Health Risks In Firefighting

Firefighting is a health risk job. In fact, it is a life-threatening job. A firefighter faces risks as he responds to dangerous situations every time he responds to a call. And there are quite a few obvious risks they face such as being burnt or crushed, and there are also some long term damaging effects concerning their health and longevity of their lives.

There are quite a few life-saving techniques that a firefighter learns, not just for the lives of others but even for their own. Throughout their training they are taught to be aware of their surroundings and the many perils around them, to a level where it becomes a matter of instinct. And there is a lot of equipment meant to reduce risk and fatality, as well as reduce their chances in developing long-term health problems.

For instance, there is Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, or SCBA, which is a breathing apparatus that helps in preventing dangerous amounts of smoke to enter their lungs. It is used so they can filter the air of high levels of carbon monoxide or gaseous air. Unfortunately its not completely effective, and a firefighter would still be inhaling noxious gasses and smoke.

Then there is a Personal Alert Safety System, or PASS, which is used primarily as a locator. Now it is often connected to the SCBA system and if a firefighter ceases to move for a certain period of time, an alarm would sound off. It can also be manually used. And it helps firefighters to look after other firefighters with more ease.

There are also personal self-rescue ropes, and over time they have just been more than valuable. Without them, there were two firefighters in New York who had lost their lives, as they had no choice but to jump out of a building to get out of the fire. Four of them had jumped, one miraculously survived, and the other survivor had a self-rescue rope. And with most tragedies there was a lot learnt. To prevent further incidents as this, New York City made it mandatory for self-rescue ropes for each and every firefighter.

Yet even with good equipment, training and experience there are still a lot of fatalities amongst firefighters. Now some of the other causes of death and accident for firefighters are vehicular accidents. Tragically, many have lost their lives after responding to a high threat situation and had cheated death, yet not again. Too many are killed or injured even thanks to other distracted cars and vehicles.

Yet one of the other greater risks faced by firefighters is heart disease. In a high-stress situation, firefighters often push themselves to the limit, and this leads to severe complications. Hypertension is common among firefighters due to the noise, chaos and high-levels of tension and stress. There is no equipment that can safeguard a firefighter from stress. And cardiac arrest is one of the primary causes of death for firefighters.

Now, as mentioned earlier, the SCBA isn't entirely effective, and this leads us to another cause of illness amongst firefighters. Carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide are found in most fires. Hydrogen cyanide, alone is a gas that is the by-product of burning plastics, cotton, paper and anything with nitrogen and carbon. Most homes obviously possess these materials and when on fire, they are inhaled by the firefighters. What they do is to hinder the healthy movement of oxygen in the body, and that would result in Hypoxia and further heart problems. Just as smoke inhalation can also lead to arteriosclerosis.

All these things can be draining both mentally and physically on firefighters and the people around them, and one must understand and be aware of these risks.

However, they are preventable. And one must fight against all odds.