European Journal of Experimental Biology Open Access

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The Effect of Full Turnout Gear and Weighted Vest on Firefighter's Responses During an Ability Test

Koulla M Parpa*, Marcos M Michaelides

Background: The purpose of the current study was to compare the effect of the different gear worn on the firefighters’ internal load. The study examined the HR kinetics, blood lactate, and subjective responses on a firefighting simulated ability test.

Methods and findings: A total of 90 firefighters were randomly divided into three groups (Group-1 weight vest, Group-2 protective ensemble in full turnout gear, Group-3 protective ensemble in full turnout gear, and self-contained breathing apparatus). One-way Multivariate Analysis of Variance was used to assess the physiological and subjective responses among the three gear groups. Upon finishing the AT, firefighters reported an average RPE of 15 ± 2, where 15 represents " heavy" on the Borg scale. The average lactate was 12.98 mmol/l ± 2.36 mmol/l. The average HR during the tasks was (183 ± 9) bpm, which was calculated to be 99.08% ± 4.71% of the age estimated HR max (184 ± 5) bpm.

Result: The results demonstrated that there was a significant multivariate effect of firefighters’ HR over time, (F(7,41)=617.26, p<0.01). Furthermore, repeated measures contrast analysis demonstrated that the HR before the beginning of task 1 was significantly higher (p<0.01) than the resting HR and significantly lower (p<0.01) than the heart rates reported after each task. There was no significant multivariate interaction effect between time and gear group (F(14,82)=1.22, p=0.27).

Conclusion: It is evident that firefighting can be as strenuous with a weight vest as with full turnout gear and breathing apparatus. Therefore, a vest with the same weight as the complete protective outfit could be used effectively to simulate gear during simulated fire fighting under ambient conditions.