HeatSeeker Technology Moves to Save Firefighters’ Lives

By MICHAEL ROBINSON

HeatSeeker Technology & Design, LLC, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, is committed to saving the lives of firefighters around the globe by producing products that assist in rehabilitation on emergency scenes. Multiple studies have been conducted that have evaluated the causes of firefighter injuries and deaths as well as the amount of money spent on treatment and replacement because of lost time. As a result, HeatSeeker Technology & Design, LLC is making rehab a tactical consideration.

More firefighters suffer line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) from heart attacks than from any other cause; the second leading category is slips, trips, or falls. Although the two categories may seem unrelated, previous research suggests that heat stress may be a common causal factor in these two issues.1 Departments worldwide have policies and procedures in place for rehabbing line firefighters, but there is still an unacceptable number of fatalities and injuries occurring every year.

In the United States in 2010, there were 71,875 firefighter line-of-duty injuries and 72 LODDs; 49 percent of those LODDs were because of sudden cardiac death.2 Although members can withstand elevated heart rates through aerobic exercise and fitness training, the stress factor cannot be eliminated. The increased body temperatures have several impacts on the bodies of firefighters.

These injuries and fatalities have an impact not only on the fire protection community but on the communities that they protect as well; the monetary impact that these statistics have on the economy is exceedingly large. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the total economic burden to the nation for addressing and preventing firefighter injuries is $2.7 to $7.8 billion annually.3

Personal protective equipment (PPE) contributes to an increase in core body temperatures of working firefighters. Although PPE is intended to protect the body from the dangers of the environments that firefighters encounter, it also retains the heat that builds up inside of it. Natural methods of cooling the body include sweating for evaporative cooling and increasing heart and respiratory rates to assist in disseminating heat from the body. During fireground activities, disseminating heat is, at best, difficult and often nearly impossible. Elevated body temperatures increase the clotting factors of blood, which may play a role in sudden cardiac death. Dehydration greater than two percent of an individual’s body weight will adversely affect mental function of simple tests. This can lead to poor decision making and, in turn, increase the chances of taking unnecessary risks.

HeatSeeker Technology & Design, LLC saw a need for making firefighter cooling and rehabilitation a tactical consideration and is developing several tools to assist with this effort. One of these products is the innovative Six Shooter (photo 1), which lowers air temperature by as much as 30°F, cooling down firefighters and lowering their core temperatures to help prevent cardiac arrest and other heat-related injuries.

(1) Photo courtesy of HeatSeeker Technology & Design, LLC.

This and other products can be attached and left on the discharges of any fire apparatus and used with little to no setup. They use the water from the booster tank on any pumping apparatus or municipal water system and use less than three gallons of water per hour. They are also adaptable to any hose or appliance carried on almost any apparatus for more applications as well. The cooling provided by these tools can have a major impact on lowering injuries and sudden cardiac deaths suffered by firefighters when used in conjunction with fitness activities and medical screenings as outlined in NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments; and NFPA 1583, Standard on Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Department Members.

The company is currently testing other products soon to be available and geared toward the same campaign against firefighter injuries and fatalities around the globe. A full line of HeatSeeker Technology & Design, LLC products are available at www.firegroundrehab.com.

References

1. Firefighter Life Safety Research Center—Illinois Fire Service Institute. “Firefighter Fatalities and Injuries: The Role of Heat Stress and PPE.” University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. July 2008.

2. National Fire Protection Agency. “Firefighter Fatalities in the United States—2010” and “U.S. Firefighter Injuries—2010.” 2011.

3. National Institute of Standards and Technology. “Firefighter Injuries Cost Billions Per Year.” March 25, 2005.

MICHAEL ROBINSON is a seven-year member of the Rural Metro Fire Department in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is also the founder and CEO of HeatSeeker Technology & Design, LLC.

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