The study, undertaken by CFA’s Operational Health Monitoring and Rehabilitation team, was borne out of observations taken during health monitoring at operational incidents. The Monitoring team noticed that after spending an extended time wearing BA, firefighters experienced reduced oxygen saturation.
Initially thought to be a cause of the mask, new testing equipment showed that breathing technique was actually to blame.
The study involved 67 volunteer firefighters of varying fitness levels undertaking skills maintenance and skills acquisition training while wearing BA. Of this group, only seven participants were able to control their breathing well enough to meet the minimum amount of carbon dioxide required to be expired with each breath.
Researchers found that the participants who took long, slow and controlled breaths from their diaphragm were able to expel a far greater amount of CO2 than those taking short, shallow breaths. This therefore minimised the amount of CO2 being stored in the bloodstream, subsequently keeping both their heart and respiration rates down and extending the time they could be wearing BA.
The training will be rolled out to all brigades over the coming year during skills maintenance and skills acquisition training.
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