NFPA: Screening Could Help Prevent Cardiac Arrest
Study Finds Firefighters Work with Known Heart Problems
Updated: 05-17-2005 11:31:22 AM
May 16, 2005 – Three-quarters of firefighters who died of heart attacks – the top cause of on-duty deaths – went to work with known or detectable heart conditions, according to a new analysis of firefighter fatalities from 1995 to 2004 by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The toll of heart disease is a major reason why firefighter deaths have not declined in recent years, even though fewer firefighters die in burning structures (and fewer structures catch fire). An average of 97 firefighters died per year in the 1990s. But since 2000, the yearly average has been 102, except for firefighters killed during the 9-11 attacks.
In 2004, there were 103 firefighters who died on the job, a rate similar to other recent years.
The new information points to ways to protect firefighters from the biggest threat to their lives. Just as self-contained breathing apparatus and heat-resistant protective clothing have saved firefighters during interior structural fire protection from many effects of fire, health promotion, screening, appropriate job restrictions and subsequent treatment can reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac death.
Over the 10-year period studied in the NFPA report, 440 firefighters – 43.7 percent of those who died on the job – experienced sudden cardiac death (heart attacks and other heart-related sudden death), typically triggered by stress or exertion.
NFPA was able to obtain medical information for 308 of those 440 firefighters. It found that 134 had previously suffered a heart attack, undergone bypass surgery, or angioplasty/stent placement. The majority had known heart disease but were not on restricted duty. An additional 97 had severe blockage of the heart’s arteries but it is unclear whether this was known prior to their deaths.
Unfit firefighters pose a danger to themselves, fellow firefighters and the public if they become incapacitated during emergency response. NFPA has developed standards that, if adopted, could prevent many on-duty deaths. One requires health and fitness programs for firefighters. Another requires firefighters to meet health standards before joining the fire service, and to be carefully evaluated annually and if they develop certain health problems after joining.
The 10-year study on sudden cardiac death is part of the NFPA’s annual analyses of firefighter fatalities.
Most firefighters who die on duty do not die on the “fire ground,” the location where a fire is being fought. For the second consecutive year, less than 30 percent of the deaths occurred on the fire ground, the lowest rate on record. (And of these 29 fire-ground fatalities, 10 were caused by sudden cardiac death.)
The number of firefighters who died in vehicle crashes in 2004 (17) was half the number in 2003 (33), when deaths in crashes reached an all-time high.
Deaths during emergency medical responses, which had been dropping through the 1980s and 1990s, have risen sharply in the new century. In the past five years, there were 21 deaths at medical calls, compared with six deaths in the previous five-year period.
One positive finding was that there were no deaths in vacant or idle buildings, for the first time since NFPA began gathering this data in 1977. The number of deaths in fires in these types of buildings (including those under construction or renovation) dropped from a high of 37 in the first five years of the study to just eight in the five most recent years. Only once in the past 15 years have more than five firefighters died in such property; that was when six firefighters were killed in a vacant warehouse fire in Worcester, Mass., in 1999 when they entered thinking there were occupants.
This trend reflects a greater understanding by firefighters to battle fires from the outside when no lives are at stake inside.
The 10-year study will be available online June 1st.
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Thread: LODD Prevention Study
05-17-2005, 05:23 PM #1
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- Flanders, NJ
LODD Prevention Study
05-17-2005, 06:04 PM #2
This looks to be an interesting read. I'll be reading the study when it comes out.To the world you might be one person, but to one person you just might be the world.
GO WHITE SOX!!!!!
05-18-2005, 03:56 PM #3
As of yesterday 49% of the 51 LODD deaths in 2005 were classified as "Stress/Over Exertion" which is where Cardiac Related events fall.
you can find the 2004 Summary here: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/fatalities/.../ff_stats.shtm
You can read all the LODD information here:
FYI - I have been working on my Fire Instructor and as a portion of the class we had to pick a topic and present a series of lectures on it during the course of the class. I picked Firefighter Safety and have been doing a lot of research on the makeup of the LODD numbers - such things as age groups, cause of death, status (i.e. career, POC, volunteer, contract, etc.)
This is indeed a very alarming & obvious trend and, as stated in the article, if we can't start taking better care of ourselves - NFPA is going to do it for us.
NFPA has developed standards that, if adopted, could prevent many on-duty deaths. One requires health and fitness programs for firefighters. Another requires firefighters to meet health standards before joining the fire service, and to be carefully evaluated annually and if they develop certain health problems after joining.
On a related note:
NVFC Runs Heart-Healthy Firefighter program
MAGGIE WILSON, Director of Health & Safety
Courtesy of National Volunteer Fire Council
Every day of the year, firefighters put their lives on the line to save people and property in their communities. The important work these men and women perform has become even more valued following the events of September 11, 2001. But what many Americans – and many firefighters themselves – don’t seem to realize is that firefighters need protecting, too.
Looking at firefighter health, the statistics are startling. Firefighters are at an extremely high risk of suffering heart attacks or other forms of heart disease. In fact, half of all firefighter deaths in the field are heart-related today. And the reason? The strenuous tasks of fire fighting places heavy demands on firefighters’ bodies, which, in many cases, are not physically prepared for the strain.
“The incidence of heart attacks in the firefighter community is one of major concern that deserves everyone’s attention, said Philip C. Stittleburg, NVFC Chairman. “Here at the NVFC, we began asking ourselves a lot of questions. Why are so many firefighters suffering heart attacks? Why is the problem getting worse? And what can we do to reverse this trend?”
“When we started looking into the statistics, things quickly became clear,” Stittleburg continues. “A multi-year analysis of firefighter deaths performed by the U.S. Fire Administration showed that heart attacks represent the lion’s share of firefighter fatalities while on duty.”
Another study done by Texas A&M University noted, “The very nature of firefighting as a profession is [characterized by] lengthy bouts of sedentary activity, separated by intense periods of very strenuous activity. The cardiovascular system of a firefighter is often pushed to the limit when responding to calls.” Too many departments are lax about requiring their firefighters to stay in top physical condition. Add to this the 800,000 volunteer firefighters across the country – most of whom have other jobs that are far less physically demanding than fire fighting – and the magnitude of the challenge becomes even clearer.
“To us, it seemed that concentrating our efforts on heart illness would be the most effective use of our efforts – where we could really make the most positive difference in improving firefighter health,” said Heather Schafer, NVFC executive director. “We decided that heart-related firefighter deaths while on duty needed to be reduced by at least 25% over five years. That’s how the idea for the Heart-Healthy Firefighter program was born.”
Back to Basics
At a basic level, most firefighters understand that the path to fitness takes commitment. It’s all about things like eating healthier foods, lowering cholesterol levels, and staying physically active while off duty. The challenge for many firefighters is getting the right information, starting on a program, and staying motivated over time. The Heart-Healthy Firefighter program works to provide those tools to firefighters so they can be successful in their quest for better health and fitness.
Working under a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Fire Administration, the NVFC developed a Heart-Healthy Firefighter Kit, designed to help firefighters with practical steps and suggestions regarding their heart health. The kit was developed with the assistance and guidance of groups such as the American Heart Association, the American Dietetics Association, and the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, ensuring that the information and recommendations it contains represent the very latest medical knowledge. Among the subjects covered in the kit are coronary heart disease, hypertension, cholesterol, physical fitness, and nutrition. There are also several quizzes to help firefighters test their own level of “heart-smart” knowledge.
Since its release last year, the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Kit has been distributed free of charge to thousands of firefighters at fire and rescue/EMS trade shows. (The kit is also available by visiting www.healthy-firefighter.org on the web.)
Firefighters who attend industry shows in 2005 will find the NVFC there, too – not only with the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Kit and other health information, but also providing free health screenings. “I recently changed my diet and was pleasantly surprised to find that my cholesterol level had gone down significantly,” said Chief Bob Kilpeck of the Vermont State Firefighters Association. “This terrific service provided by the NVFC helps many individuals find out what their levels are, quickly and efficiently.”
Notes Schafer, “We’ve already screened more than 4,000 firefighters for cholesterol, and we’re planning for thousands more this year.” In addition to providing cholesterol screenings at the shows, the Heart-Healthy Firefighter program will be performing blood pressure screenings and body composition (body mass) testing at the NVFC exhibit booth.
Fired Up for Fitness
Another exciting new development which debuted in early 2005 is an online fitness program called Fired Up for Fitness. This web-based interactive program lets firefighters to log on to the web site at www.healthy-firefighter.org, then plan and record their own personal fitness program. Participants are able to measure their own individual progress by recording their physical activity and results over time, with prizes offered. “We see this as a wonderful opportunity not only for individual firefighters, but also for entire departments to improve their overall fitness,” says Stittleburg. “We’re hoping for widespread participation throughout the country. The more firefighters who participate, the more we can start pointing those heart-health statistics in the right direction!”
Maggie Wilson is director of health and safety for the National Volunteer Fire Council. For more information on the Heart-Healthy Firefighter program, contact her at 1-888-ASK-NVFC (1-888-275-6832) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Significant Problem
According to an analysis conducted by the U.S. Fire Administration, heart attacks make up the lion’s share of firefighter deaths while on duty. The same study shows that many of these firefighters had pre-existing conditions that contributed to the heart attack. Arteriosclerosis was the most prominent condition, with hypertension and previous heart attacks following closely behind. Left untreated, these conditions can leave firefighters at an increased risk for heart attack. Couple this with the strenuous tasks of firefighting, and you have a potentially lethal combination.
Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program on the Road
The National Volunteer Fire Council’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter program will be a big feature at three major fire industry events. Visitors who drop by the NVFC exhibit booth can obtain free cholesterol screenings, blood pressure screenings and body mass index testing, as well as learn more about adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. Health consultants will be on hand for confidential discussions with individual participants to review their test scores and talk about health goals.
FDIC Show, Indianapolis, Indiana
April 11 – 16, 2005
More than 1,000 attendees took advantage of free testing at the NVFC booth.
Fire Expo, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
May 20 – 22, 2005
Fire-Rescue International, Denver, Colorado
August 11 – 13, 2005
For more information on the NVFC’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter program, visit www.healthy-firefighter.org.Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless
05-18-2005, 05:24 PM #4
I've read the preliminaries and it looks like an interesting report, but are there really any surprises? Our own wellness program revealed three potentially serious cardiac risks that were previously undiagnosed. The question is, what do you do with a firefighter who is at high risk for cardiac LODD?
By my count, fully 20% of my department's members have cardiac conditions that should disqualify them from firefighting operations. Forcing all into retirement would be financially catastrophic for almost any jurisdiction in a similar situation.
I suppose an easy answer could be to put them in prevention, but prevention assignments shouldn't even appear to be the equivalent of being sent back to the minor leagues. Fire prevention gets short shrift too often as it is - but that's a subject for another thread.ullrichk
a ship in a harbor is safe. . . but that's not what ships are for
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