Wildland Firefighters Need to be Part of Safety Initiatives

March 13, 2014
Wildland groups that don't require NFPA firefighter physicals shouldn't be deployed, a panel said.

TAMPA, FLA. – The Life Safety Initiatives really aren’t relevant to wildland firefighting, and that needs to be changed.

Also, “consistent firefighter medical standards are not being followed by all organizations involved in wildland firefighting resulting in potentially preventable medical emergencies or LODDs.”

A panel discussing Wildland Firefighting during the Tampa 2 Summit this week also called for funding to be withheld from agencies or organizations that do not enforce medical recommendations of NFPA. And, those who don’t have the proper physicals shouldn’t be deployed,

They also wrote: “USFA as the overarching authority of the fire service should take the lead to initiate a coordinated effort to bring together all of the stakeholders to begin this process.”

The majority of the stakeholders who participated in the conference these past few days said the fire service shouldn’t wait another five or 10 years before it reviews the initiatives to see what’s working and what needs to be tweaked.

Some called for annual reviews while others suggested sessions be held at both state and national levels.

“Within 365 days, convene work groups (chiefs, company officers/crew bosses, firefighters) to more effectively communicate the intent of each initiative with specific tangible, measurable steps to be followed, providing blue-prints for implementation,” the Firefighter Survivability panel wrote.

Also, they called for “a Presidential Blue Ribbon Commission to study minimum requirements for all firefighters and fire officers commensurate to duty with specific attention to risk assessment, risk management, and situational awareness incorporating fire dynamics and empirical evidence-based strategies. Such requirements could be modeled following the DOT regulations for EMS.”

Another issue that surfaced often was the need for law requiring continuing education of firefighters. While EMS providers must take classes to maintain their licenses or certifications, that’s not the case for fire personnel.

Also, while there are databases to obtain information about fires, firefighters and related issues the groups called for enhancements.

One suggestion: “seek out private partners to assist in this effort.  This could include overhauling NFRIS to encompass evolving issues (exposures, etc).  The program should be user-friendly and more efforts need to be put forth within organizations to ensure accurate reporting.”

To improve overall firefighter health, officials studying that initiative wrote:

  • Identify measureable outcomes in relation to firefighter health improvement and all associated strategies.
  • Secure increased funding and partnership opportunities with research to better define the increased risk.
  • Increase firefighter awareness and accountability on the inherent risks of occupational hazards through education and training. Awareness to be achieved through specially designed targeted risk mitigation programs.
  • Promote the importance of diet, exercise and nutrition as three critical elements to reducing risk of cancer and heart disease.
  • Eliminate tobacco use in the fire service.

In addition, they suggested supporting studies that investigate how the aging process affects the firefighter as well as supporting efforts to establish fitness for duty programs verses selecting a chronological age point.

The group also said it’s essential that supervisors carve out time in every shift to allow firefighters to exercise. 

Once the NFFF staff gathers all the information, a document on Tampa 2 will be produced.

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