RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Hundreds of firefighters were in Raleigh on Friday for the South Atlantic Fire Rescue Expo, learning how to stay safe not just at a scene, but once they leave a scene, as well.
“Cancer is an outcome we don’t want, but there’s a lot of things that can lead up to it,” Travis McGaha with the North Carolina Firefighter Cancer Alliance said.
Flames and smoke aren’t the only risks firefighters face on a daily basis, they’re also consistently exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens. But now they have a new tool in their pocket to fight that. It’s called the HEAT App.
“It allows them to follow through and record exposures when they go to different fires, wrecks, medical calls,” McGaha explained.
The app is all about tracking a firefighter’s exposure to those carcinogens, something local fire department have been combatting for years with special gear, washing machines, and ventilation. But the app accounts for something other tools don’t: who the firefighter actually is.
“There are so many variables that affect each fire fighter, I’m different than whoever I may be working with on the same crew,” McGaha said.
That means each user can upload their own health information and their own risk factors, whether that be high blood pressure, cholesterol or an underlying condition. All of that information is then used to determine how cancer impacts the first responders.
North Carolina lawmakers say it’s a small step in making sure firefighters stay safe so they can keep our communities safe in turn.
“We can’t do enough frankly,” Speaker of the House Tim Moore said. “I think we need to do all we can to make their job safer and to compensate those who do get hurt on the job.”
The app is still in the final stages of being developed, organizers are hoping to officially launch it next month. The data can then be shared with local agencies and on a national level.