Heat Stress Prevention: Why not apply this technology to fire helmets?


Firefighter's attack a fire inside a locomotive... Think it gets a little hot inside?

Smart Football Firefighter Helmet Monitors Body Temp, (and could) Saves Lives


Heat stroke kills players firefighters every year. But a new helmet gives coaches firefighter's a novel sideline monitoring system.
The greatest danger that football players firefighters face is a [insert something else here like heart attacks, asphyxiation, internal trauma, burns, drowning, HEAT STROKE, asthma attack or getting shot ] bone-crushing hit, right? But the stats tell a different story: Since 1995, 39 football players firefighters, most in high school, have died of heat stroke. And it's not the province of psycho coaches in Texas either: In 2001, Minnesota Vikiings lineman Korey Stringer died, with a body temperature of 108.8 degrees. Now take that same individual playing football and put that person into a firefighting situation that could involve structure fires, motor vehicle fires, wildland fires or any arduous activity that occurs in high temperatures that much of the United States is currently encountering.
In the last decade (1), of the 40 firefighters who died on the fireground, 13 succumbed to heart attacks, 8 were asphyxiated, 7 died of crushing injuries, 5 died of internal trauma, 3 died of burns, 1 drowned, 1 died of heat stroke, another died during an asthma attack, and 1 was shot. Nineteen of the victims were volunteer firefighters, 15 were career firefighters, 4 were contractors with wildland agencies, 1 was a career federal forestry agency employee, and 1 was a seasonal state forestry agency employee.
As Popular Science reports, a new football helmet could finally end those tragedies so...
Why not apply this technology to fire helmets?
Hothead Technologies invented the Heat Observation Technology (HOT) system, an in-helmet temperature monitor that will alert coaches when a player is overheated. Inside the helmet's padding, near the players temporal artery, the monitoring comes from a thermistor, whose electrical resistance varies with temperature. (Which sounds fancy, but almost all metals have that property; thermosistors merely have a more regular resistance pattern, which is easier to model.) A built-in radio transmits temperatures to a PDA monitored on the sidelines. Hothead, apparently, is "as accurate as a rectal thermometer" but obviously far more useful to football players (and firefighters).
References
1. NFPA's files on fatal injuries to on-duty firefighters are updated continually for all years. The current total of 95 deaths for 1996 is three more than the number identified in the July/August 1997 issue of NFPA Journal.
2. For this report, the term "volunteer" refers to any firefighter who isn't a full-time, paid member of a fire department. The term "career" refers to full-time, paid fire department members or employees of career organizations whose assigned duties include firefighting.
Refresher Training: What is the difference between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke?

 

Refresher Training: What has NIOSH recommended to prevent Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke?


Refresher Training:

 The apparent temperature is how hot the heat-humidity combination makes it feel?


We are in the 21st century where technological advances and miniaturization of circuits and radio transmitters makes things like this possible. If a football coach can monitor a football team, then can't a Safety Officer do the same? Any monies spent on this type of technology being made available to high school football teams should be adapted and made available for firefighters.



Firefighters safety is paramount and using a tool such as this that can warn supervisors that one of their own is in danger seems like an obvious thing to do, at least it does to me. Passive systems with GPS monitors and vital sign monitoring should one day be the norm verses my suggesting it here on the FFN. 



What do you think?


CBz


"Failure to prepare is preparing to failure, be prepared..."


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My point Don is that if it is proven this stuff works, but we put up arguments against using it (such as cost, weight, etc), then at what cost is the possible subsequant lawsuit?

The ROI would pay for itself in the next lawsuit where heat stress is proven as the cause...
I made no argument against the concept or the technology. If it works, and can cool, or warn of possible heat injury, before it gets bad enough to render a firefighter unconscious, or kill them, I say fantastic.

But to live outside the world of reality and think that discussing things like cost and weight don't matter is utter foolishness. I know several small very rural FDs in my area still using belt mounted regulator MSA SCBA's. Not because they are the most modern, not because they are the lightest, not because they have all the bells and whistles, but because the COST of new SCBA is out of their reach. So they make do with what they have. What ae the odds they will opt to spend money they don't have on a helmet cooler and monitor? there is so much technology out there that is simply so far beyond the reach of many FDsthat is might as well not even exist. THAT IS MY POINT!

Weight is also a issue. What kind of helmet do you wear? Leathers weigh over 3 pounds, plastics weigh up to 2 pounds or more. How much weight do you want to carry on your neck? Like I said I quit wearing my sammy partially because of the weight and partially because it fell apart on me.

You can't dismiss obvious issues with an idea becaue you are enamored with the idea. If it is light enough, and cost effective enough, it will catch on. If it isn't it will disappear like so many other great ideas that didn't pan out.

Hey, how about this? Concern for those cooling pads...Has anyone tested them to see how they hold up in the temperatues that we work in OR are occasionaly exposed to? How about this...they get superheated in the helmet, burst and super heated cooling gel flows down over the head of the firefighter? Not saying that would happen, just saying it COULD happen. We workin a completely different environment than a football player does.

Like I said IF it works, IF it is cost effective, IF it isn't too heavy, and IF the heat we work in won't cause dangerous failures, I say give it a try.
Hey, how about this? Concern for those cooling pads...Has anyone tested them to see how they hold up in the temperatues that we work in OR are occasionaly exposed to? How about this...they get superheated in the helmet, burst and super heated cooling gel flows down over the head of the firefighter? Not saying that would happen, just saying it COULD happen. We workin a completely different environment than a football player does.


First off I echo and agree with what Don is saying here 100%. The realities we face when it does come to cost, weight, etc absolutely DOES factor in. This is coupled with many to most depts set up to go with the lowest bidder despite what some new technology is available etc. On top of that comes to the very true reality there is only so much money to go around and couple that with the reality that budgets have been further decreased over the years. It is bad enough to see layoffs of FF's let alone the inabilty to buy new SCBAs or turnouts for members, let alone even grasping at new UNPROVEN technology.

What Don said here is definately a concern and is something I alluded to as well. The cost, the weight, and even if the cooling packs will hold up in the extremes FF face or even if the transmitter is linked to potential cancer causing etc.

This isn't "resistance" to something new, but honest questions and realisms. The nature of the FF job is different from that of a football player. The question on the cooling packs failing definately is legit, will there be a reaction? Is there a toxic concern, especially is exposed to different heat and chemicals and so forth.

The issue is that any new technology starting out typically has a significant cost factor involved. Does anyone think for a second when the flat pack SCBA is made available it is going to cost less than traditional bottle SCBA? I doubt it. That is the reality we do face, that with any new technology there will be questions and there will be factors and cost is one of the biggest. It is an honest fact there are just places that won't be able to afford such new technologies.

Now if this was common place and widely available, PROVEN, and cost effective, that is one discussion. However, the way it is now it is unproven, new, and not widely available. Yes, this can be a good technology and can be a breakthrough in FF safety....but the questions need to be answered first. There is no reason for anyone, nor any dept to go all in on an experiment just because someone thinks it is a good idea.


A good rehab and having enough personnel on the scene to mitigate goes further than expending costs on new technologies which haven't been proven for this application. It is also fact that people, not technology mitigates emergencies, technology just aids. Like thermal imagers, this can be a technology more widely available in the future. Unlike TICs, the technology here is for multiple personnel, you don't see the sharing of fire helmets. In the future this may be something definately worth it, but it also has to be durable, proven, and cost effective. Hopefully that future is sooner than later, but make no mistake, the questions are valid and should be asked and not just feigned off as "resistance to something new".
CaptBzy your stats show one firefighter died of heat stroke in the last decade. I like the concept of remote monitoring, but seems that a good NFPA 1582 health and wellness physical annually, a good policy on hydration, a good policy on rotating manpower at fires, increasing that during high temperature operations (ambient) and a quality rehab program would avoid the one death cheaper than developing new technology.

I am not sure if it will hold up to our thermal insult environment either. I mean to get a football player to a core temperature to exceed 100 F the external temperatures do not need to be much hotter with factors like duration of exposure, cardio, humidity and pre-hydration levels, etc. We as firefighters very seldom work in 100 F interior fires, so the product I suspect will not work as it is now otherwise they would be targeting FD's already with the same transmitter. Our environment has extreme temperatures and might need to be better protected from sending signals saying the firefighter is overheated before his core temp is actually overheated.

The other thing that jumps out at me is if they can get it to work... thats great. But even with digital technology there are many fire departments who use dog accountability tags, or none at all due to the cost. Any "new" technology regardless of what it is usually has alot of zero's after the first number, especially when you place emergency on the label.

I am not against development of new technology, but I am in favor of using all of our current assets better before we drop another dollar.
"Our environment has extreme temperatures and might need to be better protected from sending signals saying the firefighter is overheated before his core temp is actually overheated."

That's a huge factor. To take it a step farther is that the sensors will be at the top of the firefighter's body outside the skin, and will potentially measure ambient temperatures that are hotter than those to which most of the firefighter's body is exposed.

If we're going to wear temperature sensors, wouldn't it make more sense to wear them on the body rather than the head. That would seem to be a solution to at least part of this problem.

The other issue is that electronic technology is not necessarily ruggedized to withstand the beating firefighters will give it. My entire county still uses the basic Passport accountability system because it cannot be affected by electronic failure. The accountability systems that use electronics and electricity are vulnerable to those failures.

What does the IC do if the fire attack or S&R team has a transmitter failure? Do we stop attacking the fire because there's an outside chance of a heat-related emergency?

I think that CBz's idea is not necessarily a bad one, and I'm certainly a fan of using technology to enhance the job...but...the technology MUST be reliable, it must do exactly what we expect it to do, it must measure what we need it to measure, and it must be affordable, comfortable, and lightweight.

I don't think football helmet technology is all the way there yet, and it isn't exposed to interior structural fire heat and smoke.

The most basic question is "Do we really need to use this tool?"
Heat stroke has been implicated in a very low number of firefighter deaths, and there is no evidence that this technology would necessarily prevent those deaths.

Heat stress-induced heart attacks - that's another matter entirely, but once again, we don't have enough data to determine whether this technology will actually make a difference. That's particularly true for the large percentage of heat stress heart attacks that kill firefighters AFTER they rehab, leave the scene, and cool down.
I might be in "Left Field", but Most High Schools/Colleges...Lease their Protective Helmets. This way they are returned to the Manufacturer, to be Screened for Damage,Rehabilitated, and repainted for the next season..As Technology does get lighter, it still adds some weight. But I agree, that if Technology can be made "Super Heat" Resistant, this maybe the answer to the Lost Firefighter GPS System, as well as Vital Sign measurement devices.
...and our season lasts all year with no breaks.
Concern for those cooling pads...Has anyone tested them to see how they hold up in the temperatues that we work in OR are occasionaly exposed to? How about this...they get superheated in the helmet, burst and super heated cooling gel flows down over the head of the firefighter? Not saying that would happen, just saying it COULD happen.
If it gets that hot in your helmet, then the melting pad is the least of your issues....
Depends, not every chemical or compound boils or melts at temps considered high.

I have had temps inside of my helmet that were painful while working interior. What they were exactly I can't say.
Not necessarily. The pads don't have to completely melt to be damaged, and they'd be outside a flash hood. (at least in the U.S.)

Additionally, if the temp does get hot enough to destroy the pads, the damage from the pads might be worse than the damage from a simple, uncomplicated burn.
mike exelente idea te felicito nada es caro si se salvan vidas a veces se gasta tanta plata en elementos que no usamos un abrazo carlos de argentina
I agree that as a srevice to the community, wouldn't it make sense that money wise, the department is spending it wisely? To be effective in the cost of investment this is a giant leap in 'cost effective' measure. If this would prevent a down- ff/or a possible workmans comp time. It would pay for itself.

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