Hydrate- Why Firefighters “Should” Love Water

Water is a firefighter's best friend. Not only because it helps to suppress fires and cool environments but also because it is an essential element of performance.

Department training and academies all over the country often talk about the importance of water for fire suppression but forget to mention how important it is "inside" the firefighter.

Here is a great infographic to post around your firehouse to remind all of us in the fire service just how precious water is for us (inside and out).  I also included a link to guidelines on "how to stay hydrated" below.

firefighter hydration and water


Click here for a printable version of the above infographic.

Hydration Can be A Matter of Life and Death

As you can see in the graphic above, hydration is critical for optimal performance. Progressive dehydration from exercise (or fireground operations) impairs performance, mental capacity, and perception of effort, and it can be life-threatening. With as little as a 2% shortage of body water, the ability to perform a high-intensity activity can be greatly impaired (Kleiner, 1999). The combination of the hot environment and the protective gear insulating the firefighter can produce dangerous conditions of hyperthermia and dehydration.

Properly hydrated, well-conditioned firefighters are therefore much better able to contend with heat stress than their unconditioned and/or dehydrated counterparts. Put that into the context of your crew, which is only as strong as its weakest member. If you don’t hydrate yourself properly before arriving on the fireground, you’re not only putting your own life in danger but the lives of your crew members as well, because your performance level could be greatly reduced (IAFF, 2006). For these reasons, dehydration must be addressed before the firefight begins.

How to Hydrate

To stop dehydration before it starts prior to the alarm for a service call, you must limit the use of stimulants, such as caffeine, avoid carbonated beverages, maintain physical fitness, and stay adequately hydrated throughout a shift. Drink plenty of water at regular intervals, and aim to replace fluids at the same rate that they’re lost.  At a minimum, consume 64 oz. of water a day (Casa et al., 2000). Increase that amount when exercising on duty and after you’ve completed your workout to avoid being dehydrated at the scene.

Some of the new research suggests trying to get almost 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water each day.   So, for someone that weighs 170 pounds, I try to get 85 ounces per day.  If you carry a bottle with you, around the house, and on the truck, it is fairly easy to accomplish this.  Focus on hydrating with water.  Fruit juices and sugary drinks can spike insulin responses and add to health issues and fat gain over the long haul and are not recommended unless you are on a prolonged intense fire/rescue scene.

Follow these recommendations, and feel free to print these out and post them around the firehouse. (Click here to download a printable version)

Water can help us put out fires and keep us alive and ready for duty.  Please remember to stay hydrated!  Pass this information to your crew and department.

Stay safe and healthy,

Aaron Zamzow

PS- Fitness also plays a huge roll in performance on and off the fireground.  Right now you can get access to all of our FRF programs for the lowest price ever.  This also includes our new FRF app and coaching from me.  I want to help as many first responders improve their fitness as I can, and this is the best way.

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