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‘Ramp-up’ alarms can lower stress among firefighters: study

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Janesville, WI – Fire station alarms that gradually get louder can help reduce stress among firefighters, according to research from Mercy Health System’s Department of Emergency Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine.

During the study period, 42 firefighters assigned to three fire stations in an urban setting wore devices on their wrists that tracked their heart rate both when alarms were abrupt and loud, and when alarms gradually increased in volume.

Researchers found that the firefighters’ heart rates increased seven beats per minute on average during the abrupt, loud alarms. However, during the gradual alarms, their heart rates increased an average of only five beats per minute.

“Ramp-up tones were also perceived as the best alerting method to reduce stress during both the day and overnight,” researchers said. “This study suggests that the manner in which firefighters are alerted does have an influence on their physiologic response to the alarm.”

In 2013, 32 of the 97 deaths among firefighters in the line of duty were the result of stress, overexertion and associated medical issues, the study states.

The study was published online Sept. 8 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

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