Emily L. Langford, Haley Bergstrom, Stuart Best, Xin Ma, Alyssa Q. Eastman, Mark G. Abel. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.

BACKGROUND: Completion of fireground tasks requires firefighters (FF) to work at high levels of exertion while consuming air from a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). The SCBA’s finite volume of air serves as a lifeline. Thus, efficient air consumption (AC) is critical to FF safety. To conduct research on AC efficiency, a valid, reliable, and, occupationally-relevant AC drill (ACD) is needed. The purpose of this study was to validate an ACD for use in subsequent investigations. METHODS: A sample of 193 FF (58% of incumbent population) from one department completed a job task analysis (JTA) to rank job tasks based on criticality, rate the level of physical exertion (RPE; 0-10 category-ratio scale), and provide dimensions of each task. These data were used to establish specific tasks and dimensions of the ACD. A subsample of FF (n=33; Age: 37.5±7.7 yr; Experience: 10.9±6.3 yr) completed the ACD at an occupationally-relevant pace while breathing through the SCBA. An additional subsample (n=11) completed two trials to establish test-retest reliability. Total ACD completion time and change in SCBA air pressure were recorded. Exertion was measured pre-, during, and post-ACD. RESULTS: From the JTA, 91.3-99% of FF identified the stair climb, hoseline advance, equipment carry, ladder raise, forcible entry, search, rescue, and breach and pull as ‘critical’ to ‘very critical’ job tasks. The RPE of ACD tasks was similar to the JTA reported RPE (Task RPE difference, Range: 0-3.5). The test-retest reliability of ACD time and AC were ICC: 0.82 (SEM: 18 s) and ICC: 0.68 (SEM: 249 PSI), respectively. The mean ACD completion time was 7.8±1.4 min (range: 6.4-13.1 min). The mean absolute and relative AC were 1734±477 PSI (range: 939-3063 PSI) and 43.9±11.9% (range: 24.7-76.2%). The mean absolute and relative heart rate were 165.6±12.7 bpm (range: 137.6-194.2 bpm) and 90.9±7.0% (range: 77.3-103.3%). CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that the ACD required occupationally-relevant, yet variable levels of exertion, as evidenced by heart rate, AC, and RPE values. Collectively, the ACD demonstrated to be valid, reliable, and appropriate for future investigations within this department. Funding: University of Kentucky’s KHP Graduate Block Funding and UK - Research and Creative Activities have supported this project. This study is under review by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Fire Prevention and Safety grant mechanism.

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