Safety 101 - Lesson 27

You must be able to recognize that these emergent issues will constantly change due to real world happenings, new technology and management practices.

Regardless of the type of industry, emergent issues in business, operations, and safety come from three basic sources:

  1. what is happening in the real world and its impact on operations,
  2. what does information and data (trend analysis) tell us, and
  3. what new technology or management practices are being used.

When it comes to safety in the fire service, we can again take a lesson from industrial safety and conduct a poll to validate the source information, as detailed above; and validated by end users.

The real world tells us that firefighter deaths stem from:

Location of Deaths

  • At emergency scenes
  • En route to and returning from emergencies
  • Training
  • Other

Causes of Death

  • Heart/hypertension
  • Trauma
  • Vehicle accident related

The real world tells us that firefighter injuries stem from:

Source of Injuries

  • Fall, slip, jump
  • Over exertion, strain
  • Exposure to fire products

Nature of Injuries

  • Strain, sprain, muscular pain
  • Wound, cut, bleeding
  • Burns
  • Smoke, gas inhalation

This reflects anecdotal information to what is happening in the real world. In addition, new technology can be found addressing each of these issues via new technical standards, new tools, and equipment in the marketplace.

A related fire service research activity was undertaken which looked at:

  • personal health (which involved firefighter physical conditioning and history of illness, disease, etc.),
  • personal well being (such as personal habits of smoking, exercise, nutrition and diet, alcohol and drug use, stress, etc.), and
  • personal safety (which investigated use of personal protective equipment, vehicle safety, use of a safety officer, crew resource management practices, and training), as components which can affect the frequency and severity of accidents involving firefighters.

Some of the findings of the report indicated:

  • As a group, firefighters (career and volunteer), have elevated blood and cholesterol levels that are double the current US average.
  • Firefighters reported an insufficient amount of exercise and are not meeting CDC guidelines for physical activity.
  • Although hypertension and diabetes levels mirror current US averages, they still exceeded Healthy People 2010 guidelines
  • Although heart attack accounts for almost half of firefighter non incident deaths, health was rated very low as a safety issue facing the fire service.
  • A significant number of departments do not have fundamental safety best practices in place which address techniques to reduce firefighter line of duty injuries and death. This increases the probability for increases in frequency and severity of incidents.
  • The key concerns of respondents were
    • Poor training
    • Over aggressive actions
    • Crew resource management

By nature of the real world experience, trend data, and advances in technology, seven emerging safety issues can be seen for firefighters involving:

  • develop standard operating guidelines (SOGs),
  • provide proper training, including integration of SOGs,
  • use personal protective equipment,
  • be physically capable of performing the job at hand,
  • use safety officers at emergencies and training activities,
  • train on the proper driving of vehicles and operate them safely, and
  • do not risk personnel when there is no life saving objective and there is minimal potential for saving significant property.

This is consistent with the fire service safety continuum we have seen develop as we relate industrial safety concepts to fire/EMS operations. This continuum essentially identifies five components to enhancing firefighter safety which can be illustrated as:

While there no doubt will be enhancements to this process, it does attempt to make safety inherent in the firefighter's job.

Lesson #27
It is important to stay current with emergent safety issues to the fire service. You must recognize that these emergent issues will constantly change due to real world happenings, related data and trend analysis, as well as new technology and management practices being used.

Safety 101 - A new series from the technical and administrative perspective, designed to help you reduce emergency responder injuries, illnesses, property loss and death!

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DR. WILLIAM F. JENEWAY, CSP, CFO, CFPS, a Contributing Editor, is Executive Vice President of VFIS and has over 30 years experience in safety and risk management in the insurance industry. He was named "Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year" as Chief of the King of Prussia, PA, Volunteer Fire Company, and is the author the text Emergency Service Risk Management. He has partipated the NVFC Corner podcasts on To read William's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here.