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Train to Avoid the Leading Cause of Death

Firefighters fighting house fire

Each year stress/overexertion are the leading cause of on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States, according to data compiled by the United States Fire Administration. Except for 2001 (deaths due to collapse from the September 11 terror attacks) and the previous years (due to exposure from the coronavirus pandemic) stress/overexertion are expected to continue to be a leading cause for many years. 

Likewise, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program has scores of detailed line of duty death reports that note physical activity associated with firefighting, rescue or EMS work, training and simply responding to an incident have triggered sudden cardiac events in many victims.

The physical nature of firefighting calls for specific training and specific physical conditioning. Part of that conditioning is the physiological and psychological effect that SCBA has on firefighters. In firefighting the critical measurement to be concerned about is VO2max. V02max is the maximal oxygen uptake or maximum volume of oxygen that can be utilized during maximum exhaustive work or exercise. V02 Max is also considered to be the best indicator of cardiorespiratory endurance.

Carrying added weight, whether it is your physical body or PPE, leads to an increased cardiovascular and metabolic load, which could lead to added physiological stress as well. Excess body fat not only influences decreasing exercise efficiency but also limits mobility and the capacity to dissipate heat. 

Reaction time even in fit firefighters can be inhibited. Research has shown that working while wearing and using your SCBA has more of an effect on your ability to work than you realize and reduces your maximal performance.

When you need to push into a room to search you are already reaching your extreme heart rate. Oxygen is consumed at a higher rate because of the intensity of the work. If something occurs that requires even more physical effort, will you be able to physically function or have you reached your VO2 Max? 

BlastMask is a training regulator focused on V02 Max and designed to function as close to an actual SCBA regulator as possible and includes a bypass valve. The bypass valve operates the same way on the BlastMask as it does on the SCBA model that it is designed to fit. Training in a BlastMask helps develop the muscle memory needed when operating with SCBA. The BlastMask is not a substitute for training on air. Instead, it is a supplement that allows firefighters more time in their masks. BlastMask allows you to train at a level that can improve your VO2 Max over time. Cardiovascular fitness should be a priority in any firefighter fitness program. Your fitness routine should be tailored to your job-related tasks for the most benefit.