News in Brief: May 2020

Fire Industry News
Federal government seeks to curb use of foreign-made drones

The federal government has initiated steps to stop the purchase of drones made in foreign countries for security reasons. The March 13, 2020, “GCN Insider” e-newsletter relates that in October 2019, the Interior Department grounded drones from China or drones with parts made in China. It has also been reported that an executive order was initiated that would ban federal departments and agencies from buying or using foreign-made drones because of national security concerns.2 Further, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have passed the bipartisan S.2502-American Security Drone Act of 2019, which would “ban the Federal procurement of certain drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, and for other purposes.”3

References

1. “Public-safety drone use soars as White House mulls ban for federal agencies,” Stephanie Kanowitz, Mar 13, 2020; https://gcn.com/Articles/2020/03/13/drones-public-safety.aspx?s=gcnet_160320&oly_enc_id=&p=1/.

2. https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/11/us-order-foreign-drones/.

3. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2502/. The full text is at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2502/text. Actions taken are at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/2502/all-actions?overview=closed&KWICView=false/.


Annual Cancer Report: Cancer death rates continue to decline

Cancer death rates in the United States continued to decline for all cancer sites combined from 2001 to 2017, according to the “Annual Cancer Report.” The report noted that the decreases occurred in all major racial and ethnic groups and among men, women, adolescents, young adults, and children. Cancer incidence rates (rates of new cancers) for all cancers combined were reported to have leveled off among men and slightly increase for women from the years 2012 to 2016.

Other Report Findings

Following are other statistics cited in the report:

  • Overall cancer death rates decreased 1.5% on average per year from 2001 to 2017. The decrease among men was 1.8% per year and among women, 1.4% per year.
  • Overall cancer death rates decreased in every racial and ethnic group during the years 2013 to 2017.
  • Among men, death rates decreased for 11 of the 19 most common cancers and were stable for four cancers (including prostate). They increased for oral cavity; pharynx; soft tissue including heart, brain, and other nervous system; and pancreas cancers.
  • Among women, death rates decreased for 14 of the 20 most common cancers, including lung and bronchus, breast, and colorectal. They increased for cancer of the uterus, liver, brain and other nervous system; soft tissue including heart; and pancreas. Rates were stable for oral cavity and pharynx cancer.
  • Overall cancer death rates among children ages 0 to 14 years decreased an average of 1.4% per year. Among adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 39 years, overall cancer death rates decreased an average of 1.0% per year.
  • Melanoma death rates decreased 6.1% per year among men and 6.3% per year among women.
  • Lung cancer death rates decreased 4.8% per year among men and 3.7% per year among women. However, lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer death, accounting for about one-fourth of all cancer deaths.
  • From 2012 to 2016, cancer incidence rates for all cancers combined were stable in men and increased slightly in women. Rates of new cancers were stable among white men and decreased among black, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic men.

“The drops in mortality we’re seeing are real, sustained, and a strong indication of what we can do when we work to prevent and treat cancer,” says William G. Cance, M.D., ACS chief medical and scientific officer. “But, we can and must do more, particularly to ensure everyone in the United States has access to the resources that are all too often benefiting only the most fortunate.”

Additional information is at https://seer.cancer.gov/report_to_nation/.


NIH begins clinical trial of remdesivir to treat COVID-19

The first clinical trial in the United States to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the investigational antiviral remdesivir in hospitalized adults diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) began at press time at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha. The randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The first trial volunteer participant is an American who was among those quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Jokohama, Japan. The study can be adapted to evaluate additional investigative treatments and to enroll participants at other sites in the United States and worldwide.

Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc., was previously tested in humans with Ebola virus disease and has shown promise in animal models for treating Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome, caused by other coronaviruses. “We urgently need a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19. Although remdesivir has been administered to some patients with COVID-19, we do not have solid data to indicate it can improve clinical outcomes,” notes NIAID Director and U.S. Coronavirus Task Force Member Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “A randomized, placebo-controlled trial is the gold standard for determining if an experimental treatment can benefit patients.” Clinical trials of remdesivir are also ongoing in China.

Participants in the NIH-sponsored trial must have laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and evidence of lung involvement, including rattling sounds when breathing (rales) with a need for supplemental oxygen or abnormal chest X-rays, or illness requiring mechanical ventilation. Individuals with confirmed infection who have mild, cold-like symptoms or no apparent symptoms will not be included in the study.

Initially, investigators will compare participant outcomes on day 15 in both the remdesivir group and the placebo group to see if the investigational drug increased clinical benefit compared to the placebo. An independent data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) will monitor ongoing results to ensure patient well-being and safety as well as the integrity of the study. If there is clear and substantial evidence of a treatment difference between the drug and placebo, the DSMB will recommend that the study be stopped.

Andre Kalil, M.D., professor of internal medicine at UNMC and an infectious diseases physician at Nebraska Medicine, is leading the trial at UNMC. UNMC’s National Quarantine Unit is supported by the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services. It has a 20-bed capacity and is in close proximity to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit should a higher level of care be needed. Clinical trial participants are cared for in the biocontainment unit. For more information, visit https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04280705. The full NIHealth news release is online at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-clinical-trial-remdesivir-treat-covid-19-begins. IAFC advocates for T-Band access for public safety

At a press conference held in March in the U.S. Capitol, Chief Gary Ludwig, president and chairman of the board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), urged Congress to repeal its mandate to auction off public safety licenses on the T-Band. Ludwig made his plea on behalf of public safety, especially for those areas that would be most affected by the loss of communication benefits that would result from the auctions. Major metropolitan areas such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Houston would be among the responding organizations that would be denied access to interoperable communications if the T-Band were allocated for commercial use instead of public use.

“For first responders who encounter life-threatening scenarios every day, an operational radio is essential,” Ludwig said. He noted that when a major incident like a terrorist attack or an industrial plant fire occurs, hundreds of thousands of radio calls could occur. The allocated T-Band spectrum, he explained, enables cities to build robust and resilient communications systems that enable responders to rely on their radios when they are most needed.”

In 2012, Congress required the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction off public safety licenses on the T-Band. The move was opposed by some members of Congress and public safety advocates who believed the auction would negatively affect the emergency preparedness of our nation’s cities. In June 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report that noted the lack of alternate spectrum options in many of the T-Band cities and asked that Congress repeal the T-Band auction mandate. In December, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai confirmed in a released statement that “relocation costs for public safety licensees would … exceed any potential auction revenue, making it impossible to … comply with the mandate.”

There has been a bipartisan movement in the Senate and House of Representatives to repeal the auction mandate, which must be done before February 21, 2021, when the auctions are to start taking place. Ludwig’s full statement is at https://www.iafc.org/press-releases/press-release/iafc-to-congress-congress-must-repeal-the-t-band-auction-mandate/.


WV joins the EMS Compact

The Interstate Commission for EMS Personnel Practice has announced that West Virginia has requested membership in the EMS Compact. The Commission was expected to formally vote on West Virginia’s entry into the Compact at its annual meeting on June 16, 2020, in Reno, Nevada. (The COVID-19 pandemic at press time has led to the banning of gatherings of large groups in many states.) West Virginia is the 19th state to join the Compact.

The EMS Compact makes it possible for licensed EMS personnel to cross state borders and practice in other EMS Compact member states without obtaining a separate license. The provisions of the EMS Compact legislation include a coordinated personnel licensing data system member states use to share information on their licensed personnel. In addition, the EMS Compact supports expedited licensing in member states for military personnel and their spouses on discharge from service. In addition to West Virginia, several other states are considering EMS Compact legislation this year.

The Commission recently voted to immediately activate the privilege to practice under the EMS Compact using a manual system for states to exchange personnel information so that the system will be activated to enable the EMS personnel to assist with response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We already know of EMS personnel in states around the country who are in quarantine from occupational contacts with suspected ill patients,” says EMS Compact Commission Chair Joe Schmider (Texas). “For many EMS agencies, the loss of a few key personnel for two weeks, even if they don’t become ill, can stress daily operations. The EMS Compact was built in part for this exact scenario. We want the EMS Compact to be one more tool in the toolbox that states can use in responding to this evolving public health event.” Additional information is available from Dan Manz, educator, Interstate Commission for EMS Personnel Practice, at dmanz@emscompact.gov/.


National Firefighter Registry Web page update

The National Firefighter Registry (NFR) Web page (https://www.cdc.gov/NFR) is up and running, and firefighters are invited to go to the site for information and to sign up for the NFR newsletter. When fully operational, the site will be a voluntary registry for firefighters to share information that will increase our understanding of the cancer situation in the United States fire service and methods for helping to protect firefighters against cancer.

Congress mandated the creation of the NFR. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is leading this effort with guidance from the scientific and firefighting communities. The CDC is still developing the NFR and will notify firefighters throughout the country when it is open for enrollment. To be most effective, all firefighters must participate in the registry. In the meantime, go to the site and sign up for the NFR newsletter.

LINE-OF-DUTY DEATHS

February 18. Captain Ramon “Ray” Figueroa, 35, Porterville (CA) Fire Department: perished in a library fire; cause unknown. Fire was reported to be arson.

February 18. Firefighter Patrick Jones, 25, Porterville (CA) Fire Department: perished in a library fire; cause unknown. Fire was reported to be arson.

February 23. Firefighter/EMT Donald “Donny” Lepper, 46, Indianola (NE) Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad: heart attack suffered on February 22.

March 9. Firefighter Jerome Guise, 34, Citizen’s Fire Company No. 1, Mt. Holly Springs, PA: fatally injured when the structure’s heavy timber front porch roof collapsed on him while battling a fire at a single-family home.

March 8. Safety Officer Joe Jessie Tucker Jr., 62, Thoroughfare (NC) Volunteer Fire Department: cause unknown.

March 13. Firefighter Benjamen “Ben” Lauren, 23, Forsyth Township (MI) Fire Department: floor collapse at a structural fire.

March 25. Firefighter Zachary S. Blankenship, 26, Montcalm (WV) Volunteer Fire Department: cerebrovascular accident suffered on March 5.

Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database

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