During a recent conversation with someone about heat stress, the topic turned to fault. Whose fault is it if I drop from heat stress? More than likely, the fault rests with both the department/officer in charge and the heat-stressed firefighter.
The department/officer in charge should closely monitor their personnel for signs and symptoms of heat stress during daily chores, training and fireground operations, and they should stop heat-stressed firefighters from pushing their physical limits. Officers should rotate crews early and often to reduce personnel loss from heat stress.
Command officers must enforce rehab SOPs/SOGs. Additionally, departments must allow personnel to rehab earlier than allowed — without punishment — and stay as long as necessary.
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However, as individuals, we hold the most responsibility in preventing ourselves from falling victim to heat stress. We must maintain good physical conditioning and hydration to reduce the potential of falling victim to our worst enemy — ourselves. We don’t want to go to rehab; we don’t need a break; we can hack it; we don't want to look like a wimp to our peers; we’d rather be carried out on a stretcher than be seen in rehab.
We must stop thinking like this! Individuals and their company officers must take the lead on this immediately, especially during a heat wave like the country is currently facing. So, when one of your crew looks like he’s had it, take your crew to rehab. No discussion, no blame.
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