Survival Symposium Conducted by IAFF
A fire fighter’s heart, the equipment he wears and the apparatus he rides on were all included in the Second Symposium on Occupational Health and Hazards of the Fire Service that was themed to “Survival.” The symposium was sponsored by the International Association of Fire Fighters under the auspices of the John P. Redmond Memorial Fund. It was again held at the Center for Continuing Education, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind.. this time on April 16-18.
The purpose of this symposium was to “further interest more men of science in the hazards inherent in fire fighting to the end that the technical knowledge of today’s world will be applied to the needs of the fire service.” To accomplish this, Chairman Emmett T. Cox of the IAFF and CoChairman Marshall Conrad, M.D., of the St. Louis Fire Department, assembled as speakers a group of eminent physicians and engineers who were working with fire fighters or on projects related to the fire service.
Dr. Dominick Davolos, a heart specialist, told of a three-year study he had made on 1000 fire fighters in the Cleveland area. His conclusions were that the stress caused by fire fighting and inhalation of carbon monoxide causes a higher incidence of heart disease among fire fighters than other professions. He cited a study he had made of men in the police and fire fighter retirement fund in Cleveland. Davalos said that 61 percent of all disabilities for fire fighters stemmed from heart disease or related conditions; only 50.6 percent for policemen.
EKG changes compared
On the same subject, Dr. R. James Barnard, research cardiologist, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, compared EKG changes brought on by both sudden exercise and the striking of a fire alarm. For some fire fighters there was no difference.
Dr. Harvey Utech, Fire Technology Division, National Bureau of Standards, urged the fire fighters to adopt a let-the-buyer-beware attitude when purchasing protective equipment. In his research at the bureau, Utech told of finding mask face pieces that leaked and breathing apparatus that used brass screws on aluminum housings, thereby causing corrosion.
Jack Manning, superintendent of equipment, St. Louis, Mo., Fire Department, spoke on vehicular design and safety. His slides on and analysis of a number of apparatus accidents in his fire department pointed out the need for safety belts. His conclusion stressed that fire fighters should respond to alarms in enclosed cabs and with safety belts attached.
Six workshops were held in addition to the presentations given to the entire group of attendees (250). These included: physical standards, heart problems, pulmonary problems and respiratory protection, protective equipment and vehicular design, training—safety education—record keeping, and emergency care.
Recommendations from the workshop panelists included:
Quality emergency care should be implemented in more and more cities. They called on the IAFF to be active in setting emergency care training standards and to publish a brochure explaining emergency care concepts.
More research should be undertaken into the incidence of heart disease among fire fighters, since this is the major cause of disability among them. In addition, the fire services should maintain physical fitness and other remedial programs.
Standard specifications for protective equipment and apparatus should be developed for use by fire departments, so they can better control and maintain equipment effectiveness.
Breathing apparatus should be developed that is lighter, smaller and more effective.
Further studies should be undertaken of the effects on fire fighters of the smoke and gases they inhale at fires.