IFSI Receives Grant to Study Firefighter Safety

The University of Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) has learned that it will receive an FY2013 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fire Prevention & Safety grant. The grant for $1.5 million will fund a study that focuses on the leading acute and chronic health concerns associated with firefighting–sudden cardiac events and cancer. IFSI will collaborate with the Underwriter Laboratories (UL), Firefighter Safety Research Institute, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); bringing together a broad range of nationally-recognized expertise in firefighter health and safety.

During the studies, IFSI researchers will collect physiological data concerning cardiovascular and carcinogenic risks accompanying firefighting activities. It will be the first rigorous scientific study to quantify acute physiological disruptions, including thermal and cardiac strain, and exposure to products of combustion. The study will also document the time course of recovery from firefighting work and examine how the response and recovery is affected by tactical choice and firefighters’ riding assignment. The research is expected to provide the relevant data for the national discussion on establishing a timeline for returning a firefighter to service after a fire. The study will also investigate the effect of on-scene PPE cleaning and decontamination, to determine the effectiveness of this strategy to minimize secondary exposures to additional risks. “Throughout this study, we will actively engage the Fire Service to begin a robust conversation on ‘Putting the Firefighter Back in Service’, which we are recommending as a health and safety analogue to the concept of returning a piece of apparatus to service after an incident,” Dr. Gavin Horn said. Horn is the Director of IFSI’s Firefighter Life Safety Research Center.

This grant continues the long history of federally-funded research at IFSI. Earlier projects have focused on the influence of different aspects of firefighter personal protective equipment, the effects of stress and exertion on firefighter’s cardiovascular system and biomechanics of movement as well as the influence of pharmacological interventions, such as aspirin ingestion on firefighter’s cardiovascular responses to firefighting.

The Illinois Fire Service Institute is Illinois’ fire academy. In addition to training provided at the Champaign campus, the Institute offers DHS grant-approved technical rescue, HAZMAT and NIMS training, hands-on fire officer training, online classes and conducts training throughout the state at Regional Training Centers and local fire stations. The mission of the Illinois Fire Service Institute is to help firefighters do their work through training, education, information, and research.

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