Summer conditions, including extreme heat and humidity have a significant impact on the physical and mental well-being of fireFirefighter 5 department personnel. Firefighters are increasingly susceptible to the dangers of excessive heat exposure due to their strenuous work in extreme heat, high-stressful situations, and heavy clothing and equipment. Firefighters can overcome these hazards and their associated health complications by understanding the risks and proper preparation for them beforehand.

Heat related illness occurs when our bodies cannot dissipate heat quickly enough and our internal body temperature keeps rising. This will lead to workers experiencing thirst, irritability, heat rash, cramping, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.  Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness and workers may experience decreased work performance, mental dysfunction, unconsciousness, confusion, disorientation, and slurred speech.  Fire departments should learn to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness in themselves and fellow firefighters, and follow reporting protocols should such symptoms be observed.

Make certain personnel do not take “short cuts” with personnel protective equipment (PPE) while attempting to stay cool. Call for extra alarms and resources sooner rather than later. Summertime heat will require augmenting firefighters over a shorter time span, as frequent breaks will be necessary. Remember, help can always be returned if not needed. Wearing turnout gear for an extended time in extreme summer weather will reduce the body’s ability to cool itself by evaporation of perspiration.

Heat exhaustion can be severe and is also caused by an electrolyte imbalance. The firefighter suffering from heat exhaustion will exhibit profuse sweating, nausea, dizziness, headaches and an elevated body temperature. Removal from the environment into a cooler one with the administration of fluids will assist with recovery, but left untreated these conditions can lead to the more serious condition of heat stroke. The key to keeping firefighters safe during extreme heat conditions is hydration. Firefighters should be aggressively hydrating throughout the day prior to getting a call during hot, humid days. Water and other cold fluids containing electrolytes are the most important items that should be consumed to maintain proper hydration during these conditions. Soda or juices have been shown to slow absorption into the body and can have a detrimental effect in these situations. It is recommended that firefighters consume at least 1 quart of water per hour when working at these times. Fire apparatus should carry drinking water for its crew in case the necessary rehab resources are not on scene.

It is important during extreme summer weather to monitor fire personnel and make certain they stay hydrated and continuously operate in a safe manner.

For further information on safe work practices for fire department personnel, please reach out to the Comp Alliance and the Director of Loss Control, Robert Blaisdell, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (518) 330-8591

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