Risk, Heart Attacks, and Firefighter Fatalities

What kills most firefighters on the job?  Not structural collapses.  Not smoke inhalation.  Heart attacks, says a study of firefighter fatalities done at the University of Georgia.  This was a bit surprising to me but makes sense in a lot of ways:  you’re dealing with stress and intense heat, which would all contribute to heart attacks.

The research, published in the May edition of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, examined data gathered from 189 firefighter fatality investigations conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health between 2004 and 2009. […]

The four major causes they identified were under-resourcing, inadequate preparation for adverse events during operations, incomplete adoption of incident command procedures and sub-optimal personnel readiness.

All things I would expect from a high-stress job:  not having the right equipment and having to make split-second decisions under (literal) fire aren’t good ways to prevent fatalities.

Firefighting culture should not be construed as one of negligence, said DeJoy, but one based on a long-standing tradition of acceptance of risk. A job that relies on extreme individual efforts and has too few resources leads to the chronic condition of doing too much with too little, he said.

Sad, but true, and why we should always support our public servants.  They’re taking those risks for us.

(cross-posted to Tumblr:  Risk, Heart Attacks, and Firefighter Fatalities)

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