PURPOSE: This study was developed based on the understanding that firefighters' ability to breathe effectively is challenged by many factors: inherently inefficient breathing, situations causing fear and panic, breathing with self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), contaminated air, and physically demanding work. The objective of this study was to determine if breathing training—specifically the BreathPlay method which emphasizes the active, spine-stretching outbreath and passive, relaxed inbreath—would affect firefighters' ability to work more efficiently and safely.
METHODS: Breathing trainer Betsy Thomason, BA, RRT developed a breathing training program, featuring BreathPlay, for members of the hazmat team of the Newark, New Jersey Fire Department. She conducted four (4) instructional sessions of 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours, spaced 5 - 8 days apart, starting with seven (7) participants. Blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rate were measured at rest at the beginning of the program and at the end. For the pretest, the firefighters--breathing with SCBAs with 2000 psi of air-- walked laps on a course within the firehouse that included stairs. The number of laps completed and the elapsed time when the SCBA was empty were the measures of air consumption. Following the 4th session—which three (3) firefighters completed—the same vital signs were recorded and an identical walking test was administered, with the firefighters using the same mask as before.
RESULTS: Among the three firefighters who attended all four (4) breathing training sessions, the average time needed to expend the air in the SCBA increased by 32%. There was no significant change in resting blood pressure, pulse, or breathing rate.
CONCLUSIONS: When BreathPlaying while using SCBA, firefighters extended their SCBA usage by almost one third (1/3).
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: The result has implications for saving lives and money as well as reducing panic and fuzzy thinking during the high stress of a working fire or a hazardous materials operation. This outcome requires a follow-up study with a larger experimental group.
DISCLOSURE: The following authors have nothing to disclose: Betsy Thomason
No Product/Research Disclosure Information