Summer, winter, weather-related disasters. Professional weather monitoring improves the SAFETY of incident response with calculated parameters for perceived temperature and alarm notifications for extreme conditions and operational safety.
“One of the most overlooked elements that affect firefighting operations and the health of firefighters themselves is the weather conditions we operate in,” said Tom Warren, retired assistant chief, Providence RI, in a Fire Engineering article.1 Besides having a direct impact on firefighter health, weather impacts the severity of fires, increasing risk and safety hazards.
Summer months bring danger of heat-related disorders and fire due to dry fuel conditions. High heat and humidity can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. The variability of wind can pose safety and fire control problems, which can result in fatalities.
In winter, on-scene operational considerations include the impact of cold temperatures and wind when operating from elevated positions such as aerial ladders or platforms. Ladders can freeze up, impacting their ability to extend or retract. Hand tools may be slippery and difficult to hold. Ice and slippery conditions may further impede operations. “We also have to be attuned to what’s happening as a result of snow, ice, freezing rain or wind … Maintaining situational awareness is imperative,” cited Chief Ronald Siarnicki in FireRescue1.2
Extreme weather emergencies and weather-related disasters such as hurricanes bring inherent risks of their own. In such circumstances, the role of Safety Officer can include monitoring and evaluating weather conditions keeping in mind crew fatigue, hydration, and PPE; with authority to suspend operations if conditions present too high a risk for personnel.
Weather monitoring, especially for working conditions, is not just actual meteorological parameters, but also perceived, for example, wind chill in the winter and heat index in the summer. Professional weather monitoring equipment can calculate these factors for more informed decision-making.
Accurate met data with on-site or vehicle-mounted weather stations can improve the safety of emergency responders and help mitigate hazards. Alarms can be set for risk conditions such as high wind speed, or extreme temperatures, automatically notifying appropriate personnel. Reliable weather data provides critical information for responders to be prepared and take appropriate action.
1Warren, Tom. (2013, July). Firefighter Safety: Preparing for the Weather: Summer. Fire Engineering. Retrieved from http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/2013/07/pr...
2Siarnicki, Ronald. (2014, Jan.) Safety tips for winter weather response. FireRescue1. Retrieved from https://www.firerescue1.com/apparatus/articles/165...
Lee, Michael. (2009, Jan.) Impacts of Winter Weather. Fire Rescue1. Retrieved from https://www.firerescue1.com/fire-news/447195-impacts-of-winter-weather-part-2/
FEMA. (2008, April) Special Report: Fire Department Preparedness for Extreme Weather Emergencies and Natural Disasters. Retrieved from https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publicatio...