It should be no secret by now that the number 1 killer of firefighters is cardiac arrest. They are happening so often now they have become a predictable event. It is no longer an if it is a when this event will occur.
These events are happening everywhere in the station, at personal residences, vehicles, and of course the fire ground. When these events happen in homes, the station, etc. the treatment is as straight forward as the everyday cardiac arrest. While there are uncommon factors to increase the risk of firefighters from contracting cardiac disease, the treatment varies very little with the average citizen. However the fire ground environment provides a significant challenge and barrier to performing our most basic cardiac arrest treatment.
The most significant of these being PPE and the fire ground environment itself. A firefighter having a cardiac event on the exterior of a fire building while wearing PPE creates a challenge in itself as in order for adequate CPR to be performed the gear must be removed (obviously including SCBA). Placing his firefighter into a fire building provides even that much more challenge a the gear will be exposed to heat so much so that it could be too hot to remove with bare hands, and or EMS gloves.
Our PPE and SCBA absorb a tremendous amount of heat, think about the flash over simulator one of the first things they tell you to do once you exit is to let your gear air out and to leave your gloves on while removing your SCBA and PPE. While some may take this as an extreme example our modern fire environment consistently provides us with exposure to high temps sometimes rivaling that of the flash over chamber, so this comparison is not to far-fetched.
One technique that can be used is a layering technique with EMS gloves under your fire gloves, allowing you the thermal protection to remove gear, then transition to CPR and other patient care techniques (after removal of the firefighting gloves) and still maintain the body substance isolation needed for safe EMS operations and saving time.
Let me be clear THIS IS NOT FOR INTERIOR FIREFIGHTING OPERATION! This is for members on the exterior (drivers, fire medics, third-party EMS providers) that will be members of the down firefighter treatment team. This is purely to avoid sever burns to the treatment team member while removing heated gear, while providing minimal transition time to patient care gloves for continued patient care and treatment. Simply stated this is to prevent you from going from rescuer to burn patient and taking resources away from our fallen brothers.
So the next time you need to treat an injured, or down firefighter and your having to remove heated gear GLOVE UP!
If you want to know more about tangible treatment techniques for down and injured firefighters contact me at [email protected] or on twitter @averagejakeff. You can also come to my FDIC 2015 International Class “Are You Ready For The Firefighter Cardiac Arrest” or contact me about bringing my full day lecture and Hands on Program “Medical Mayday” you can also go http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/2014/05/firefighter-down-treating-cardiac-arrest.html for my Fire Engineering Article, and stay tuned for another coming soon.
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE