Human Factors of Firefighter Safety
Physical distancing and wearing a face mask are key interventions to prevent COVID-19. While this remains difficult to practice for millions of firefighters in fire engines responding to emergencies, the delayed forthcoming of evidence on the effectiveness of such safety interventions in this setting presents a major problem. In this field experimental study, we provided initial evidence to close this gap. We examined total aerosol burden in the cabin of a fire engine whilst manipulating crew size, use of FFP2 respirators and use of SCBA full-face masks during 15-min driving periods. At the same time, we controlled for crew activity and speaking, vehicle speed, cabin ventilation, cabin air temperature, pressure and humidity. Limiting the crew size, using FFP2 respirators and not donning SCBA full-face masks was associated with a reduction of the arithmetic mean of total aerosol burden of up to 49%. This study provided initial evidence on the effectiveness of safety interventions in fire engines to reduce potential airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through aerosols. More research about the physical and the clinical effectiveness of such safety interventions is needed.