JAN 2017

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 56 of 83

Operating in your SCBA might be having a more dramatic effect on your ability to work than you realize. Research has shown that during heavy work, the SCBA greatly reduces maximal exercise performance. Clinical data shows that a full SCBA system lowers VO 2 max by 14.9 percent, with the regulator alone lowering it by 13.1 percent. 5 To show how significant this 14.9 percent is, let us look at some VO 2 max values common to firefighters. A sample of paid firefighters was found to have a mean VO 2 max of 40.57 mL/kg/min. 1 When that is reduced 14.9 percent by the SCBA, it gets lowered to 34.52 mL/kg/min—or just 1 mL/kg/min over the minimum required for complet- ing the standard fire suppression protocol discussed earlier. Further, 75 percent of volunteer firefighters tested were found to have a VO 2 max between 20 and 39 mL/ kg/min. 1 That means when their VO 2 max values are adjusted for the SCBA, 75 per- cent or more of volunteer firefighters do not meet the minimum level to perform a fire suppression protocol. Physiological reinforces psychological We have all seen new recruits who are not quite comfortable in their gear; some get claustrophobic the second they don their SCBA. Hopefully with practice and rep- etition that goes away so the rookie does not lose their dream job, and the depart- ment does not lose its investment. But how many of us have also seen the 15- or 20-year firefighter who, after a career of fighting fire, starts pulling their facepiece off and cannot work in an SCBA? Why does that happen? With the frequency of fires today, maybe that vet is a year or two older since the last time they really had to go all out in a fire. They are likely a step or two slower. Now the physiological aspects are hitting them harder than ever. In their mind, the job is tougher—it is "for the young guys (or girls)." Once those physi- ological and psychological effects start reinforcing each other, it is only a matter of time before they become insurmount- able and the mask comes off. While implementing a mandatory physical-ability test for Clearview Fire and Emergency Services in Ontario, Canada, Deputy Chief Roree Payment noted, "Why they failed had nothing to do with the physical element, it actually had everything to do with their confidence in an SCBA." 6 A firefighter simply must be able to confidently and calmly work under a variety of added psychological stressors, and that comes through repeti- tion and familiarity. Practice how you play Fighting fire is made up of a combination of aerobic and anaerobic demands, com- bined with extreme heat, added weight, unique cardiorespiratory effects, and psy- chologically challenging environments. How do we become functionally fit to fight fire, or practice how we play? Most We're the Guys You Want to Hang With... After the Call! 800.991.2120 Structurally Superior Storage SyStemS We take care of the gear that takes care of you! Request information at e-inquiry January 2017 l Firehouse l 57

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Firehouse - JAN 2017