On August 26, 2011, South Davis Metro (UT) Fire Agency Fire Marshal Steve Cox, 55, suffered a sudden cardiac event while he was performing a firefighters skills fitness test.
According to the report, the test, a job-related simulation, involved completing 10 evolutions of essential firefighter tasks in full turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatus (off-air/no mask) within 19 minutes. The test began about 0715 hours at the fire department headquarters with two test proctors and two fire department members from the adjoining fire station in attendance. The fire marshal completed the first eight evolutions without any difficulty. About halfway along the ninth evolution the Fire Marshal stumbled and fell while dragging a 175-pound manikin. After taking a short break to catch his breath, he said “I gotta finish,” and proceeded to the apparatus bay for the last evolution. The victim looked exhausted; he was very short of breath and had ashen skin color and cyanotic lips. He was unable to complete the evolution before the 19-minute PAT completion time elapsed.
He flopped into a chair and then asked to lie down. His breathing became very shallow and fast as his turnout coat was removed. He was treated at the scene for low oxygen saturation and low blood pressure. As he was loaded into the ambulance he suffered a cardiac arrest, but regained a heart rhythm enroute to the local hospitals emergency department (ED). Upon arrival at the ED, the victim was hypotensive and unresponsive. Subsequent blood tests indicated a probable heart attack. He did not regain consciousness and died on August 28, 2011.
The report made several recommendations:
- Strengthen the department’s Annual Medical Assessment Program to be consistent with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582
- Consider modifying the physical fitness policy
- Avoid back-to-back work shifts.
To read the complete report and recommendations, visit http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face201218.html.
NIOSH firefighter fatality reports can provide critical incidents into what went wrong at deadly incidents. More of these reports can be accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/.
For more on cardiac events in firefighters, fitness, and prevention, check out the following links:
- New Study Examines Sudden Cardiac Events in Firefighters
- Acute Coronary Syndromes in Firefighters: An “Athletic” Approach to Prevention
- Health and Fitness: Leaders Must Set the Example
- Physiological Status Monitoring for Firefighters
- NFPA 1582: The Standard for You and Your Family
- PHYSICAL FITNESS ASSESSMENT PROGRAMS