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Skidmore College

Firefighter safety is focus of big Homeland Security grant

April 5, 2010

A grant of $569,000 awarded to Skidmore College's Department of Health and Exercise Sciences by the Department of Homeland Security will enable a team of Skidmore faculty members and students to continue the department's pathbreaking research into new strategies and technologies to ensure the safety of firefighters.

SmithThe grant -- which follows an award of nearly $1 million two years ago -- was jointly announced by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Scott Murphy. It will enable Skidmore researchers to investigate the effectiveness of new materials and textiles in reducing the thermal and cardiovascular strain experienced by firefighters. The project will also assess the ability of the base layers to provide thermal protection to firefighters.

Nearly half of all firefighter line-of-duty deaths each year are attributable to sudden cardiac events ? a number that could be sharply reduced with the introduction of lighter and more thermally protective "turnout gear," the heavy protective clothing worn by firefighters to protect them from burn injury. Current turnout gear can weigh more than 25 pounds.

The project may affect the firefighting gear that is worn by every firefighter in the country.

"This is a truly exciting project because it may lead to a new 'integrated systems approach' to designing protective clothing which could ultimately increase firefighter work performance and decrease risk of injury and death on the fire ground," said Denise Smith, professor of exercise science and the principle investigator on the study. The study's co-principle investigator is Patricia Fehling, professor of exercise science and chair of the department.

"Our firefighters are true heroes who deserve not only our unending respect, but the very best safety resources we can offer," said Schumer. "Skidmore College will do valuable research with this funding. By advancing the field and by putting our best minds to work, we can ensure that the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep their communities safe are secure in their own jobs and can keep doing their jobs well."

"Providing funding to study and develop new life-saving measures is not only a smart use of taxpayer money, but a responsible way to ensure that our men and women firefighters are adequately protected and prepared when they are in the field," said Rep. Scott Murphy. "By continuing to fund Professor Smith's work in cardiovascular health and heat stress at Skidmore, we will be protecting the very best our communities have to offer."

Also supporting the project is Globe Fire Suits, that largest manufacturer of firefighting gear in the country.

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