Health Beat – LODD Reduction Initiatives

By Mary Jane Dittmar

Line-Of-Duty Deaths: Federal/Fire Service Association Initiatives
Some recent studies and programs developed independently or jointly by the federal government and the fire service to decrease firefighter deaths and injuries are briefly summarized here.

  • PennWell and NFFF Launch Web site for Firefighter Life Safety
    The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and PennWell Corporation, the parent company of Fire Engineering, fireEMS, and FDIC, FDIC East, and FDIC West, recently http://www.everyonegoeshome.com, a Web site dedicated to the nationwide Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives program.
    At the 2004 NFFF Firefighter Life Safety Summit (the first one held) a national program for reducing the number of firefighter line-of-duty deaths was developed. It is comprised of 16 initiatives and has as its goals reducing by 25 percent firefighter fatalities over the next five years and by 50 percent over the next 10 years. The http://www.everyonegoeshome.com Web site addresses a range of issues associated with firefighter deaths, including the two leading causes–heart attacks and vehicle accidents.
    Additional information is at the above Web site or may be obtained by e-mailing everyonegoeshome@firehero.org.

  • USFA/IAFF: Risk Management and Health/Safety Projects
    The objective of the new United States Fire Administration (USFA)-International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) project is to enhance the risk management capability of local fire departments. The program covers community hazards and service commitment, enhanced firefighter safety, and tools for the continual evaluation of emergency response systems.

    Geographic information systems (GIS) computer simulations will be used to develop risk management models suitable for departments of various sizes serving different populations in varying geographic regions. Additional information may be found at HTtp://www.usfa.fema.gov/research/safety/.

    The USFA and IAFF are also engaged in a study related to “emergency incident rehabilitation,” which will include revising the USFA manual Emergency Incident Rehabilitation (FA-114). The new version will include updated information on topics covered in the previous version as well as issues related to emergency incident rehabilitation that have emerged since the publication of the original manual in 1992, such as how to prevent serious and life-threatening conditions such as heat stroke and heart attacks. Other subject areas will address operational issues, human physiology, weather influences, and technology as reflected in protective clothing and tactical procedures.

    A copy of the original USFA Emergency Incident Rehabilitation manual may be downloaded at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/FA-114.pdf/.

  • IAFC: Near-Miss Reporting System
    You can now report near-misses (or close calls) at http://www.firefighternearmiss.com. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) officially introduced this Web-based reporting system at a press conference during its Fire-Rescue International conference in Denver on August 12.

    The reporting is voluntary, non-punitive, and confidential. The submitted reports are reviewed by at least two active duty fire service personnel. To ensure the department’s confidentiality, the information is coded for data purposes and posted for review. The data will be used to identify trends that present dangers for firefighters. The information will be disseminated to the fire service through program reports, press releases, and e-mail alerts, depending on the urgency of the information.

    IAFC President Chief Bob DiPoli likens the Web system to “a virtual kitchen table that allows firefighters to share those stories-and the lessons learned from them-with firefighters from around the county.” The system is funded by grants from the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. The IAFF, the IAFC’s Volunteer and Combination Officers Section, and firefighter closecalls.com have endorsed the system.

    The National Fire Protection Association estimates that for every 100 incidents of injury, one million close calls go unreported.

  • NVFC: Heart-Healthy Program
    The goal is to reduce heart-related firefighter deaths 25 percent by the year 2008. The initiative was developed to answer questions such as “Why are so many firefighters suffering heart attacks?” (Half of all firefighter deaths in the field are heart-related today.) “Why is the problem getting worse?” ” What can be done to reverse this trend?”

    According to a Texas A&M University study, “The very nature of firefighting as a profession is [characterized by] lengthy bouts of sedentary activity, separated by intense periods of very strenuous activity. The cardiovascular system of a firefighter is often pushed to the limit when responding to calls.”

    Too many departments do not enforce the requirement that their firefighters stay in top physical condition. The Heart-Healthy Firefighter program provides firefighters with information about eating more healthful foods, lowering cholesterol levels, and staying physically active while off-duty.

    Funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the USFA, the program also includes a Heart-Healthy Firefighter Kit, which was developed in conjunction with the American Heart Association; the American Dietetics Association; and the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute. Released last year, the kit has been distributed free to thousands of firefighters at fire and rescue/EM trade shows. It is also available at http://www.healthy-firefighter.org.

    The NVFC has been providing free health screenings at industry shows; more than 4,000 firefighters have been screened for cholesterol. There are plans to test thousands more. Blood pressure screenings and body composition (body mass) testing are also available at the NVFC exhibit booth at industry shows.

    Also, Fired Up for Fitness, an online fitness program made its debut early this year. The interactive program enables firefighters to log on to the Web at www.health-firefighter.org and plan and record their own personal fitness program. Participants can measure their progress by recording physical activity and results over time. Prizes are offered. Questions may be directed to Maggie Wilson, NVFC director of health and safety at 1-888-ASK-NVFC or email Maggie@nvfc.org.

  • NFPA Standards And Annual Health Assessments
    Some readers have asked for information concerning annual medical physical examinations for fire departments. One source of such information is NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, 2003 edition, which also refers to NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety. Chapter 8 of the very comprehensive NFPA 1582 addresses “Annual Occupational Fitness Evaluation of Members” and among other components includes criteria on “Weight and Body Composition” (Sect. 8.1), “Annual Fitness Evaluation (Sect.. 8.2).

    Section 9.2, “Medical Conditions” is directed at medical conditions that potentially interfere with a member’s ability to safely perform essential job tasks. Among the topics in this section are “Fire Department Physician Roles (9.3), and various “disorders” involving the various body systems as well as “Medications.” “Physician Guidance” is given throughout the standard.

    “Annex C Protocols for Evaluation of Fitness of Members,” included for informational purposes only, addresses annual fitness evaluations under NFPA 1583, Standard on Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Fighters, and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)/International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Joint Labor-Management Fitness and Wellness Initiative. Chapter 4 in NFPA 1583 provides information pertaining to “Fitness Assessments.”

  • Reducing The Hazards Of Heat Stress
    Heat stress has been identified as a factor in firefighter line-of-duty deaths (and for the general public as well). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the following precautions for reducing heat stress hazards in the work environment:
    • Drink enough water to maintain adequate hydration.
    • Provide a work/rest regimen that decreases exposure time to high temperatures.
    • Develop a heat stress program that includes the following:
      • An employee educational program that addresses the following topics: the effects of heat stress, how to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness, and how to prevent such illness.
      • A screening program that will help to detect health conditions aggravated by elevated environmental temperatures.An acclimation program for new employees or employees returning to work after an absence of three or more days.
      • Specific procedures to follow in heat-related emergency situations.
      • A system for immediately administering first aid to employees exhibiting symptoms of heat-related illness.

        Although OSHA does not have a regulation that specifically covers the hazards of heat stress, the “General Duty Clause,” Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” OSHA has previously used the General Duty Clause to cite employers that have allowed employees to be exposed to potential serious physical harm from excessively hot work environments.-Source: SAF-T-GARD International, Inc., Northbrook, IL, newsletter, http://www.saftgard.com, July 2005.

        The IAFC offers these tips for fire departments located in areas that experience exceptionally hot temperatures:

      1. Keep hydrated. Drink lots of water on- and off-duty. Have drinking water available on all apparatus, in all chiefs’ cars, and in all other fire department vehicles. Urge firefighters to drink plenty of water before coming on duty.
      2. Avoid soft, sugary, and caffeinated drinks.
      3. Urge personnel to get plenty of rest while not on duty.
      4. Urge personnel to report any symptom of dehydration, heat cramps, heat stroke, or heat exhaustion (see resources below).
      5. Limit outdoor exercise.
      6. Establish a rehabilitation center at major incidents. If possible, set the center under a tent or in a shaded area. Set up an extra hose to provide a place for firefighters to cool off. Pull extra alarms or bring in extra companies at major incidents to relieve the first-arriving crews.

      Consult the following resources for additional information:

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