A field study reporting physiological data collected on UK fire-fighters performing urban search and rescue.


  1. Contribute to the safety of personnel operating in hostile environments within the oil and gas industry through the use of ‘live’ physiological monitoring

  2. Guide future working practices regarding work:rest schedules and human physical capabilities.


Eighteen USAR fire-fighters performed two 180 minute work bouts separated by a 90 minute recovery period. Each bout involved: debris removal allowing collapsed building access; penetrating two concrete slabs; casualty rescue. Data collection: core and skin temperature, heart rate, sweat rate; ratings of exertion and discomfort.


Work duration was shorter and casualty extraction rate higher in the second bout. Body temperature response was similar between bouts, indicating the recovery period was sufficient for cooling purposes. Peak core temperatures were 37.8 °C to 39.0 °C Heart rate response was similar between bouts, equating to ‘light-to-moderate’ work, while sweat rate averaged 0.42 L.h-1. Interestingly, fire-fighters began the second bout with a lower body mass compared to the first (-0.4 ± 0.5 kg, p<0.01), suggesting that insufficient fluids were consumed during the recovery period to replace fluid lost during the initial bout.


Under the thermo-neutral conditions studied, all participants successfully coped with the physical demands of repetitive bouts. The thermal and cardiovascular responses were moderate and performance on the second bout was not substantially degraded, with a greater casualty extraction rate compared to the first bout. Further work is required to determine the physical demands of multi-day USAR deployments, as well as in hot and humid environments.

Technical Contributions

  1. Describes a variety of physiological monitoring equipment that could be employed within the oil and gas industry

  2. Provides physiological data on work:rest ratios that could inform working practices of emergency personnel within the oil and gas industry.

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