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NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Project

In fiscal year 1998, President Clinton and Congress recognized the need to address the continuing national problem of fire fighter fatalities, and funded NIOSH to undertake National Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Project.

Briefly, the overall goal of this program is to better define the magnitude and characteristics of work-related deaths and severe injuries among fire fighters, to develop recommendations for the prevention of these injuries and deaths, and to implement and disseminate prevention efforts. A five-part integrated plan, centered on the field investigation of fire fighter fatalities, is outlined below.

Fire Fighter Fatality Investigations
Traumatic fatality investigations are the cornerstone of the overall NIOSH program to prevent fire fighter line-of-duty deaths. The objectives for this effort include the investigation of fire fighter fatalities to assess and characterize the circumstances of these events in order to develop succinct descriptive and evaluative reports for distribution to the fire community across the country.

Cardiovascular Disease Fatality Investigations
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been a significant cause of work-related death among fire fighters for many years. This NIOSH activity includes a multi-factorial assessment of personal, physiological, psychological and organizational factors associated with CVD deaths among fire fighters while on duty. Other factors are considered such as measurement of carbon monoxide and assessment of other exposures and body burdens at various types of fires.

Fire Fighter Fatality Database Project
NIOSH will use statistical and epidemiological expertise to establish and maintain an electronic database using information obtained from the fatality field investigations.

Intervention Research Project
As NIOSH gains experience and expertise in the critical issues involved in fire fighter fatalities, there may thus be selected issues that have moved beyond the surveillance stage to one in which an evaluation of an intervention is needed. This effort will use scientific methods to determine whether specific equipment, practices, and programs are effective in reducing fire fighter fatalities.

Information Dissemination Project
Information dissemination is essential if the NIOSH Fire Fighter Injury Prevention Program is to reach its goal. The major potential benefit of an investigation not only will be to the involved fire department (which after a fatality often will understand the problems and needed changes), but also to the other 36,000 fire departments and their more than one million fire fighters who need to address similar problems to prevent a similar tragedy. NIOSH posts the investigation reports, including a summary page and the full report, on the NIOSH home page.


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