The thermal consequences of flood rescue: requirement for a PES?

Gemma Milligan, Cristian Gȯmez, Adrian Mayhew, Mike Tipton

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Introduction: There are significant deficiencies in the knowledge of human factors surrounding flood rescue (FR). Little advice exists on the fitness required, or the recommended limits of exposure of FR technicians in hot or cold conditions.

Methods: 10 participants undertook two conditions: “Cold” - required participants to stand immersed to the knee in moving (4.8 km.h-1) water (7.7 °C), with simulated rain for 60 min. Air temperature and wind speed were set to 4 °C, and 16 km.h-1 respectively. “Hot” required participants to perform repeated bouts of 7 min walking at 2.16 km.h-1 whilst immersed to the knee in water (15.6 °C), flowing at 3.2 km.h-1 water, pulling (into flow) and controlling (with flow) the release of 10 kg. Air temperature, wind speed and radiant heat load were 22 °C, 0 km.h-1 and 500 W.m-2 respectively. Participants repeated this 6 times with 3 minutes rest between activities. Participants wore flood rescue personal protective clothing and a lifejacket totalling 9.25 kg. Deep body (gut and rectal) temperature and skin temperatures (biceps, chest, thigh, shin, finger, Great Toe), metabolic rate, thermal comfort, rating of perceived exertion, skin wettedness, grip strength, manual dexterity, jump height and resuscitation were measured pre and post exposures.

Results: In the cold exposures cooling resulted in great toe and finger temperatures of 9.98 (0.84) °C and 10.38 (8.21 to 12.10) °C respectively. Oxygen consumption rose from 7.46 (1.88) to 10.04 (3.13), jump height fell by 20%, manual dexterity deteriorated by 22% and grip strength fell by approximately 13%. In the heat, average heart rates were 157 (19) b.min-1, oxygen consumption averaged 30.62 (7.83), and average sweat loss was 0.83 (0.78) L.

Conclusions: It is concluded that FR in both cold and hot conditions represent significant, but different, challenges. In the cold, technicians may be incapacitated by peripheral cooling, in the heat, they may be incapacitated by heat-related exhaustion. Further work will determine safe working practices and assosciated Physical Employment Standards for flood technicians.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Event3rd International Conference on Physical Employment Standards - Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 17 Jul 201819 Jul 2018


Conference3rd International Conference on Physical Employment Standards
Abbreviated titlePES 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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