Quad City area first responders battle emergencies in extreme heat this summer
DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) – First responders in the Quad City area have been battling emergencies in near-record heat for the past two weeks.
Keeping first responders safe in extreme heat can seem like a simple task: keep them hydrated and give them breaks.
However, for the Davenport Fire Department, Chief Mike Carlsten said it all starts before an emergency occurs.
“We ask all of our employees to maintain good physical health, make sure they stay hydrated throughout their shifts so they are prepared,” Carlsten said. “[When] we have any event, whether it is a fire, a hazmat call, a technical rescue, all of these events are very labor intensive.
During the summer months, the strategy for extinguishing a fire remains the same, what changes is the manpower required for a specific response.
“Our tactics really don’t change,” Carlsten said. “We know this creates a greater load on the fire corps, so we make sure to rotate the firefighters through a quick rotation.”
These rotations allow firefighters to hydrate, cool off and have their vital signs checked by EMS before they can return to work.
Carlsten said rural communities may find it difficult to keep firefighters safe and cool in the heat.
“We’re very lucky we have minimal staff here in the town of Davenport,” Carlsten said. “Some of your other volunteers or small communities may not have as many people at the scene of a fire that they can actually rehabilitate and resume the duty cycle of fighting the fire. “
Depending on the day and the task, staff turnover can be faster, especially when heat indices reach triple digits.
“Usually in the winter months we can go ahead and do a cycle or two of work before we actually have to go to rehab,” Carlsten said. “During these hot weather conditions, we need to shorten our work cycles so we don’t overheat the individual, and then give them more time to actually be in this rehab environment.”
Ambulances and firefighters keep a full stock of water bottles each time a firefighter or paramedic begins a rehab cycle.
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