//VSU students help firefighters monitor heat stress

VSU students help firefighters monitor heat stress

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Courtesy of WCTV:

By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News 

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ga. (WCTV) — Students at Valdosta State University are helping to make the duties of local firefighters a little bit safer.

Students in the Exercise Physiology program are moving out of the classroom and into the fire, working with the Valdosta and Lowndes County Fire Departments as crews go through fire training. The students measure heart rate and core body temperature before, during and after the firefighters go through training.

The goal is to better understand and assess how they respond to the heat and stress of battling flames.

“Understand their individual responses to this very hard work, and to allow them a new way and new idea going forward of how to keep our firefighters safe,” said Dr. Serina McEntire, a professor at VSU.

Valdosta Fire Department Chief Freddie Broome said it can also help firefighters recognize the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion in themselves and others while on the job.

“They’re able to monitor their vitals, monitor their core temperatures, and it’s very seldom we get a chance to study our own department to see how hot we really get, and what measures we can put in place to keep our firefighters safe,” Broome said. “Hopefully this will give us some signs and information to really see how hot they get and we can use that in the future to make sure that they’re properly hydrating themselves before they come to work. And what we need to do to cool them down when their temperatures do get that hot.”

Organizers said the heat can add a lot of stress on your heart. More than half of firefighter deaths in the line of duty are cardiovascular related. They said knowing symptoms is the best prevention.

“It allows them to be able to either modulate their work habits, or that, it’s time for me to drink, or it’s time for me to get in the shade, pull my gear off, cool myself down,” McEntire said.

Students are getting hands-on experience while also learning firsthand a new appreciation for public service workers.

“You just realize what kind of person it takes, what kind of will that it takes to do this job, and it really gives you a deep appreciation for it,” said Christi Swain, a graduate student in VSU’s Exercise and Physiology program.

VSU students are helping save those that save others.

Organizers said being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of being overheated or dehydrated are important for everyone to understand, as well as best practices to cool down. For example, McEntire said pouring cold water over your head is not going to help much. Instead, submerging your arms in cold water can drastically bring down your body temperature.

This is the first year students are partnering with local fire departments.