World’s first study of the effect of COVID-19 infection control measures in a fire truck on an emergency response mission.
Team and technology: The participating firefighters from Edingen-Neckarhausen, Hirschberg, Ilvesheim and Ladenburg, initiator and commander Dr. Elmar Bourdon (1st from right), Mayor Andreas Metz (2nd from right), district fire department physician Dr. Eric Henn (1st from left). On the right in the picture the installed ProxiCube measuring technology.
Firefighters are exposed to a particularly high risk of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the cramped crew cabins of fire engines. The reason for this is transmission through liquid particles in the air (aerosols), which accumulate there. New, even more contagious coronavirus variants further increase this risk. Densely packed with less than one cubic meter of space per person, more than one million firefighters in Germany and many millions more around the world are exposed to this risk of infection inside a fire truck every time they go on a mission without vaccination. Based on simple plausibility considerations, different COVID-19 protective measures are therefore practiced in various ways in firefighting vehicles everywhere. However, it is unknown which of these protective measures best reduce the spread of liquid aerosols inside the fire-fighting vehicles. In order to change this, last Sunday, March 21, 2021 at 07:30, under the leadership of the Ilvesheim Volunteer Fire Department, the few volunteer firefighters from Edingen-Neckarhausen, Hirschberg, Ilvesheim and Ladenburg, who already have corona vaccination protection due to other authorization from their professional or private environment, started a field experimental study. For a whole day, the effect of different protective measures on the dispersion of liquid aerosols was scientifically investigated within the framework of controlled measurement runs in a fire-fighting vehicle. Team members from the Institute of Clinical Chemistry at the University Medical Center Mannheim provided additional protection for the participating firefighters by conducting PCR and antibody tests in the Baden-Württemberg Foundation’s CoVLAB truck in the early hours of Sunday morning, immediately before the measurement runs began. The CeMOS research center at Mannheim University of Applied Sciences deployed its world-leading ProxiCube® measurement technology for the size-specific determination of liquid aerosols inside the fire truck together with its project partners Nevoox Europe GmbH and ProxiVision GmbH. “It is a stroke of luck for the region that Mannheim has such outstanding as well as transfer-strong research facilities and production networks of the economic development, which support us here great”, the initiator of the study, Dr. Elmar Bourdon, is pleased. As an associated scientist at the joint Institute for Medical Technology at the University of Heidelberg and the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences, and at the same time commander of the Ilvesheim firefighters in an honorary capacity, he emphasizes: “The study results will now be submitted for international scientific review and publication together with the partners from CeMOS and University Medicine Mannheim, so that they can be turned into reliable recommendations for firefighting practitioners”. Ilvesheim’s mayor, Andreas Metz, thanked all the players involved on site and also sees this as further evidence of the special role played by local authorities in coping with the pandemic.