The heat comes with the job for some in Omaha metro

For many of us, dangerous heat is something we can avoid on the job and in our day-to-day lives.
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 10:18 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2022 at 10:53 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For many of us, dangerous heat is something we can avoid on the job and in our day-to-day lives.

But what about all those people we see working for us in the community, regardless of the weather?

Public workers and emergency responders are among those who have no choice but to handle the heat.

If your job is to build the city’s new park or fix busted water mains, you’re out there until the job is done.

“Normally our folks in the fieldwork from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.,” City of Omaha Engineer Todd Pfitzer said. “This time of year we give them the option, and they usually take that option, to work from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., so then they’re back to the shops by 2:00 p.m., 2:15 p.m., cleaning up, prepping for the next day, and they’re out of the heat by 2:00 in the afternoon.”

And when unseasonably high temps and “feels like” conditions take hold, emergency responders have to be ready to rotate crews more frequently and keep their oxygen bottles fresh.

“When it gets hot like this, you’re going through one bottle, you’re coming out, and you’re rehabbing,” Omaha Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott Fitzpatrick said. “We’re actually sitting them down, taking their vitals, and pushing fluids.”

And while we may decide when to mow our lawns or hop in the pool a few days from now based on our favorite meteorologist’s forecast, that looks ahead helps firefighters prepare their bodies for what could be a lifesaving battle against heat.

”We try to eat properly, hydrate ahead of time, not too much caffeine, anything like that before dehydrates us even faster,” Fitzpatrick said. “We take precautions on our own before we go to work.”

One advantage emergency responders and public work crews have is that they’re never alone. Working in units and teams, someone always has their back in the heat.

“At all of our scenes, we have an ambulance that comes,” Fitzpatrick said. “Paramedics are there for our rehab if someone gets dehydrated, we can start an IV and try to rehydrate them that way, but we try to make it so that we don’t get to that point.”

”We have safety briefings, we encourage them to take hourly breaks, drink water,” Pfitzer said. “Their supervisors are trained to watch for people that are getting hydrated, getting impacted by the heat, and we provide breaks during the day and we encourage that safe type of behavior.”

Whether you’re a highly trained firefighter or an ordinary Joe, the warning signs for heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the same.

“People going out to an event or things like that, they might not think about the weather as much as us who work outside,” Fitzpatrick said. “Our advice to them is the same, wear some sunscreen, light clothing, try to stay out of the heat if you can, find some shade, but if you have to be in it, just know some of the signs, if you start to get a little confused, a little tired, things like that, its time to get out of the heat, get into the air conditioning, get some fluids in you, and if it keeps getting worse, call 911 and let us know, because it could become serious and you would need to go to the hospital.”

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