DHS Selects UCLA To Help Establish Guidelines For Firefighter Health, Safety

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have been selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate to help establish guidelines for the health and safety of firefighters in the field.

The UCLA team will work with a consortium of academic, industry and government partners on the agency's PHASER (Physiological Health Assessment System for Emergency Responders) program, which also draws on the expertise of Skidmore College, Zephyr Technology, a company that develops physiological-status monitoring products, and the NASA Ames Research Center, which has extensive experience with astronaut-monitoring systems.

The UCLA team will use wireless health technologies to remotely monitor firefighters in action and develop metrics to validate and interpret their findings.

The results will help researchers analyze firefighters' health risks before, during and after response operations, develop national guidelines to optimize exercise and training programs, and manage health and safety in the field to mitigate fatalities due to cardiovascular events.

"Firefighters experience heightened levels of physiological stress, such as strain on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems," said Dr. Christopher Cooper, principal investigator for the program and a professor of medicine and physiology at the Geffen School of Medicine. "The PHASER program will help us identify health risks and better understand challenges facing firefighters in the field."

"We will be working closely with our partners in using the latest wireless technologies to measure and track the fitness and health status of firefighters and to help develop key interventions to improve health," said co-investigator William J. Kaiser, a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA Engineering.

The team will initially obtain baseline measurements in the UCLA Exercise Physiology Research Laboratory and will develop protocols for firefighter assessment and exercise training, including tests to assess respiration and aerobic ability.

They will also collaborate with regional and national fire services on the project to develop risk profiles and prioritization in the work environment. This research will help individual firefighters and incident commanders recognize health and safety issues in the field early on in order to initiate preventive interventions such as exercise training, pre-hydration and active cooling methods.

In addition, the data may lead to the development of new equipment worn by firefighters in the field.

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