Skip to content

Are Firefighters Staying Properly Hydrated?

As firefighters we are often faced with a multitude of occupational hazards such as intense radiant heat produced during a fire, elevated internal body temperatures that comes with bearing our protective clothing and extreme short bouts of physical fitness. But one of the most common and important hazards often over looked is Dehydration, and it can be life-threatening in extreme cases.

So why is the risk of dehydration fiercer for firefighters? Under normal circumstances, the human body loses about 35-90 oz. of water a day through body waste, sweat and breathing (Maughan, 2003). During normal athletic activity, the body can lose 8-16 oz. of water per hour. The extreme conditions of firefighting demand more than this. On average, working firefighters should anticipate losing 50-70 oz. of sweat in 30-45 minutes of fireground activity (Levine et al., 1990). There are a variety of factors that increase our risk of dehydration, but one in particular stands out to me and it’s one we have control over:

  • Lack of proper pre-hydration. Some studies suggest that a “high percentage” of firefighters arrive to work and training significantly or severely dehydrated.

Hydration is critical for peak performance. Studies show that as dehydration progresses from exercise (or fireground operations) impairs performance, mental capacity and perception of effort, and it can be life-threatening.

This is a simple reference “Urine Color Chart” that should be placed above every urinal and bathroom stall.