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New Study Examines Sudden Cardiac Events in Firefighters By Understanding the Cause, Fire Departments Can Mitigate the Risk

Saratoga Springs, NY — Cardiac-related events are responsible for 40 to 50 percent of line-of-duty deaths among firefighters. This high cardiac fatality rate—considered to be a crisis in the firefighting community—prompted a two-year study by Skidmore College’s Department of Health and Exercise Sciences. The study examined the cardiovascular responses to alarms and firefighting activities in order to identify the differences in recovery rates based on individual factors such as fitness levels and type of fitness training, age and body composition. A report detailing the study’s finding is now available for download.

Funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant/Fire Safety and Prevention Program, and undertaken in partnership Globe Manufacturing (the leading innovator in firefighting turnout gear), the study monitored members of the Oxnard, CA, and Boston, MA fire departments over a four-month period. The firefighters wore a Physiological Status Monitoring undershirt throughout their 24-hour shifts; the resulting data enabled researchers to better understand the cardiovascular strain of firefighting. Additionally, the researchers examined the physiological recovery from exercise-induced heat stress under controlled laboratory conditions. Among the findings: the data suggested that cross-trained, younger and leaner firefighters are able to perform more work and thus achieve higher heart rates during strenuous firefighting activities.

A second grant from the Department of Homeland Security, along with continued support from Globe Manufacturing, will enable Skidmore’s researchers to continue their work related to firefighter health and safety by investigating the effectiveness of new materials and textiles in reducing the thermal and cardiovascular strain experienced by firefighters. The project will also assess the ability of the base layers to provide thermal protection to firefighters.