With summer here we are faced with high heat indexes that result in heat wave conditions and may limit our exposure to the outdoors. As firefighters we don’t have the luxury of choosing when and where we work; we all know that Murphy’s laws take affect when temperatures reach 100 degrees and we’re wearing turnout gear. The Safety Officer in all of us should kick into high gear ensuring everyone stays hydrated and reports to rehab. Make sure that you and your fellow firefighters are drinking water throughout operations and consider rehabbing sooner than usual. If you experience heat exhaustion or worse heat stroke, you inevitably become part of the problem not the solution..
Here are two charts for your reference. Review them and post them in your firehouses.
The first is a description of heat related injuries. It describes signs and symptoms, treatment, and how to prevent them.
The second is a urine color chart and water consumption table. During a recent trip to Maryland, I noticed a similar chart posted in the rest rooms of the Baltimore Fire Academy. The charts are posted as a constant reminder to stay hydrated. By using this chart you can determine if you are properly hydrated and it may help prevent heat related injuries.
A key indicator of heat related injuries is sweat. If you stop sweating while you’re working, get to rehab fast. This is an indication of heat stroke, which is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not treated immediately.
All injuries are preventable. Hydrate, rehab and monitor each other for signs and symptoms of heat related injuries.