Rehab needs for firefighters

Even without a purpose-built (or modified) vehicle, there are many relatively simple things fire departments can do

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: With a new rehab truck helping Va. firefighters regain their cool, check out our Editorial Advisor Adam K. Thiel's perspective below.  

Emergency incident rehabilitation (rehab) is critical for protecting the health and safety of firefighters and other emergency responders during all types of events.

It's great to have a specialized vehicle dedicated to supporting rehab efforts, as with the Chesapeake Fire Department's unit described in this article; there is no question this significant investment will pay off by reducing the impact of the extreme physical burdens firefighters face every day.

To assist fire and emergency service organizations with planning for, and implementing, rehab operations, the National Fire Protection Association has developed NFPA 1584, Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises; the NFPA 1584 document is available from

It's important to note that, even without a purpose-built (or modified) vehicle, there are many relatively simple things fire departments can do to rehab their members:

  • Provide ample supplies of drinking water
  • Create shade using retractable awnings or tents
  • Provide misters or fans to cool outside air
  • Use buildings of opportunity to give firefighters a place away from the heat, or cold, to recover from their exertions.

Never forget that all firefighting and emergency operations are extremely physically demanding, even under the best weather conditions; there are definite limits to what firefighters can reasonably accomplish, even with proper rehabilitation.

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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