The Metabolic and Cardiovascular Demands of UK Firefighting Tasks

Richard Stevenson, Andrew Siddall, Philip James Frank Turner, James Bilzon

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PURPOSE: The metabolic demands of essential generic firefighting tasks in the UK Fire & Rescue Service have not been quantified. Understanding these demands may be important in establishing minimum acceptable occupational physical fitness standards, thereby ensuring that personnel can perform critical tasks safely and effectively. This study aimed to quantify the metabolic and cardiovascular strain during generic UK fire-fighting tasks. METHODS: A task analysis, using an expert panel, identified tasks that were physically demanding and critical to firefighting, and agreed a minimum acceptable pace for each task. Sixty-two (51 male) trained UK firefighters (mean ± SD, age 39 ± 9 y, height 1.76 ± 0.07 m, body mass 80.8 ± 11.8 kg, estimated VO2 max 50.3 ± 7.3 performed five simulated firefighting tasks (hose run (HR), equipment carry (EC), casualty evacuation (CE), stair climb (SC) and wildland fire (WF)) in a randomised order whilst wearing a standard firefighting ensemble. Heart rate and oxygen uptake were measured whilst participants completed each task at the pre-determined pace. Repeated measures ANOVA was used to identify differences in physical demand between tasks. RESULTS: The HR elicited the highest peak metabolic demand of 47.0 ± 7.2 and mean % heart rate reserve (%HRR) of 92.2% (p<0.01). Eight firefighters (31%) were unable to maintain the required pace for the task. Three firefighters (5%) failed to complete the SC and CE tasks appropriately, which elicited metabolic demands of 41.0 ± 6.8 and 35.5 ± 6.7, respectively, and %HRR of 89.2% and 83.1%, respectively. The WF and EC tasks, completed by all participants, both elicited similar metabolic demands of 28.7 ± 4.7 and 28.8 ± 4.4 (p>0.05), that were significantly lower than all other tasks (p<0.01) with %HRR of 64.8% and 69.7%, respectively . CONCLUSIONS: Core firefighting activities require substantial physical exertion with hose running activities eliciting the highest physical demand. Given that some study participants were unable to maintain recommended pace, future research should ensure that annual occupational fitness tests for UK fire-fighters reflect the physical demands of these generic occupational tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event61st Annual Meeting of American College of Sports Medicine - Florida, Orlando, USA United States
Duration: 27 May 2014 → …


Conference61st Annual Meeting of American College of Sports Medicine
Country/TerritoryUSA United States
Period27/05/14 → …


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