How healthy are firefighters? Do their jobs adversely affect their respiratory and cardiovascular health? Researchers at Indiana University announced in a recent press release that they have received a $1 million federal grant to examine these questions and find answers. Awarded by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Federal Management Agency, this grant will explore the demands of the job of firefighting.
Every year in America, approximately 100 firefighters die in while doing their jobs. Nearly half of those who die suffer a heart attack while they are doing their job. These attacks are likely caused by stress and overexertion.
Just how demanding is the job of a firefighter? Unfortunately, no one really knows. No one knows all of the many details that compromise the job encompassed by the label, “firefighter.” The funds from this grant will be used to fully examine all of the various tasks that firefighters participate in.
To determine exactly what firefighters “do” as a part of their jobs, the grant money has provided money to buy specific items of clothing that will monitor firefighters throughout their work cycle.
“To know if they’re over-exerting themselves, we need to know what they’re doing. There are too many of them dying of heart attack, and they’re too young. We’ve known that for some time. But no one has known the cause,” said visiting scientist Jim Brown, visiting scientist at Indiana University.
To facilitate gathering this information, nearly 60 firefighters will wear high-tech LifeShirts® which are made by VivoMetrics Inc. These devices are light-weight vests that are also embedded with a variety of sensors. They will continuously monitor the respiratory system and cardiovascular system of the firefighters that are wearing these vests.
In addition to wearing the specialized vests, firefighters will also wear thermal imaging cameras that are mounted on their helmets during calls to fires they are fighting. These devices will record information and save it to a device that will be inserted inside of the helmet.
Finally, the researchers will also go to the scenes of the fire to record other variables, including the types of building that is burning and weather conditions at the time of the fire.
Data will be collected for over 6 months. Once received, it will be analyzed compiled into useful data.
Ultimately, researchers will be able to identify specific fitness needs for firefighters, and will identify areas that are often neglected in current fitness training routines. By targeting additional fitness training that firefighters need, researchers hope that they can lower the number of heart attacks that affect firefighters, thus improving the health and safety of firefighters around the country.