Amid dangerous temps, first responders warn of the risks; state trooper suffers heat exhaustion

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Tuesday, July 4, 2023
Amid dangerous temps, first responders warn of the risks
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ABC11 spoke with emergency crews and first responders about the risks associated with working in the heat while helping those with heat-related illnesses.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- With dangerous temperatures expected to continue this week, ABC11 spoke with emergency crews and first responders about the risks associated with working in the heat.

"We have to balance."

It comes the same day a State Highway Patrol say a trooper collapsed due to a "heat-related medical event" at a gas station in Knightdale. That trooper was taken to Wake Med in Raleigh, where he's said to be in "good condition".

Earlier on Monday, Morrisville Firefighters worked for hours to put out an early-morning blaze on Mannington Drive. Fire crews could be seen returning to a hydration station and taking short breaks while they worked to get the fire under control.

"They have to have that extra time to rest. We need more staff members on the scene, we have to make sure they're hydrated. So, it makes our workload almost double for a single fire," said Morrisville Fire Chief Nathan Lozinsky.

Unlike most jobs, Lozinsky said first responders can't afford to let rest get in the way of response time.

"We have to balance this protection for our staff, but making sure the emergency is mitigated," Lozinsky said.

He said fire equipment can weigh anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds when you factor in air tanks and other equipment. While fire-prevention technology has improved, it's also gotten heavier.

"While the gear is becoming more protective, it's also, like I said, limiting their body's ability to breath, so the moisture and the heat from their core is staying with them," he said.

It's the same tightrope walked by EMS and paramedic workers. Mark Lockhart with Durham County EMS says they try to prepare when they see the heat coming, but sometimes there's only so much they can do.

"We try and look at our call volume on a regular basis and make sure that we make any adjustments that we can, but sometimes those options are limited," Lockhart said.

He says it's incumbent on his team to take control of what they can.

"The real emphasis for us is preparing for that ahead of time. emphasizing, hey, make sure you're drinking lots of water the day before, the night before, come in that day, make sure you're able to get what you need in terms of hydration," he said.

Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke

How to survive a prolonged heat wave

Staying Safe in Extreme Heat

Adults older than 65, children younger than four, people with existing medical conditions, and those without access to air conditioning are at the greatest risk on days with high temperatures.

Drinking plenty of water and staying out of the sun are critical cautions to take.

People should also check on their neighbors who may be at high risk and ensure they have access to heat relief and hydration.

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