EMMITSBURG, MD -- Fire service officials and researchers spent the weekend discussing issues they believe should be studied to promote firefighter safety.
In the end, however, the 74 participants decided not to prioritize the issues. Doing so, they said, would not be beneficial and certain important topics that need to be studied may lose out and not be funded.
A document summarizing the suggestions will be prepared soon, and distributed, explained Kevin Roche, who moderated the Second National Fire Research Agenda Symposium.
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Executive Director Ron Siarnicki reminded the group that one of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives is to create a national research agenda and data collection system.
He mentioned that people involved in the initial symposium in 2005 likewise created a document to identify research projects.
“The overall scope of that symposium included firefighter health and wellness, structural firefighting, wildland firefighting, firefighter training, emergency vehicle design and operations, and reduction of fire risk occurrences,” he explained, adding that many decisions regarding federal grant funding were driven by the priorities listed by the group.
He said the world has changed since 2005, and it’s essential that related research projects are funded.
“Projects that meet the intent of this research and development agenda with respect to firefighter health and safety, as identified by this working group, will be given consideration for awards,” Siarnicki added.
He said FEMA has spent more than $6 billion in Fire Protection and Safety grants.
Seven committees were appointed to look at topics that included health and wellness, emergency services delivery, wildland firefighting, community risk reduction, science and technology, data collection and tools and equipment.
“We are here to review, renew and reinvigorate that work boldly started in 2005,” he told the participants in the opening session.
They also were encouraged to look for things that may have been overlooked last time. “I ask you to not only look at your areas of expertise, but freely converse outside of them. Stretch your comfort zones, jump outside the box of conventional discussions to include primary causes, strategic questions, consequences and cultural matters…”
Some of the issues that surfaced during the committee meetings included:
• Research to quantify how PPE, electronic equipment and other tools are impacted by different fire environments.
• Scientific studies including data, video and photos to integrate into training curricula to develop an improved understanding to changes to their environment.
• A tool for evaluating the effectiveness of fire prevention and community risk reduction programs with a scientific basis.
• Study the impact of aging, replacement and maintenance of the wildland air operations fleet. Also, there is a lack of central clearinghouse for wildland incidents.
• Need for continued research on exposures and their relationships to cancer, cardiovascular issues and other diseases.
• Research on female firefighter health.
• More research on fire scene rehab.
• Develop professional leadership skills for all fire services personnel.
• Develop an intuitive data collection system that is user friendly, lessens the burden during entry
• Research to determine the effectiveness of interventions designed to improve nutrition and fitness, and disease outcome.