By Cristi Laquer
Photo courtesy of Total Fire Group
Two firefighters use the Kore Kooler Rehab Chair at an incident.
As health issues related to heat stress become more apparent in the fire service, ways to cool down quickly have become more important. The search for the most effective method of firefighter rehabilitation has led to a relatively simple solution.
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The Kore Kooler rehab chair from the Total Fire Group is based on the idea that placing the arms and hands into room-temperature water is the fastest, most effective way to cool the body.
This theory was confirmed by a study released in 2006 by Defense Research and Development Canada, a governmental organization, said Tony Wyman, vice president of sales and marketing for Morning Pride, a subsidiary of the Total Fire Group.
"It found that hand and forearm immersion is the best option for reducing core temperature," Wyman said.
The Kore Kooler is a folding chair with replaceable plastic bags built into the arm rests. It folds into a narrow carrying case, which can be custom-printed with a department’s name. The chair also comes with an optional umbrella for sun protection.
Heat stress alone sends many firefighters to hospitals and is also a contributing factor in some heart failures, the most common cause of line-of-duty deaths in the fire service.
"When it comes to rehab, the important thing to remember is there’s a difference between how you feel and how hot you really are," Wyman said.
"We could sit in the shade, feel a breeze on our skin and think we’re fine. But if our core temperature is really 105 degrees and we run back into a burning building, we could get in trouble real fast."
Most of the heat that affects the body is generated by the body’s core, not by outside sources.
The Kore Kooler Chair works by bringing a large surface area of the skin into contact with water, Wyman said.
"The water draws heat from the blood circulating in the firefighter’s arms," he added. "When that water returns to the firefighter’s heart, it cools down his core temperature."
This method of cooling works best when the arms are immersed because blood circulates closer to the skin in the arms than in other parts of the body, making cooling more efficient, according to Wyman.
Ambient- or room-temperature water is more effective than ice-cold water, said Wyman, adding, "Very cold water constricts the blood vessels, slowing down circulation and making the process less effective."
The Kore Kooler Rehab Chair has been tested to hold 300 pounds and is wide enough to comfortably seat a firefighter wearing turnout gear. The chair comes with an optional sun shade, which can be adjusted to the best position for shading and can be printed with the department's name.
"Departments typically buy enough to outfit their rehab trailer," said Wyman. "If you have eight, nine, 10 guys fighting a structure fire, we think you need to have enough chairs for adequate rehabbing each time firefighters come out before they go back in."