Friday, September 18th, 2009
A team of inventors at James Cook University in Cairns has developed a vest that can help fire fighters and emergency workers keep their cool.

The CoolMe Vest significantly reduces heat stress and recovery times for workers in extreme heat conditions.

The vest was developed by three JCU staff members with the support of the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service.

“A fire fighter wearing a protective suit in a hot and humid environment can experience temperatures up to 50ºC and lose up to two litres of fluid in just 30 minutes,” said Dr Glen Deakin, a lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science and co-developer of the vest.

“It can take up to two hours for that worker to recover and be ready for redeployment. We’ve been able to reduce that recovery period to 30 minutes, as well as significantly reducing fluid loss, core temperature and thermal discomfort.”

Station Officer Ian Fulton, who took part in trials of the vest, said extreme conditions were exacerbated by the protective gear fire fighters wear. “Body heat can’t dissipate when you’re working in a protective suit, so that increases the risk of dehydration and heat stress. ”

The CoolMe vest can be worn under a protective suit to allow emergency workers to keep cool on the job, or it can be applied afterwards, to speed up recovery.

Dr Deakin developed the vest with two JCU colleagues, Robert Ennis-Thomas (a technical officer in the discipline of chemistry) and William Armstrong (a technical officer in sport and exercise science).

Together they have formed GRW Industries. The company is working with JCU’s research commercialisation partner, UniQuest, to explore the commercial potential of the product, which has a patent pending.

“Although the vest has grown out of our work with tropical fire fighters, we think it will be well received by a range of emergency services, the military and in industrial settings,” Dr Deakin said. “Keeping workers comfortable, and reducing their recovery time, allows for more efficient deployment of personnel.”

Each vest is a disposable, single-use item made of recyclable materials.

“It’s simple and affordable technology, similar to the chemical cold packs many people carry in their first-aid kits,” Dr Deakin said. “It can keep workers cool for short periods of high exertion, without requiring access to refrigeration or electricity.

“It’s very easy to use in the field and will benefit fire fighters’ recovery between call-outs. Being disposable eliminates any hygiene or contamination problems.”

GRW Industries is now working with consultants in industrial design from the University of Technology Sydney to prepare the vest for manufacture.

The CoolMe Vest was JCU’s winner in the 2009 UniQuest Trailblazer competition.

The CoolMe Vest will be presented at the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council conference on the Gold Coast next week (11.30am, Wednesday 23 September, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, Broadbeach.

Contact Profile

James Cook University

Ranked in the top five percent of the world's tertiary institutions by the respected Academic Ranking of World Universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, James Cook University is dedicated to creating a brighter future for life in the tropics world-wide, through graduates and discoveries that make a difference.

The University conducts nationally significant and internationally recognised research in areas such as marine sciences, biodiversity, tropical ecology and environments, global warming, tourism, and tropical medicine and public health care in under-served populations.
Linden Woodward
P: +61 7 4042 1007
M: +61 (0) 419 791 564

UniQuest Pty Limited

Established by The University of Queensland in 1984, UniQuest is widely recognised as one of Australia’s largest and most successful university commercialisation groups, benchmarking in the top tier of technology transfer worldwide. From an intellectual property portfolio of 1,500+ patents it has created over 60 companies, and since 2000 UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $400 million to take university technologies to market. Annual sales of products using UQ technology and licensed by UniQuest are running at $3 billion. UniQuest now commercialises innovations developed at The University of Queensland and its commercialisation partner institutions: the University of Wollongong, University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Tasmania, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Queensland Health. UniQuest also provides access to an expansive and exclusive network of independent academics to tailor a consulting or project R&D solution to meet the diverse needs of industry and government, facilitating some 500 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year.

UniQuest is also a leading Australasian provider of international development assistance recognised for excellence in technical leadership, management and research. Working with agencies such as AusAID, NZAID, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, UniQuest has developed and implemented more than 400 projects in 46 countries throughout the Pacific, South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa.

Leanne Wyvill
P: +61 7 3365 4037
M: +61 0 409767199


This innovation from Australian university research will improve conditions for fire fighters.



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