NFPA Examines 30 Years of Firefighter Fatalities

The average number of annual on-duty firefighter deaths has dropped by one-third over the past 30 years, according to a study in the July/August 2007 issue of NFPA Journal, which has conducted a review of all firefighter deaths every year since 1977. Between 1977 and 2006, almost 3,400 on-duty firefighter fatalities have occurred in the United States and, as the article points out, examining the circumstances of those deaths shows some areas where significant improvements have occurred and highlights areas where much work remains to be done.

Among other findings, the review shows that falls from apparatus during responses have almost been eliminated, heart attack deaths are down by a third, and improvements in everything from protective equipment to emergency medicine have reduced deaths at structure fires. However, preventable problems such as the health issues that result in increased risk of heart attack and stroke contribute to making sudden cardiac death the number one cause of on-duty firefighter deaths, and preventable deaths, such as road crashes where seat belts were not used, and training deaths, where adequate precautions were not taken, continue to occur.

According to the report, 89 firefighters died in 2006 , the second consecutive year that the number of deaths has been below 100. For more information and the complete report, visit www.nfpa.org.

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