Georgia Tech, Emory researchers testing potentially life-saving heat protection device

JUN 14, 2024

By Bridget Spencer

Published: Jun. 14, 2024 at 8:15 PM PDT

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Heat related illness is something that certainly can creep up on you, especially if you work outside.

Jorge Ortega works as a landscaper in Florida.

“I would say it’s a little bit harder to stay hydrated and you have to keep on moving even though the sun is hitting you,” said Ortega.

According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1,000 people die from heat related illness each year in the United States. Researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University are working to lower that number with a new heat protection device.

Ortega is one of the first people to try it out.

“The idea is that it monitors the worker’s heart rate, their physical activity, respiration rate. The ultimate goal is we will be able to predict before a worker heads into heat stroke or heat exhaustion,’ said Emory University researcher Roxana Chicas.

She said when it thinks you are close to heat exhaustion is would send an alert to not only you, but ideally co-workers and supervisors on your shift.

“We’ve already tested it with construction workers. In our next phase we are going to test it with farm workers,” said Chicas.

“Honestly this is what people need. It can prevent a lot of injuries and people getting hurt from other stuff maybe they may not know of,” said Ortega.

Some of the signs of heat exhaustion include headache, muscle cramps, a fast or even a weak pulse, and dizziness. Chicas said she is passionate about this work and hopes to save many lives once the technology is rolled out to the public.

“I’m an immigrant. I’m from El Salvador. Many of the workers you see outdoors are workers of color. They are immigrants,” she said.

“Heat waves are coming. Summer is here and we all have to try and protect ourselves,” said Chicas.

Chicas hopes to roll out the product for widespread use within three years.