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Quad City Area first responders battle emergencies in extreme heat this summer

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 12:10 AM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Quad City Area first responders battled emergencies in near-record heat over the last two weeks.

Keeping first responders safe in extreme heat might seem like a straightforward task: keep them hydrated and give them breaks.

However, For the Davenport Fire Department, Chief Mike Carlsten said it all starts before an emergency happens.

“We ask all our employees to maintain good physical health, make sure that they stay hydrated throughout their shifts so that they’re prepared,” Carlsten said. “[When] we have any event, whether it’s a fire, hazmat call, technical rescue, all of those are very labor-intensive events.”

In the summer months, the strategy for putting out a fire stays the same, what changes is the manpower needed for a specific response.

“Our tactics really don’t change,” Carlsten said. “We know that it creates a greater burden on the firefighters’ bodies, which is why we make sure that we rotate the firefighters throughout a quick rotation.”

Those rotations give firefighters a chance to hydrate, cool off and have EMS check their vitals before they can get back to work.

Carlsten said rural communities might find it challenging to keep firefighters safe and cool in the heat.

“We’re very fortunate, we have a minimum staffing here within the City of Davenport,” Carlsten said. “Some of your other volunteers or smaller communities may not have as many people on a fire scene that they can actually rehab and get back into the work cycle of going to fight the fire. "

Depending on the day and the task, staff may be rotated quicker, especially when heat indexes reach triple digits.

“Usually during the winter months, we can go ahead and do a cycle or two of work before we have to actually go to a rehab,” Carlsten said. “During these hot weather conditions, we have to shorten our work cycles so that we don’t overheat the individual, and then give them a longer time to actually be in that rehab environment.”

Ambulance and fire engines maintain a full stock of water bottles whenever a firefighter or EMT starts a rehab cycle.

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