffering a heart attack.

Acting Chief Fire Officer, Adam Eckley, said: “The health and safety of our firefighters is a fundamental priority to us and we’re grateful for any research which will ultimately help protect firefighters across the UK.

“We regularly review the Personal Protective Fire Fighting Equipment (fire gear), training, equipment, policies and procedures to do everything we can to make our firefighters safer. We do this by consulting other fire and rescue services, industry experts and manufacturers to make sure our firefighters have the best protection available.”

Here is what ECFRS does to ensure their firefighter’s safety:

Personal Protective Fire Fighting Equipment (fire gear) and firefighting equipment

  • Firefighter’s Personal Protective Fire Fighting Equipment (fire gear) protects them from fire and is designed to keep them cool
  • The new breathing apparatus that firefighters wear is lighter than ever, to reduce exertion and strain on the body
  • Positive Pressure Ventilation fans are used in building fires to drastically reduce the temperature inside the building or compartment
  • Thermal imaging cameras are used to locate casualties and hot spots, which reduces the amount of time firefighters spend at the incident. They also detect the coldest part of the room so firefighters can fight the fire from the coolest part of the building.

Training

  • We follow national guidelines and have our own risk assessments and control measures for fire exposure time
  • Our trainers follow specifically designed procedures to protect them from the effects of regular and repeated exposure to extreme temperatures

Policies and procedures

  • At large fires the crews are rotated regularly so firefighters can take regular rest breaks
  • All fire stations and fire engines have a supply of drinking water and firefighters are regularly educated about the risk of dehydration
  • All firefighters are given health and fitness checks by our in-house fitness team and occupational health team

ACFO Adam Eckley, added: “We support the advice from the research which places paramount importance on firefighters staying hydrated when working, and we regularly reinforce these messages to our crews.

“As well as the work we do to around keeping our firefighters safe we are working to prevent fires starting to begin with, and over the last 10 years the total number of incidents in the UK has reduced by 50 per cent. Through our Juvenile Fire Setting scheme, education in schools and the work we do in our communities we’re doing everything we can to continue to reduce the number of fires and therefore limit extreme temperature exposure to our firefighters.  

“We will continue to use research and implement new technology and procedures to improve firefighting techniques to reduce risk to our firefighters.”

 

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