Taking Rehab to the Next Level

By Ricky Riley

Over the past couple of years, there has been a great deal of discussion about firefighter rehabilitation.

This includes work and rest cycles, medical monitoring, and how to keep firefighters cool after a work cycle. There has also been focus on how to keep them warm in cold environments. Departments across the country have tried a number of tents, chairs, cooling fans, and policies to address the issues.

1 Rehab 800 and the Rehab Support Unit are dispatched together to incident scenes and provide for cooling or warming, medical monitoring, rehydration, and hunger of the firefighters who have been operating. (Photos by author.)
1 Rehab 800 and the Rehab Support Unit are dispatched together to incident scenes and provide for cooling or warming, medical monitoring, rehydration, and hunger of the firefighters who have been operating. (Photos by author.)

The dedication to this process has been taken to a new level outside Washington, D.C., with the Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department (PGFD). The department is located right outside Washington, D.C., and is one of the nation’s largest combination departments. It has more than 850 career firefighters and paramedics and 1,500 volunteer firefighters who operate out of 45 stations. Its protection district covers more than 500 square miles, and it responds to more than 150,000 calls for service each year. The responses are anticipated to continue to grow with the rapid pace at which the county is growing in industry and housing during the next couple of years.

Rehab Units

The department invested in two units purchased solely with the health, comfort, hydration, and most importantly the medical monitoring of its firefighters and paramedics in mind. Recently retired Chief Marc Bashoor and then Deputy Chief (now Interim Chief) Ben Barksdale put a plan together based on National Fire Protection Association 1584, Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises. They felt that the health of their employees was a priority and wanted to protect them for the length of their careers and their retirement. This proactive approach came with a price tag, and the budget proposal and justification for the expenditure for these units had to be made to the finance office and elected officials. Through their determination and passion for firefighter health and safety, they were able to secure the funding and purchase both units.

2 Rehab 800 is built on a Freightliner M2-106 cab and chassis. This rig is dispatched first and has a dedicated driver 24 hours per day.
2 Rehab 800 is built on a Freightliner M2-106 cab and chassis. This rig is dispatched first and has a dedicated driver 24 hours per day.

The two units are coupled together on incident scenes and provide for cooling or warming, medical monitoring, rehydration, and hunger of the firefighters who have been operating. This process has been outlined in a new rehab general order for the department. The rehab area is staffed with medical personnel and usually an emergency medical service (EMS) supervisor to ensure compliance by all units and to track all medical issues. Once a firefighter has been cleared medically, he can return to another work cycle or be released from the incident scene.

The units are dispatched to support a variety of incident types in Prince George’s County, the state of Maryland, and the National Capital Region. These incidents include, but are not limited to, fires, hazmat incidents, mass-casualty incidents, alternate care site support, medical surge events, and large-scale planned events.

3 Rehab 800 has six EKG monitoring stations, six oxygen stations supplied from onboard O2, six IV stations if needed, and a small command center for the rehab supervisor.
3 Rehab 800 has six EKG monitoring stations, six oxygen stations supplied from onboard O2, six IV stations if needed, and a small command center for the rehab supervisor.

Rehab 800

The first rig is Rehab 800, and this unit is the main vehicle that is dispatched. It has a dedicated driver 24 hours per day to respond to these emergencies without the need for cross-staffing another unit. Specs follow:

  • Freightliner M2-106 chassis.
  • Body and assembly by Pierce Manufacturing.
  • Cummins ISL 300-horsepower motor.
  • Custom design by the PGFD.
  • Dual 120-V Coleman Mach 8 Air Conditioners.
  • Six EKG monitoring stations.
  • Dual retractable awnings.
  • Six oxygen stations supplied from onboard O2.
  • Six IV stations if needed.
  • Small command center for rehab supervisor.
  • RV-style leveling system.
  • 20-kW Power Tech generator.
  • Microwave.
  • Refrigerator.
4 Rehab 800 also has dual retractable awnings
4 Rehab 800 also has dual retractable awnings.

Once this unit arrives at an incident, it is coupled with the EMS duty officer or rehab group. They will quickly set up the unit and start the process of rehabilitating firefighters and keeping records of all visits and findings for each person who enters rehab.

Rehab Support Unit

The Rehab Support Unit is a rig designed to provide for the nourishment and hydration of personnel on incident scenes. This unit is operated in partnership with the Prince George’s County (MD) Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association and the Prince George’s County (MD) Volunteer Fire & Rescue Ladies Auxiliary, who provide staffing and cooking expertise for special events and long-duration incidents.

Rehab Support Unit specs follow:

  • Freightliner M2 chassis.
  • 210-inch wheelbase.
  • 18-foot 5-inch body.
  • 120-volt Coleman air conditioner.
  • 20-kW Power Tech generator.
  • RV-style leveling system.
  • 18-ft3 refrigerator.
  • 1,000-watt microwave.
  • 85-gallon onboard water system.
  • Four-gallon onboard water heater.
  • Commercial-grade coffee maker.
  • Dual burner short-order stove.
  • 24-inch commercial griddle.
  • Awning for shade and rain protection.
5 The rehab support unit is built on a Freightliner M2 cab and chassis and supports Rehab 800 with added water or beverages and by feeding the on-scene firefighters at long-duration incidents.
5 The rehab support unit is built on a Freightliner M2 cab and chassis and supports Rehab 800 with added water or beverages and by feeding the on-scene firefighters at long-duration incidents.

This unit supports Rehab 800 with added water or beverages and by feeding the on-scene firefighters at long-duration incidents. The Ladies Auxiliary will be notified of the incident and will procure the food and beverages needed to support all members on the scene. This unit can also be used for preplanned large-scale events and county functions that require a commitment of personnel on site for a number of hours. It does not deploy as rapidly as the initial rehab unit, but it is still vital for the overall incident support and nourishment of members after incidents or events.

Designing both units took a lot of time and dedication from the department. Plus, the forward thinking and understanding by the department of the attention that needs to be paid to the health and well-being of our personnel after incidents has set the bar for other departments to make these investments into rehabilitating their crews after incidents. Pierce Manufacturing built both rigs.

6 The inside of the Rehab Support Unit features a dual-burner short-order stove, a 24-inch commercial griddle, a 1,000-watt microwave, and an 85-gallon onboard water system
6 The inside of the Rehab Support Unit features a dual-burner short-order stove, a 24-inch commercial griddle, a 1,000-watt microwave, and an 85-gallon onboard water system.

RICKY RILEY is the fire apparatus manager for the Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department. He previously served as the operations chief for Clearwater (FL) Fire and Rescue and as a firefighter for Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue. He also currently serves as the rescue-engine captain at the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department. He is a member of the editorial advisory board of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment.

No posts to display