Government Police/Fire

West Hartford First Responders Add ‘Cooling Vests’ to Gear

Firefighter/Paramedic Jonathan Bush (left) and Lt. Sean Howard wear CoolFlow vests. Courtesy photo

Members of the West Hartford Fire Department and other first responders have obtained cooling vests, which will be an important piece of gear in their toolbox with an impending heat wave.

Submitted by Bob Hilborn, Emergency Management Program Coordinator

While the incidence of West Hartford firefighters and other first responders operating in extremely hot weather conditions is rare, firefighting is demanding work performed in high temperatures with little opportunity to cool off. Coupling together the effects of the body’s internal responses with extreme environmental conditions – not to mention heavy protective clothing and strenuous workload – the possibility for heat-related injuries such as Exertional Heat Stroke is significant.

To address this, West Hartford Fire Department EMS Officer Rocco Laudato said, “It is critical to lower the firefighter’s core body temperature as effectively as possible, often through the introduction of active cooling processes; i.e., the use of external methods or devices (for example forearm immersion, misting fans, etc.) to reduce body core temps.”

One relatively new device recently added to the Fire Department’s “toolbox” is the CoolFlow flowing-water cooling vest system. Designed to circulate ice cold water from a cooling reservoir to up to six lightweight individual cooling vests, this system effectively cools responders during breaks or after action significantly faster than they could regulate an elevated core temperature on their own.

The unit was purchased through the use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which were designated to support public health response as well as invest in essential workers, including through the acquisition of public safety equipment. As West Hartford Fire Department Community Service Officer Andrew Eccles points out, “Investing in some of our most important resources – our First Responders – is a great use of these funds. I’m sure those who use these vests think so, too!”

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