Dealing with heat wave appropriately, important for fire officials
MARION, Iowa —
It has been unseasonably hot for the last weekend in May. Continuous temperatures over 90 degrees and the abrupt change from cold to warm has left many relying on their air conditioned houses to escape the sizzling heat. But with Memorial Day and the longing for summer, corridor residents also spent a considerable amount of time outdoors, exposed to heat that can become dangerous quickly.
"You see a lot of people having a good time probably not hydrating the way they should also consuming a fair amount of alcoholic beverages, which is not the right thing to do in this type of heat. Even if you are not thirsty continue to drink fluids so that you can compensate for that excessive heat and your body is constantly sweating to keep its core temperature down," Cameron Ford, Lieutenant with the Marion Fire Department said.
But for firefighters themselves, this weather becomes very volatile. While they are trained to operate in extreme conditions., excessive outdoor heat can severely impact a firefighter's ability to perform. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, heart attacks are the number one cause of deaths among firefighters across the nation. When the heat index rises, the risk gets even higher and while packing more than 30 pounds of gear including a helmet, the Marion Fire Department relies on rotating their teams as much as possible.
"We definitely remind the guys to drink fluids. It's Memorial Day so we tell them to take it easy, we are not going to push them until that call comes in," Ford said. "Get those people in that haven't been exposed to those extreme temperatures and haven't been exhausted and giving the people that have gone in, a chance to recover."
To Ford however, it all comes down to being prepared. While he might engage in light exercise during the day, he also stays in air conditioned spaces as much as he can, to be as fresh as he can be. It takes them only 60 seconds to get ready, but they might have to spent the day inside their protective gear and outside braving the sun.
"Yes, it does make you hot during the summertime but it keeps you cool during a fire," Ford said. If We can't respond or we go down we are no good to the people that are calling us for help."