University of Brighton’s ground-breaking firefighter training goes global
An education pack created by the University of Brighton and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has taken off around the world.
Initially developed for FBU’s UK members with multimedia company Beach Design and financed by the Union Learning Fund, the Heat Illness Prevention Awareness (HIPA) programme aims to reduce the risk of firefighter fatalities through a series of learning packs, short videos, quizzes and interactive games.
The educational tool came to fruition following research into the effect of heat on firefighters by the university’s Dr Alan Richardson and a former PhD student, Dr Emily Watkins, who is now at the University of Roehampton. They were supported by Dr Mark Hayes, Dr Ash Willmott and Rebecca Relf in the university’s Environmental Extremes Lab. This is one of a number of projects being undertaken by this group on contamination, female firefighter welfare and the physiological consequences of working practices.
In the past few months, interest in the package has soared and is now being used in the USA, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia and South Africa, with more nations showing an interest.
The tool advises on how to deal with heat stress, heat injuries, how to better control difficult environments and what firefighters and instructors can do to increase their welfare.
Dr Richardson said: “Particularly in the summer months, firefighting whether in training or live fires, can cause a huge amount of stress on the body. Sadly, many firefighters suffer with heat illnesses causing hospitalisation and worse. It is really rewarding to see the research turned into something firefighters all over the world will use to help reduce the chance of suffering these events.”
Dr Richardson, a physiologist, has been working with the fire service for around eight years and through his research has been helping to advise on how to make training environments safer for firefighters, instructors and new recruits.