Volume 2, Issue 2 (February 2005)
Development of a Prototype Personal Cooling System for First Responders: User Feedback
A series of six focus groups in five U.S. cities was conducted as a component in a 3-year project to develop a prototype personal cooling system for first responders. The target user was a HAZMAT worker wearing level A and B ensembles, with a 30-min mission and an average body heat dissipation of 180 W. The purpose of the focus groups was to determine user needs, wants, and concerns early and progressively throughout the development of the prototype system to serve as design input. The first two focus groups provided information on the use of HAZMAT ensembles and thermal comfort problems associated with wearing the ensembles while working an incident, and reaction to a mock-up cooler system. Focus groups 3-6 provided user feedback on an alpha prototype system. All groups confirmed the need for a cooling system and the problem with moisture build-up within level A and B encapsulated suits. Reaction to the liquid-cooled vest was positive. An exterior location for the cooler unit was acceptable if users' concerns were addressed adequately.