Smaller volunteer departments need funds for safety initiatives

Smaller, rural volunteer fire departments need more funding to implement the recommendations of the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, an initiative of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), according to a study published online by RTI Press.

According to the report, most of the 3,000 U.S. fire departments surveyed are aware of the safety recommendations and generally follow them, but their implementation depended on the availability of resources. About two-fifths of the responding fire departments reported that they did not have enough funding to train firefighters; more than half said they did not have enough money for the personnel or equipment needed to meet the safety recommendations.

Kristina Peterson, Ph.D., a senior survey manager at RTI and the paper’s lead author, suggests that “NIOSH develop documents that fire departments could use to justify budget requests for needed safety equipment, training, and procedures.”

Referring to line-of-duty fatalities that occur en route to or from an incident and the deaths attributed to cardiovascular causes, the report notes: “Yet, according to the research, only half of the fire departments reported that their firefighters use seat belts ‘most of the time’ or ‘always,’ and less than one-fourth of the fire departments in the United States have a fitness training program for their firefighters.” In addition, the report notes, only half of the fire departments that responded required screening for coronary artery disease risk factors.

Peterson cited “some easy, inexpensive changes departments can make to follow the NIOSH recommendations and improve the health and safety of their firefighters. “Most firefighter fatalities in road crashes,” she explained, “could be prevented by wearing seat belts, obeying traffic laws, and controlling driving speeds.” She added, “Fire departments could also provide firefighters with physical fitness training programs and require firefighters to be screened for cardiovascular disease risk factors and cardiovascular disease.” Additional information is at


Line-of-Duty Deaths


May 1. Firefighter John Polimine, 51, Scalp Level & Paint Volunteer Fire Company, Windber, PA: heart attack after completing training at the Cambria County Fire School.

May 13. Lt. Donnie Caldwell, 74, Ghent (WV) Area Volunteer Fire Department: complications related to injuries he sustained in the 2007 Little General Store explosion in Ghent.

Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database


DHS awards $55 million in firefighter SAFER grants


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awarded 48 career, volunteer, and combination fire departments with $55 million in Fiscal Year 2009 (FY09) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program direct assistance grants in the first round of awards. Additional awards will be made in the future.

The DHS received 2,128 applications for nearly $1.25 billion in grant requests in FY09. Since 2005, fire departments have been awarded 1,137 SAFER grants totaling more than $500 million. The funds are to help the departments increase the number of frontline firefighters by hiring new firefighters, rehiring laid-off firefighters, and implementing programs for recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters. l


James O. Page collection to be housed at UCLA library


A special collection dedicated to the archives of James O. Page, the founding publisher of JEMS, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, will be established at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), according to an announcement by The James O. Page Charitable Foundation and UCLA. The collection, which will be housed at the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library at UCLA, will include original articles, correspondence, speeches, audiotapes, and a video of the last lecture. Page, credited as the father of modern EMS, was an attorney and fire chief known for his insightful writing, speeches, and love of EMS history. He died from sudden cardiac arrest in 2004.

The collection’s Web site can be accessed at The collection was endowed by the James O. Page Charitable Foundation through a grant from the Physio-Control Corporation and the contributions of individuals and organizations. According to Keith Griffiths, president of the Foundation and a partner with Page at JEMS, new material will be added to the site on a regular basis. The ultimate objective, Griffiths said, is to develop the collection base into a national EMS library. l


FDA warns of faulty components in defibrillators


The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned, in April, that about 280,000 (14 models of automated and semiautomated) external defibrillators manufactured by Cardiac Science Corp. in Bothell, Washington, and used worldwide may malfunction during attempts to rescue people in sudden cardiac arrest. The devices are used in health care facilities, public places, and in the home. The models include the following:

  • Powerheart: 9300A, 9300C, 9300D, 9300E, 9300P, 9390A, and 9390E.
  • CardioVive: 92531, 92532, and 92533.
  • Nihon Kohden: 9200G and 9231.
  • GE Responder: 2019198 and 2023440.


The defibrillators may fail to properly deliver a shock, may interrupt electrocardiography analysis, may fail to recognize electrode pads, or may produce interference or background noise that makes the device unable to accurately analyze heart rhythm.

The FDA recommends that users obtain alternative external defibrillators and arrange for the repair or replacement of the affected defibrillators. If alternative external defibrillators are not immediately available, the FDA recommends continuing to use the affected devices if needed, because they may still deliver necessary therapy. The potential benefits of using the available external defibrillators outweigh the risk of not using any of the affected external defibrillators or the risk of device failure, according to the FDA.

In November 2009, Cardiac Science had recalled its Powerheart and CardioVive models, manufactured between August 2003 and August 2009, but the FDA has since learned that the two models marketed under the Nihon Kohden name and two marketed by GE Healthcare have similar problems.

Cardiac Science issued a software update for two of its Powerheart defibrillators in February 2010 and plans to issue similar software updates for other affected devices. However, the FDA’s review of the updated software indicates that the software detects some, but not all, identified defects. For additional information, go to /.


IFSI to study potential aspirin-firefighter heart attack link


The University of Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) will receive a $999,801 grant to conduct research on the relationship between aspirin and the reduction of the number of heart attacks among firefighters. This is the fourth Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fire Prevention & Safety Research and Development grant the IFSI has received.

“Based on our previous studies of cardiovascular changes caused by firefighting, we believe that an aspirin intervention may be effective in reducing the risk of heart attacks in our population,” says Dr. Gavin Horn, IFSI director of research. Low doses of aspirin, he adds, have already been shown to reduce platelet aggregation—the first step in blood clots that work to induce heart attacks. Horn notes that the new research “will seek to clarify the effects of both acute and chronic aspirin dosage on firefighters’ vascular and hemostatic systems, both at rest and following live firefighting.” Twenty firefighters over the age of 40 will participate in the latest research.

Bo Fernhall and Jeff Wood of the University of Illinois Kinesiology and Community Health Department, Dr. Denise Smith of Skidmore College in New York, and Brad Bone from the IFSI will be working with Horn in conducting the research. Carle Hospital Occupational Medicine and Christie Clinics pathology departments will also collaborate with the IFSI on the grant.

Earlier projects looked at the influence of firefighter personal protective equipment, stress, and exertion on firefighters’ cardiovascular system. For more information about the DHS-funded research, contact Dr. Gavin Horn at 217-265-6563. l


USFA releases report Grill Fires on Residential Properties


“An estimated 5,700 grill fires on residential properties occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 10 deaths, 100 injuries, and $37 million in property loss,” according to Grill Fires on Residential Properties. The report, developed by the United States Fire Administration (USFA) National Fire Data Center, examines the characteristics of grill fires on residential properties based on 2006 to 2008 data reported to the Data Center through the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

The report also notes that 32 percent of grill fires on residential properties occur on patios, terraces, screened-in porches, or courtyards and that an additional 24 percent start on exterior balconies and unenclosed porches. Propane is the power source in 69 percent of grill fires on residential properties.

For additional information regarding other topical reports or any programs and training available at the USFA, visit


FDA orders Baxter Healthcare Corp. to recall pumps


In a letter on April 30, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered Baxter Healthcare Corp. to recall and destroy all of its Colleague Volumetric infusion pumps (Colleague pumps) currently in use in the United States. Infusion pumps deliver fluids, including nutrients and medications, into a patient’s body in a controlled manner. As many as 200,000 of the pumps may be in use.

The FDA took this action because of a “longstanding failure to correct many serious problems with the pumps.” The agency has also ordered the company to grant refunds to customers or replace the pumps at no cost (and assist in finding replacements for the pumps). The FDA has been working with Baxter since 1999 to correct numerous device flaws. Since then, Colleague pumps have been subject to several Class I recalls for battery swelling, inadvertently powering off, service data errors, and other issues.

In June 2006, the FDA obtained a consent decree of permanent injunction in which Baxter agreed to stop manufacturing and distributing all models of the Colleague pump until the company corrected manufacturing deficiencies and until the devices in use were brought into compliance. Since then, Baxter has made numerous changes to the Colleague pumps but has not corrected the defects, leading to the permanent injunction.

In April 2010, Baxter proposed to the FDA that it would begin the latest round of corrections to the adulterated and misbranded pumps in May 2012 and that it didn’t anticipate completing the proposed corrections until 2013. The FDA found this proposal unacceptable.

An FDA analysis of these adverse events has uncovered software defects, user interface problems, and mechanical and electrical failures. Problems with infusion pumps are not confined to one manufacturer or one type of device. In response to the growing problem with defective infusion pumps among manufacturers, the FDA is establishing additional premarket requirements for manufacturers, which include, in part, static testing in FDA facilities before device submissions, sponsoring a public workshop on infusion pump design (in May 2010), and raising public awareness of the issue among health care workers and patients. Additional information is at


NIOSH paramedic survey shows need for more training


A national survey of 2,664 paramedics was conducted between 2002 and 2003 by the Constella Group and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to discover the incidence of exposure to blood among paramedics.1 Such exposures present the risk of infection from bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B virus; hepatitis C virus; and human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. Among the findings of the study were the following (note that the results for California paramedics were analyzed separately because California had a needlestick prevention law several years before a similar national law):

  • Twenty-two percent of the paramedics surveyed had at least one exposure to blood in the previous year. California paramedics had one-quarter the national rate of needlesticks and half the national rate of all exposures to blood. The sharps injury rate for paramedics was high compared with most hospital workers, and exposure of broken skin to blood was “extremely high” among paramedics.
  • Eighty percent of needlesticks involved nonsafety devices, which do not have engineered sharps injury protection features. California paramedics had a much higher rate of using safety devices than other national paramedics. Use was higher when employers provided the safety devices. Many paramedics said they needed more training in using the safety devices.
  • More than 80 percent of paramedics said their employers provided safety goggles and face/surgical masks, yet they reported that most splashes to the eye or nose occurred when they were not using protection. One-fifth of the responding paramedics said they needed more training in how to use personal protective equipment (PPE); one-fourth said they needed better designed PPE or additional PPE to protect themselves.
  • Forty percent of exposures to broken skin occurred when a patient was being extricated. A major factor in exposures to the eyes, nose, and broken skin was patients who were uncooperative or combative. <
  • Paramedics who had supervisors who stressed following Universal/Standard Precautions and who evaluated them on following safety procedures had significantly fewer exposures.
  • Exposures were underreported—only 72 percent of needlesticks, 29 percent of exposures to broken skin, and 49 percent of exposures overall were reported to employers. The reason for not reporting the incidents most often cited was that the paramedic did not consider it a significant exposure. Also, paramedics were less likely to report needlesticks if they thought they were responsible for the exposure. Workplace Solutions, NIOSH, Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Publication No. 2010-139, April 2010.


1. Leiss JK, et al, Ann Epidemiol, 2006 16(9):720-725. Leiss JK, et al, Industrial Health, 2009 47(2):139-144. Boal WL, et al,Am J Ind Med, 2008, 51(3):213-222. Boal WL, et al, Int Arch Occup Environ Health, 2010 83:191-199. Mathews R, et al, Am J Infect Control, 2008, 36(10):743-749. l


Grants to help increase home fire sprinkler awareness


The nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) was awarded a 2009 Fire Prevention and Safety Grant by the Federal Emergency Management Agency Grant Programs Directorate. The grant will enable the HFSC to help fire departments increase knowledge and awareness of home fire sprinklers at the local level. Also, the HFSC will reach out to and interact with the homebuilding industry to emphasize the life-saving benefits of installing fire sprinklers in new houses.

A centerpiece of the grant-funded program, according to the HFSC, will be a national effort to advance the use of side-by-side fire sprinkler and flashover demonstrations as part of local fire department outreach. The HFSC will cohost demonstrations and educational events with 12 fire departments and will provide stipends to 100 additional departments that can implement these events on their own.

The HFSC will make more fire departments aware of its free Built for Life Fire Department Program (BFLFD), which has more than 1,500 members to date. Those U.S. fire departments that agree to make home fire sprinkler education a focus of their public safety outreach or that will increase their existing efforts will receive recognition and priority access to HFSC’s new educational tools and materials, including HFSC’s Fire and Sprinkler Burn Demonstration Kit. The kit provides print and video instruction for guiding departments through every step of a live educational burn. It is available on the HFSC’s Web site.

Details about the national program to support local implementation of side-by-side burns will be announced through the HFSC’s fire service blog “Focus.” Visit to learn more and to sign up for the BFLFD program.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) received a $746,438 FEMA 2009 Assistance to Firefighters—Fire Prevention and Safety Grant Program. The NFPA says it will use the money to conduct the “Faces of Fire” national home fire sprinkler awareness campaign.

Additional information is at


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