Evaluating Firefighter Crawling Performance in a Controlled Environment
Authors: Jerry Davis, Ruoliang Tang, Rich Sesek, Sean Gallagher
Abstract: State mandated firefighter training is both highly structured and physically challenging. Firefighting is typically performed in harsh environments, necessitating personal protective equipment (PPE) which adds weight, restricts mobility, and decreases metabolic heat removal. For the most part, firefighter training is highly controlled and repetitive in nature, with each trainee performing required training exercises numerous times under close supervision. One such skill involves crawling, which is a physically intensive activity that firefighters utilize during training exercises, indoor fire suppression, and search and rescue activities. The ability to have firefighters crawl nearly identical, closely observed, routes is not easily accomplished for many fire departments. This pilot study observed trainees participating in a fire department training school using a unique crawling apparatus in their curriculum. Young, healthy male firefighter trainees (N=10) participated in a crawling exercise conducted in a modified commercial semi-trailer that was configured with varying crawling paths and fitted with infra-red cameras. Trainees crawled in full turnout gear while wearing forced air respirators to complete the course. Dependent variables included heart rate, compressed air usage, and time to complete the course. Incorporating such observations and measures into firefighting training curriculums has the potential to provide instantaneous feedback to trainees on their performance, potential areas of improvement, and facilitates the comparison of their physiological performance to the demands of the crawling task.
Keywords: Crawling, Search and Rescue, Firefighter Training, Infra-Red Camera
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