Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, People, Safety
Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 11:05 am

Trouble in Mind: Behavioral health in the fire service

By Janet A. Wilmoth

For NFPA Journal

KYLE IENN WAS ONE OF THE NEW BREED OF FIRE CHIEFS. A 23-year member of the fire service, he led a progressive volunteer fire department in his hometown of Ralston, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha. He was active on the state and national level with the Nebraska Fire Chiefs Association and the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Volunteer Combination Officers Section. He served the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s “Everyone Goes Home®” program, an initiative to prevent firefighter line-of-duty deaths and injuries. As founder of the Nebraska Serious Injury & Line of Duty Death Response Team, Ienn was first on the scene to help fire departments with the death of a firefighter.

In a 2010 interview for, when asked what kept him motivated, Ienn replied, “Knowing I have helped someone.”

On the morning of January 31, 2012, just days before his 41st birthday, Ienn’s body was found hanging from a bridge in an Omaha park. A fire department vehicle was parked nearby. Omaha police concluded that Ienn committed suicide. He left behind his wife, who worked as an administrative assistant with the fire department, and three teenaged children, two of whom participated in the fire department’s Explorer program.

The suicide of an active, high-profile chief sent a shock wave through the nation’s fire service. Deaths like Ienn’s, along with “suicide clusters” in recent years involving firefighters in metropolitan fire departments around the country, have focused increased attention on behavioral health problems—alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among them—affecting first responders, primarily firefighters and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel. While empirical data on the problem remains scarce, there are suggestions that behavioral health problems among emergency responders may be widespread; studies have found that as many as 37 percent of firefighters may exhibit symptoms of PTSD. Compounding the problem is a lingering stigma that can make it difficult for emergency responders to acknowledge behavioral issues like depression, whether it’s their own or that of a colleague.

Read the full article here.

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Health
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 9:04 am

Boston firefighters offer advice on coping with tragedy

By Bob McGovern
For The Boston Herald

When the horrible news out of Boston struck — “two men down in the line of duty” — firefighters across the state felt the pain.

Five who also lost fellow firefighters in the line of duty gave advice yesterday to those who hold the memories of Lt. Edward J. Walsh and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy close. Here are their stories as told to the Herald’s Bob McGovern:

Fire Chief Michael Hanson

The Lancaster fire chief remembers burying one of his own in 2003, firefighter Martin McNamara, who was killed after a series of explosions in a building.

“The biggest thing they can do is just stay in contact with each other, stay focused and just lean on each other. It’s what we did here in Lancaster. We talked about the good times we had with Marty and the kind of guy he was.

“We all take the job knowing the risk, and we all know that something could happen to any of us. We all just want our brothers and sisters to keep moving ahead if something does happen.

“We’re a very close group, and it’s hard to explain to people. You can travel all the way to California, stop by a fire station, and they’ll treat you like family. It’s like you’ve known each other forever. There’s a strong bond there, and we all carry it with us.” (more…)

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, People
Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 10:03 am

How to lead your department through a LODD

By Dennis Rubin


By the time a person has struggled to the top firefighter position, that member has managed a lot of issues. It is likely that the fire chief has experienced about everything under the sun.

Whether managing a complicated administrative process or handling a complex emergency response, the hope is that the chief has been there and done that, at least once.

According to NFPA figures, there were more than 370,000 structural fires in 2011. In addition to fires and rescues, each year career and volunteer fire chiefs oversee some type of budgetary and other administrative processes.

As the chief settles into the “routine of the position” (if there is such a thing), there are not too many surprises happening in the corner office. Then, on the most horrible day of an entire fire service career, the department experiences a line of duty death.

I don’t know anyone who has the experience to be comfortable handling a LODD. After the initial shock and stress of learning that a member’s precious life has been lost, time will seem to speed up and the department will be tested to its breaking point.

Continue reading.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, Safety, Training
Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 10:02 am

Myth busting: When to establish rehab

By Jeffrey Lindsey


I am teaching a fire course that is part of a university’s bachelor program. The students include current officers and those aspiring to become officers, particularly chief officers. The class discusses command and control at catastrophic incidents.

One of the themes I am seeing in the responses to many of the assignments is when rehab should be established, if at all.

As much as this should not be a surprise, rehab is still not taken with importance that it should. Quite frankly, rehab should not be only for the incident scene. Rehab is an ongoing process that should happen on the scene, in the station and off duty.

There seems to be a notion that rehab is only needed when it is 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity. Rehab is not a temperature-based operation.

Continue reading.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, News, Safety
Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 9:01 am

Life-Saving Smart Shoes Track Firefighters

By Alyssa Danigelis

For Discovery

Billowing smoke increases the likelihood that a firefighter will get disoriented but some of the best GPS tech out there won’t survive leaping flames. A new sensor-laden shoe developed by Swedish researchers could provide firefighters with clear paths to safety.

Despite extinguisher-lobbing robots and a way to zap out fires with electrical wands, firefighting remains a very dangerous human endeavor. Investigators piecing together what happened in the chaotic wildfire that killed 19 firefighters in Arizona last summer concluded that fatigue and poor communication were contributing factors.

When other conditions are ideal, smoke and heat can still be too much for GPS technology. That’s where shoes containing a digital positioning system developed at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm could make a difference. The shoe contains a processor, antenna, a wireless communication system and sensors including an accelerometer and gyroscope, according to KTH.

Continue reading.

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Health
Thursday, January 16th, 2014 9:01 am

The Ultimate Challenge: Surviving the Firehouse Diet

By P. Jordan Steel

Every year firefighters die. It is the nature of the business, a job where one is expected to “risk a lot to save a lot.” Volumes have been written about the tragedy of the deaths that were avoidable, whether caused by excessive speed of an apparatus on the way to a call, lack of a proper size-up to identify hazards, or the lack of situational awareness of changing conditions. The unnecessary loss of a firefighter is always tragic.


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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, News, Safety
Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 9:11 am

NFPA Report: 2012 U.S. firefighter injuries

By Michael J. Karter, Jr. and Joseph Molis

For NFPA  Journal

Firefighters work in varied and complex environments that increase their risk of on-the-job death and injury. A better understanding of how these fatalities, injuries, and illnesses occur can help identify corrective actions, which could help minimize the inherent risks. In an effort to do just that, NFPA studies firefighter deaths and injuries annually to provide national statistics on their frequency, extent, and characteristics.

Based on survey collected from fire departments during the NFPA Survey of Fire Departments for U.S. Fire Experience, NFPA estimates that 69,400 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2012. This is a slight decrease of 1 percent from the year before and the lowest it’s been since NFPA analyses began in 1981. In recent years, the number of firefighter injuries has been considerably lower than they were in the 1980s and 1990s, but this is due, in part, to additional survey questions on exposures that allow us to place them in their own categories, rather than including them as part of the total injuries in other categories.

NFPA also estimates that there were 8,150 exposures to infectious diseases last year, such as hepatitis, meningitis, and HIV, amounting to 0.3 exposures per 1,000 emergency medical runs by fire departments. In addition, there were 19,200 exposures to hazardous conditions, such as asbestos, radioactive materials, chemicals, and fumes in 2012. This amounts to 18.2 exposures per 1,000 hazardous condition runs. An estimated 14,350 injuries, or 20.6 percent of all firefighter injuries, resulted in time out of work.

There were 69,400 firefighter injuries in the line of duty in 2012, a slight decrease of 1 percent from the year before.In addition to injuries, there were 8,150 exposures to infectious diseases and 19,200 exposures to hazardous conditions.Of the injuries, 31,490, or 45.4 percent of all firefighter injuries in 2012, occurred during fireground operations. An estimated 4,190 occurred while responding to, or returning from, an incident; 7,140 during training activities; 12,760 at nonfire emergencies, and 13,820 during other on-duty activities.The Northeast reported a higher number of fireground injuries per 100 fires than other regions of the United States.The major types of injuries received during fireground operations were strains, sprains, and muscular pain, which accounted for 55.2 percent of the injuries; wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruises, which accounted for 12.2 percent; thermal stress, which accounted for 5.8 percent; and burns, which accounted for 5.7 percent. Strains, sprains, and muscular pain accounted for 58.5 percent of all nonfireground injuries.The leading causes of fireground injuries were overexertion, strain, and falls, slips, and jumps.

Read the full report here.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, Performance, Safety, Training
Thursday, October 31st, 2013 9:10 am

RIT – facepiece changeovers

By Mark van der Feyst

For Firefighting In Canada

One of the most integral parts of the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is the facepiece. It protects the firefighter from inhaling the superheated air that is in the environment, and it protects the firefighter from debris coming into contact with his face. The SCBA facepiece is designed and tested to withstand harsh environments in hot and cold temperatures. With the new NFPA standards, the facepiece is required to withstand a set temperature over a period of time.

When the facepiece fails, it produces catastrophic results for the firefighter. This involves not only burns to the face, but to the lungs, trachea and esophagus, as well. There was a case of a facepiece failure at a training tower in Pennsylvania in 2006; an instructor lighting the last fire in the burn tower for the day suffered major burns to the outside and inside of his facial and respiratory area. The lens of the facepiece had suddenly melted, exposing him to the superheated air in the burn room. This is one example of how a facepiece can fail. Other failures can involve debris falling onto the firefighter, either knocking away the facepiece or breaking its lens.

When this type of incident occurs, the RIT will be initiated to rescue the downed firefighter. RIT members will likely conduct a full nine-step assessment of the firefighter to determine his air-supply needs.

Read more.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, Performance, Safety
Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 9:10 am

The Connection Between Physical and Financial Health in the Fire Department

By Scott D. Kerwood

For FireRescue

Every year, fireground injuries account for more than 50% of the total occupational injuries suffered by the American fire service. Whether fires, hazardous materials, rescues or medical emergencies, the firefighter’s occupational workplace is ripe with danger. Many of these injuries are the result of a hostile work environment that no other occupation or vocation is exposed to at work. However, most all of these injuries are preventable if an effective fireground injury program is in place.

People Are the Priority
Our personnel are our most valuable resource. We can’t do what we do on a daily basis without a healthy workforce. Regardless of whether we are a paid or volunteer organization, taking care of our personnel via an occupational safety and health program is the right thing to do and should be our No. 1 priority. Such a program can result in a reduction of injuries, which translates into reduction of pain and suffering for both the injured member and their family. But there’s another key point to an effective safety and health program that cannot be overlooked: An effective fireground injury prevention program has a significant financial savings for the organization.

Direct & Indirect Costs
If not properly managed, a firefighter’s injury can have substantial direct and indirect costs. In fact, indirect injury costs can be as high as 20 times that of direct costs for injuries.1 According to some sources, for every $1 spent on direct costs from injuries, approximately $2 to $4 is spent on indirect costs.2 These indirect costs include things such as additional staffing, training and recordkeeping, while direct costs include things such as the medical expenses, overtime, litigation and accident investigation.

Continue reading.

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Health
Thursday, October 24th, 2013 9:10 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Firefighter Health

By J.R. Dennison
Leatherhead Instructors

The health of firefighters has become a huge discussion across the country in the past several years due to the mortality rate among firefighters because of cardiac events.  There are many proactive things that can be done on an individual basis to decrease your risk, but the stress of our job can create a string of problems if not dealt with.

Every other year my department sends each of the members to the local hospital for a stress test and physical, and every other year there are folks that drag their feet to get it done.  These assessments are a true benefit for us; there is a good chance that if anything problematic is occurring that it can be found early!  With the toxins that now present in today’s firefighting, it is a good idea to be assessed every other year at minimum.  If your department does not provide for an assessment; do it on your own.  Knowing your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, glucose reading, and all of the other tested values can help you dictate what you need to do to improve.


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