Posts Tagged National Fire Protection Association

Fire service news

Excerpts from

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), if you have a reported home fire today, you are more likely to die than you were in 1980. This startling fact is attributed to several factors, including the way homes are built and the contents in them. “Open floor plans and a prevalence of modern synthetic furnishings make homes burn faster and the fires produce deadly smoke and gases within moments,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. According to Carli, you can have as little as two to three minutes to escape a home fire today as compared to eight to ten minutes years ago.

These concerns prompted NFPA to create “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere” as the theme for Fire Prevention Week, October 7-13, 2018. It emphasizes three basic but critical messages:

  • Look for places fire can start
  • Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm
  • Learn two ways out of each room

This year’s Fire Prevention Week messages point to the essentials of home fire safety,” said Carli. “Looking for potential fire hazards in the home, making sure your smoke alarms are working properly, and having a home escape plan that everyone has practiced – these actions can dramatically reduce the loss from home fires.”

Motivating the public to take these steps can prove challenging, notes Carli, because people don’t think they could have a fire, despite the fact that home is the place they’re at greatest risk. Four out of five U.S. fire deaths occur in homes.

“Because we have reduced the overall number of fires, there is a general complacency and a lack of action around home fire preparedness and planning,” said Carli. “Our goal for Fire Prevention Week is to make sure people recognize that fire remains a very real risk, and that everyone needs to take action to protect themselves and their families.”

For more information about Fire Prevention Week, October 7-13, and this year’s theme, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere,” visit

For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.

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Excerpts from

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released its annual U.S. Firefighter Fatalities report, which showed a total of 60 U.S. firefighter fatalities while on duty in 2017. This number represents the lowest total reported since 1977, when NFPA began reporting on-duty firefighter fatalities; it is the sixth time in the last seven years that the total has been below 70 deaths.

Of the 60 fatalities, 32 were volunteer firefighters, 21 were career firefighters, three were employees of federal land management agencies, two were contractors with federal and state land management agencies, and two were prison inmates. Deaths among career and volunteer firefighters were both at their second lowest totals in 2017.

The 17 deaths that occurred at the fire scene represents the second-lowest number of fire ground deaths since the study’s inception, and the second consecutive year that the number has been below 20.

In most years, the second largest share of on-duty firefighter deaths occurs while firefighters are responding to or returning from emergency calls. In 2017, however, the second largest share (11 deaths) occurred at the scene of non-fire emergencies: five were operating at motor vehicle crashes; three were at incidents with wires down; one was at the scene of a downed tree; one was investigating an odor in a structure; and one was checking on a possible flooding condition during a storm. Ten of the 11 were struck by passing vehicles and one suffered sudden cardiac death.

In 2017, 10 firefighters were struck by vehicles, which is far higher than the average of four deaths a year over the previous 30 years.

Overexertion, stress and medical issues accounted for more than half of the deaths in 2017. Of the 32 deaths in this category, 29 were classified as sudden cardiac deaths (usually heart attacks), two were due to strokes and one was due to complications from a recent medical procedure that developed while the victim was at work. The 29 sudden cardiac deaths in 2017, with onset while the victim was on-duty, represents the fourth time in the last six years that the toll has been below 30, but still accounts for almost half of the deaths while on-duty.

A comprehensive study that enumerates all duty-related deaths in a year is not yet possible to accomplish.

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Excerpts from

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released the latest edition of it’s “U.S. Firefighter Injuries” report, which highlights data on injuries sustained by firefighters on duty in 2016. The statistics were collected from fire departments responding to NFPA’s annual U.S. Fire Experience survey.

There were 62,085 U.S. firefighter injuries in 2016, reflecting an 8.8 percent decrease from 2015, making this the lowest rate of injury since 1981, when NFPA began analyzing firefighter injury data. Of those injuries, 19,050 (30.6 percent) resulted in lost time.

The leading injury types in 2016 were: Strains, sprains and/or muscular pains (52.6 percent), and wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruising (15.2 percent) 

Firefighters were more likely to be injured on the fireground resulting in 24,325 (39.2 percent) of the firefighter injuries.  The leading cause of injury during fireground operations was overexertion and strain (27.1 percent). Injuries also occurred off the fireground. Other types of duty that resulted in firefighter injury were:

  • Non-fire emergency incidents (20.6 percent)
  • Other on-duty activities (18.2 percent)
  • Training activities (13.7 percent)

While responding to or returning from an incident an estimated 15,425 collisions occurred involving fire department emergency vehicles resulting in 700 firefighter injuries (8.4 percent).

There were also 9,275 documented exposures to infectious diseases (e.g., hepatitis, meningitis, and HIV) in 2016, along with an estimated 36,475 documented exposures to hazardous conditions (e.g., asbestos, chemicals, fumes, and radioactive materials). The documented exposures to hazardous conditions represents a 34 percent increase as compared to 2015. 

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Unpublished letter to the Chicago Tribune – response to an editorial

Excerpts from

Firefighters Respond to Tribune Editorial

When the Chicago Tribune printed another one of its ferociously anti-union editorials on April 8, 2016, it decided to target the fire fighters union (rather than its usual target—AFSCME!). Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois President Pat Devaney responded to the editorial’s many misstatements but the Tribune never printed his response. We reprint it here as a powerful reminder of why collective bargaining rights are important to every employee.

Is Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner anti-union or pro-taxpayer? 

Unpublished letter to the Chicago Tribune from Pat Devaney, President of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois
Efforts to strip working men and women of collective bargaining rights for living wages are usually highlighted by cherry-picked anecdotes to cloud the truth.

Such was your recent editorial about Governor Rauner’s crusade to destroy organized labor’s rights to collective bargaining. (April 8: Is Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner anti-union or pro-taxpayer?)

Your editorial specifically advocates the elimination of firefighter staffing standards that have been in effect in Illinois since 1986. Staffing levels, according to standards established by the National Fire Protection Association and National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, are critical to public safety.

What your editorial conveniently ignores is that Illinois firefighters in 1986 agreed to forfeit their right to strike in exchange for the law that requires municipalities to negotiate safe staffing levels for fire departments. Your editorial intimated current law was some sort of gift from Springfield when, in fact, it is a law that guarantees citizens the protection they need in times of emergency response.

Today’s anti-worker sentiment emphasizes money over public safety. Unfortunately, it’s the same sort of argument that Michigan politicians used to destroy its public water system in Flint. Fact is, there are more important matters than money.

Your editorial highlighted a 2009 incident involving the death of a Rockford man at the hands of a police officer. According to your reasoning, this is the poster child for the abolishment of arbitration in police and fire disciplinary cases.

You then transition into your crusade against firefighting staffing laws. So let’s use your method to highlight a specific reason that firefighters negotiate safe staffing levels.

On March 28, 2010 Homewood firefighter Brian Carey died in a fire rescue attempt of an elderly resident, who also perished. Carey was first on the scene of a roaring house fire and attempted to rescue an elderly man trapped inside. Although woefully short­staffed, he entered the structure without hesitation.

After an exhaustive investigation into the fatalities, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health blamed under-staffing during the fire response as a factor in Mr. Carey’s death.

Professional first responders firefighters and paramedics rely on industry standards and statistics to determine how best to protect the citizens we serve. And staff levels are critical to public safety, not to mention the safety of firefighters who risk their own welfare in emergencies.

The Tribune performs a serious disservice to its readers when you hide the purpose behind public safety laws. There’s more to public service than money. You are entitled to your opinion about the appropriate function and operation of government.

But don’t ignore the public’s sacred right to safety when you advocate for the Governor’s misguided proposals.
Thank you,

Pat Devaney, President
Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

thanks Dan

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OSHA looks at firefighter safety … and fire poles

Excerpts from

A potential new standard for emergency responders from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration could force many small emergency services organizations to shut down and, in a controversial move, ban installation of fire poles at new fire stations if adopted, according to stakeholders.

OSHA has asked the National Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health for recommendations for a proposed emergency responder preparedness program standard, and the committee’s Emergency Response and Preparedness Subcommittee has been tasked with drafting the standard.

The draft proposal outlines several requirements designed to identify and address workplace health and safety hazards for these organizations and their employees.

For example, it would require baseline and annual medical evaluations for firefighters and other first responders  personnel, including a medical history, a physical exam and laboratory tests required to detect physical or medical conditions that could adversely affect their ability to safely perform essential job functions. In 2014, a total of 64 firefighters died while on duty in the United States, with sudden cardiac death accounting for 56% of those deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

However, the current proposal does not address the key question of who must pay for these medical evaluations, and the cost of compliance would significantly strain the resources of state and organizations.

Phil Stittleburg, chief of the LaFarge Fire Department in Wisconsin, a volunteer department that services a rural community with an annual budget of about $65,000, said a requirement to conduct annual physicals would force him into making difficult decisions about paying for these physicals versus replacing critical safety equipment such as helmets at the recommended time intervals.

The draft standard would also require new emergency service organization facilities fire stations to utilize stairs or slides to provide rapid access to a lower level, barring the building of new poles at these facilities two years after a final rule is published — a controversial provision aimed at addressing a source of serious injuries and even fatalities for firefighters. In April 2012, for example, an Alameda County, California firefighter fractured his leg when he landed at the base of the fire pole, allegedly with his legs in the wrong position, according to OSHA.

“OSHA recognizes that there are a lot of injuries from people sliding down poles and hitting the bottom too hard, and one way of reducing those injuries is to eliminate the installation of new poles and instead provide stairs or slides,” said Bill Hamilton, a fire protection engineer in the OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance’s Office of Safety Systems in Washington.

However, the poles are a cherished part of firehouse tradition, which could trigger a backlash against the entire proposal, according to some stakeholders.

“This is very clear regulatory language prohibiting something that is ingrained in the tradition of the fire service,” said Kenneth Willette, division manager with the National Fire Protection Association’s Public Fire Protection Division in Quincy, Massachusetts. “While there’s some regulatory benefit to including it, it could be a potential lightning rod that might create an obstacle for the intent of this work.”

The subcommittee opted to seek out specific information about the number of injuries and fatalities sustained by emergency responders firefighters using poles compared with stairs and slides before making a final recommendation.

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The NFPA publishes the 2013 US Firefighter injuries report:

More than 65,000 injuries occurred in the line of duty

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released the latest edition of its U.S. Firefighter Injury Report which highlights data on injuries sustained by firefighters on duty. The statistics were collected from fire departments responding to the 2013 NFPA survey for U.S. Fire Experience.

In 2013, 65,880 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty, a decrease of 5.1 percent from the previous year.

Of those injuries, 29,760 (45.2 percent) occurred during fireground operations, with the leading causes reported as overexertion, strain (26.5 percent) and fall, slip, jump (22.7 percent). The Northeast had the highest fireground injury rate, with more injuries per 100 fires than other regions of the country.

The major types of injuries received during fireground operations were:

  • strains, sprains, and muscular pain (55.3 percent)
  • followed by wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruising (13.8 percent)
  • burns (5.1 percent)
  • smoke or gas inhalation (5.0 percent)

An estimated 11,800 injuries occurred during other on-duty activities, including:

  • 4,015 while responding to or returning from an incident
  • 7,770 during training activities
  • strains, sprains, and muscular pain accounted for 58.4 percent of all non-fireground injuries

In addition to injuries, there were 7,100 exposures to infectious diseases, and 17,400 exposures to hazardous conditions.

thanks Dan

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State legislation concerns local municipalities (more)

The Chicago Tribune has more on the controversy surround Illinois House Bill 5485:

For much of the year, three Glenview firefighters work on each engine company — despite a federal standard that calls for at least four, according to Glenview fire Chief Wayne Globerger. Globerger said the village tries to follow suggestions from the National Fire Protection Association, but it also has to watch spending. “In the suburbs, it’s a different story,” he said. “Our fires are fewer and far between, and we have mutual aid. We rely on our neighbors a lot more.”

But Globerger and some other fire chiefs and elected officials in suburbs like Highland Park and Wilmette fear a bill in Springfield could force them to hire more firefighters, resulting in increased property taxes or cuts to other public services.

Supporters of the bill, currently in a Senate committee, that would amend state law to let unions negotiate staffing levels in contract talks say firefighters should have that right, given the often dangerous nature of the job. The bill, they say, will prevent lawsuits.

“As they reduce manpower, my co-workers are put at higher and higher risk,” said Eamon O’Dowd, a Glenview firefighter for 18 years and president of the Glenview Professional Firefighters Association Local 4186.

Under state law, firefighters have collective bargaining rights. When issues of wages, hours or working conditions are unresolved, they can be subject to binding arbitration. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, adds staffing to the list.

“We’ve been able to negotiate manning and arbitrators have had jurisdiction to rule on this for almost three decades,” said Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois and advocate for the bill.

This bill just clarifies that minimum staffing can be negotiated, he said. That explanation hasn’t reassured municipal leaders, who say they should have the final word on keeping residents safe while balancing the local budget.

At a recent Highland Park City Council meeting, Mayor Nancy Rotering asked residents to urge their local senator to oppose the bill.

“If more money has to go to supplying unnecessary labor, or employees, that’s money that’s been removed from our budget for other public safety or public works needs,” Rotering said.

Wilmette fire Chief Jim Dominik said the legislation was unnecessary and contrary to efforts to keep costs low by partnering with other communities. “When you look at a fire department independently, you might say we don’t have enough people,” Dominik said. “But it’s different when you look at how we work with our neighbors.”

Highland Park fire Lt. Steve Horne was one of the first firefighters on the scene of a house fire in December. On that cold morning, firefighters risked their lives rescuing an unconscious man in the basement. “Every day, we work in an environment that could lead to our death,” Horne said. “We should have the ability to say how our job can be done safely.”

thanks Dan

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Does Chicago have a shortage of ambulances? (more)

Some recent articles about the controversy in Chicago with EMS responses and the availability of ambulances;

This from CBSChicago about a memo to dispatchers:

The CBS 2 Investigators and the Better Government Association have been warning about an apparent shortage of Chicago ambulances and paramedics. The result: dangerous delays for patients needing emergency care.

So far, it seems the city is trying to cover the problem up instead of fixing it. In the meantime, the response times for ambulances are just getting worse.

“Anybody available downtown that can take a run,” a dispatcher’s voice crackles through the scanner speaker.

These are the types of calls paramedics say happen every day. “It’s clear they have no ambulances and it clearly validates what we’ve been saying that they need more ambulances,” said paramedic field chief Pat Fitzmaurice.

But now, city officials apparently don’t want the media or anyone else with a scanner to hear some of those transmissions asking for help. They are asking dispatchers to watch what they say.

CBS 2 and the BGA obtained a copy of a memo written by a supervisor at the Office of Emergency Management. It called shout-outs for any available ambulances: “not an acceptable practice.”

The memo instructs dispatchers to, “Avoid terminology like we have no ALS (advanced life support) ambulances available,”….particularly when they have to send a basic life support ambulance to the scene and a fire engine with a paramedic on board. Basic life support ambulances do not have paramedics and the same equipment as advanced life ambulances.

Dispatchers should use ambulance numbers to instruct staff in the field on what to do in those cases, the memo said, adding, “Hopefully we can get the message across without highlighting the fact that no ALS unit is available.”

The memo also concedes that, “We all realize that certain times we are inundated with runs and lack of resources.”

This is from

A city-issued memo obtained by CBS Chicago asks dispatchers to watch what they say, calling shout-outs for available ambulances “not an acceptable practice” and instructing dispatchers to “avoid terminology like we have no ALS ambulances available” so as not to highlight the fact. Written by a supervisor at the Office of Emergency Management, the memo also states, “We all realize that certain times we are inundated with runs and lack of resources.”

Better Government Association CEO and President Andy Shaw said the city should be addressing it.

A spokeswoman from Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management said the memo is an “informal internal document” that serves as a reminder to dispatchers to use “approved protocol and professionalism.”

CBS has continued coverage of long response times, including incidents where it took 16 minutes for an ambulance to respond to a woman struck by a postal truck while crossing the street, 22 minutes for an elderly patient complaining of chest pains, and 26 minutes for an ALS response to the home of an elderly woman having trouble breathing.

A spokesman for the Fire Department said the 26-minute response time was “unacceptable” and the incident is under investigation. In a written statement, the Fire Department said it is conducting a review of its ambulances to ensure deployment meet the needs of Chicago.

Also from

The head of most EMS operations is the communication center. The responsibility is huge. It is the first point of contact for the community when reporting medical emergencies.

[Dispatchers] coordinate the system’s resources, trying to match the appropriate unit to the appropriate incident. Dispatchers use various forms of technology to help make those decisions: software, GPS, dispatch algorithms, among others. The system has to be able to send the appropriate resources at the right time to avoid going to a zero-level condition. Sometimes that’s unavoidable, but regulating the system to minimize a zero-level condition can help reduce the possibility.

How does Chicago keep track of their resources? It seems a little strange that a dispatcher doesn’t know where the units are at any given time. While Chicago is a big system, other similarly sized systems seem to be able to tell which ambulance should go where at any point in time. Is this a sign of a larger issue? If there are ways to increase the effectiveness of system operations, throwing more ambulances at the problem isn’t necessarily the fix.

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Does Chicago have a shortage of ambulances?

Pam Zekman from CBSChicago did a piece the other night on the state of the Chicago FD ambulance fleet and EMS responses:

If you have a life-threatening condition will the city get an ambulance to you in time?

CBS 2?s Pam Zekman and the Better Government Association investigated and found they may not. That’s why paramedics say the city needs more paramedics and ambulances.

Take the case of Lynn Ramos. She was crossing Washington Street in the Loop last month when she was struck by a 2-ton postal truck. Fire engines with a paramedic on board arrived in about four minutes to extricate her from under a wheel of the truck. In recorded calls, one of them can be heard asking a city dispatcher why an ambulance hasn’t shown up yet. Ambulances housed closer to the downtown were not available. The vehicle that was available was five miles away and took 16 minutes to get there — 10 minutes longer than state guidelines suggest. The injured Ramos was suffering from a punctured lung; one fractured leg and the other broken in two places; a fractured pelvis and ribs.

The delay never should have happened, says Paramedic Field Chief Patrick Fitzmaurice. “We don’t have enough ambulances,” he says.

The city says it meets state standards by getting a fire engine with a paramedic and advanced life support equipment to the scene within six minutes to stabilize a patient until an ambulance arrives.

“It may take 10 to 15 minutes for an ambulance to show up after that,” said another paramedic, who asked CBS 2 to conceal his identity. ”And, depending on what’s wrong with the person, those minutes are critical.”

He’s one of more than a half dozen paramedics who tells CBS 2 that’s not good enough for people suffering from life-threatening conditions.

A stroke patient, for example, needs to be taken to a stroke center where their condition can be assessed and drugs given to eliminate the deficits they may suffer, he says. A gunshot victim, accident victims with internal injuries “need a surgeon to repair what their problem is,” says the other paramedic. “Time is of the essence.”

An audit by the city’s inspector general highlights the problem. It found that the city’s medical response times did not meet the standards recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. The NFPA says advanced life support equipment should get to a medical emergency within five minutes from the time it is dispatched 90 percent of the time. The inspector general found the city only met that standard 58 percent of the time.

“Taxpayer money for critical services are at the core of what we pay our taxes to do,” Inspector General Joseph Ferguson said. “And to the extent that our office looked at it, it appears that it is being done at a much lower level than what the fire department was claiming.”

Ferguson says the fire department first told his office they use the NFPA standards but then said they did not. And the report criticized the methods the fire department used to calculate its performance, saying, “No one has any idea truly how well it is performing a core mission.”

Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association says. “… peoples’ lives will be imperiled if they don’t get the right ambulances and the right trained personnel to the scene quickly enough.” 

And that’s a daily struggle for dispatchers, paramedics like Fitzmaurice say. “There are times they literally just get on the radio and say, ‘I have no ambulances. … Can anybody go?’”

In a written statement, Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago disagrees there is an ambulance shortage. “The Fire department takes its calls for medical assistance very seriously and does not have a shortage of ambulances,” he said. Santiago also said the department plans to hire more paramedics this year, “after a temporary delay due to our updating testing requirements.”

“We are fully staffed every day with a mix of paramedics working straight time and overtime, the majority of which is voluntary. This allows us to respond quickly to start care and transport patients,” he says. In response to questions, a spokesman said the department would hire enough paramedics to reduce the $7 million it had to pay in overtime last year.

And the department is already tracking the response times of ALS ambulances to see how they can be utilized more efficiently and whether they need to move the headquarters for some of them to meet increased demands.

This from Bill Post:

This is a problem that most of us have known about for a while already however the ALS Engines and Trucks have been arriving on the scene much sooner which is the reason for the ALS fire company program. If you look at the video and the story you will see that one of the EMS field supervisors was willing to go on camera to confirm the story. That is unusual as he is an employee of the CFD . If you’ll notice the second CFD employee in the report chose not to be identified.

thanks Dan & Bill

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The Inspector Generals Report on Chicago Fire Department Response Times


Chicago_Fire_Department_Inspector_Generals_Office_Oct_2013-Response-Time-Audit-Report-5 Chicago_Fire_Department_Inspector_Generals_Office_Oct_2013-Response-Time-Audit-Report-6

Here is a link to the complete report

thanks Bill

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