Physiological Response in a Specialist Paramedic During Helicopter Winch Rescue in Remote Wilderness and Extreme Heat


21(3). 41 - 44 (Journal Article)

Tasks performed by search and rescue (SAR) teams can be physically demanding. SAR organizations are faced with mounting challenges due to increased participation in recreation in remote locations and more frequent extreme weather. We sought to describe the physiological response and the methods for data collection during helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) winch rescue from remote wilderness in extreme heat. A flight paramedic sustained 81% of maximum heart rate (VO₂ ~44.8 mL/kg/min) for ~10 minutes at a rate of perceived exertion of 19/20, and a relative heart rate of 77.5% in 37.1°C. Maximal acceptable work time for this task was calculated at 37.7 minutes. Our data collection methods were feasible, and the data captured demonstrated the level of physiological strain that may be encountered during HEMS SAR operations in austere environments and hot climate. It is essential that SAR teams that perform physically demanding tasks use a scientific approach to adapt and evolve. This is necessary to ensure personnel are appropriately selected, trained, and equipped to respond in an era of increasing demand and extreme environments.

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