Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine Division
The IAFF has been the leader in every fire fighter safety initiative for nearly a century. The mission of the IAFF Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine Division is to develop and share knowledge within the fire service so fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs can recognize and control the safety and health hazards and occupational medicine issues associated with the profession. To achieve that goal, the IAFF offers a comprehensive array of services addressing occupational health and safety and medicine through the Division of Occupational Health and Safety. Available services include behavioral health, wellness and member support, the occupational medicine residency program, the IAFF Standing Committee on Occupational Health and Safety; the Redmond Foundation; the Burn Fund; the IAFF Representatives on various Standards Development Committees; the IAFF Cancer Study Program, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program; the Standing Committee on Labor and Employee Assistance Programs; the Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness-Fitness Initiative; and the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial.
The Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine Division is led by Patrick Morrison, assistant to the General President; Jim Brinkley, health and safety director; Larry Petrick Jr., deputy director; Rick Swan, director of Wildland Firefighting Safety and Response; and Teri Byrnes, executive assistant for the division. The support staff includes health and safety assistants Jason Atkin, Courtney Benedict, Bill Bussing, Racquel Segall, Ron McGraw, Lauren Kosc, Sarah Bernes and Joyce Vanlandingham, the secretary. An occupational medicine physician is provided on a two to three-month rotation during the year through the IAFF Johns Hopkins University Medical Residency Program. Larry Curran is our PSOB coordinator. Michael Smaldino serves as coordinator and JoAnn Wiley as secretary for our Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial. Thomas Flamm is the IAFF Burn Fund coordinator while Emily Washenko is the fund’s assistant. We also have 16 IAFF district burn coordinators appointed by the General President to assist our members.
Firefighting remains one of the most hazardous occupations in North America. The work often entails high levels of physical exertion, exposure to environmental hazards and stress caused by witnessing human suffering. Fire fighters report high rates of line-of-duty deaths, deaths caused by occupational diseases (especially cardiovascular, lung and infectious diseases and certain cancers), forced medical retirements, and line-of-duty injuries. Since the last convention, 410 of our members died in the line of duty. Each year, tens of thousands of IAFF members are injured while fighting fires, leading rescue efforts, mitigating hazardous incidents and training for their jobs. It is for these reasons that we must continue our mission to make this dangerous profession as safe as possible.
We have offered support for every IAFF affiliate during the most difficult time known to any fire department: the death of one of their own. We also provide direct technical assistance, a review of NIOSH investigations and coordination and assistance of available federal benefits by our Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) and line-of-duty death (LODD) Programs. During our last convention, we assisted Local 1590 in Wilmington, DE, and Local 627 in York, Pennsylvania after multiple line-of-duty deaths.
Our affiliate leaders must hold cities and public officials accountable when our members are injured or killed while protecting their communities, especially when they refuse to access the wide variety of IAFF health and safety services. The IAFF will ensure that every city manager, mayor, legislator and even the President of the United States and Premier of Canada understands that these deaths and injuries are more than just statistics to us. We will not allow them to sit idly by as our members put their life on the line.
The IAFF Occupational Health and Safety Division will continue to fight for the delivery of adequate grant money to staff, train and equip our fire fighters to ensure they are able to do their jobs adequately and safely. Many of the deaths and injuries experienced by our members are preventable. We continue to enhance current programs and develop new ones to address the causes of these and all line-of-duty injuries and deaths.
We will work with NIOSH to ensure that every fire fighter fatality is investigated by the Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program. This IAFF program is federal law, and the IAFF expects these investigations to continue. We provide NIOSH with ways to improve, including follow-up evaluations for departments that suffered a LODD.
Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial
The sacred grounds of the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial are a place where thousands gather every September to celebrate and honor the lives of IAFF members who died in the line of duty during the past year. Hundreds more make private pilgrimages throughout the year. Since the last convention 461 names were added to the walls. There are now 7,934 names etched on the memorial walls including 3,859 historical line-of-duty deaths from February 28, 1918 to December 31, 1975.
The newly redesigned memorial, with its themes of family, honor, pride and community, achieved our goal of making families and members feel they are honoring the fallen the moment they arrive at the site. Since the renovations were completed in 2015, additional landscaping and improvements to the walkways were made to enhance the project.
The memorial was reconfigured with Pikes Peak as the backdrop so families face the statue of the fire fighter descending the ladder while holding a child. The shift allows for space to accommodate more than 5,000 seats.
We continue to expand our website for information on IAFF member pipe and drum bands and honor guards. The site is live with all the information made available by our members participating in the IAFF band and honor guard during our annual Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial. We attempted to place every IAFF-affiliated pipe and drum band and honor guard that serves state and provincial wide. Additional resources, including all music that is played at our Memorial and additional music resources are included on the website. IAFF affiliates can also update and make any necessary changes regarding the information about their pipe and drum band and/or honor guard directly on the site.
Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program
The division is currently working on changes to the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program. The Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act of 2003 (HHA) was signed into law on December 15, 2003 to cover heart attacks and stroke. Since the implementation of the HHA, there has been a systematic and successful effort to take management control of the PSOB program away from the program’s director and staff. These changes directly affect the survivors of fallen public safety officers by delaying consideration of their claims and providing an unnecessary level of complication to the process.
The Department of Justice, which administers the PSOB program, made major improvements to the process for reviewing and approving claims. During the last several years, the program was burdened by excessive bureaucratic requirements and unreasonable delays in paying benefits to families of the fallen that were caused by the unnecessary intervention by the department’s Office of General Counsel (OGC).
The IAFF was instrumental in getting Congress to pass the initial PSOB program and was the principal author of every amendment affecting IAFF member coverage and the benefit amounts. Delay in benefit payments had increased, hurting the families of fallen fire fighters. The IAFF was at the forefront in advocating a thorough review of these issues and a process to reform the program by taking the OGC out of the process.
The PSOB program will now be entirely managed within the Bureau of Justice Programs, removing the OGC from the process. This change will ensure that benefits are paid quickly to survivors of those who were killed protecting their communities.
In April 2017, the Bureau of Justice Assistance implemented a new protocol to process PSOB claims submitted for fire fighters and other first responders whose deaths were linked to harmful exposure during the September 11th response efforts. The bureau will accept World Trade Center Health Program and Victims Compensation determinations to affirm that a fire fighter’s illness caused his or her line-of-duty death. This is the first time the bureau accepted occupational illnesses as an injury for purposes of awarding PSOB benefits.
Cancer Support Programs
The Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness and Prevention training course is a program establishing an on-line cancer awareness, prevention and education program in conjunction with the Fire Fighter Cancer Support Network. This program provides IAFF members with the tools to understand the cancer risk, exposures to carcinogens on the job and ways to reduce the risk to occupational related cancers.
Upon completion of the training, members should be able to do the following:
- Identify why fire fighters are at increased risk of cancer
- Identify the most prominent types of cancer that affect fire fighters
- Recognize the top carcinogens in the firefighting environment
- Identify the major routes of exposure to carcinogens for fire fighters
- Identify behaviors that can reduce the risk of developing cancer
This program is accessible through the online IAFF Learning Management System.
The IAFF continues to support research on cancer related to firefighting. Per capita provides funding for cancer research. The research conducted has provided valuable insight on occupational exposures which has led to improved personal protective equipment and preventive measures. This funding has provided the following:
- Contributions to the V Foundation. The V Foundation invites the 60+ NCI (National Cancer Institute)-designated cancer facilities to nominate researchers for funding consideration. Additionally, prominent cancer centers across the country are invited to apply for funding. The contribution was specifically earmarked for the research of prostate cancer, which affects fire fighters at an alarming rate higher rate and younger age than the public.
- Fluorescent Aerosol Screening Test (F.A.S.T study) – This particle infiltration test focused on evaluating standard firefighter protective gear for protection against aerosols/particulates. The results were significant because they confirmed that a large amount exposure occurs to the vulnerable face and neck area that is not protected by the SCBA facepiece. The photographs also show particles entering the garment through the front closure and between the coat and pant interface to less significant extent. This has led to hood and PPE improvements.
- U.S. Fire Station Dust Study (University of California-Berkeley) – Fire ﬁghters spend a considerable amount of on-shift downtime at their ﬁre stations, where their exposures to chemicals have not been well characterized. To further characterize the chemicals to which ﬁre ﬁghters could be exposed, the study measured the emerging class of phosphorous-containing ﬂame retardants(PFRs) in ﬁre stations, as well as PBDEs. Dust samples from 26 ﬁre stations in ﬁve states were collected and analyzed. The results showed that fire fighters are exposed to toxins within the fire station. This supports the IAFF recommendation of not wearing PPE in the station and to utilize hot zones, where soiled/contaminated PPE should be placed prior to cleaning.
- Canadian Fire Station Dust Study (University of California-Berkeley) – same purpose as the U.S. study analyzing dust from 26 Canadian fire stations.
- Cancer Summit 2016 – The Cancer Summit was held October 20-21 in San Francisco, CA. IAFF leadership, researchers, physicians, epidemiologists, and other subject matter experts convened to review the current state of fire fighter cancer research. Discussed what was done and what do the results tell us; what is on-going and what do we expect from it; what else do we need to know; and what else can be done for our fire fighters.
During this Summit world-renowned physician Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong provided insight into the new research on the fight against cancer and an innovative, advanced treatment protocol for those battling cancer. Genomic Proteomic Spectometry (GPS Cancer™) is a unique molecular test offered by NantHealth that integrates quantitative targeted proteomics detected by mass spectrometry with whole genome (DNA) and whole transcriptome (RNA) sequencing, of both normal and cancer tissue to determine individual treatment protocol. The IAFF is currently partnering with NantHealth to offer this treatment to our members.
- Cancer Summit 2018 – Cancer Summit held February 1 to educate the membership. It featured a range of topics, including the latest science linking cancer and firefighting, current research on fire fighter exposures to carcinogens, prevention strategies, and updates on legislative efforts. The topics were delivered in 20-minute segments by leading experts from around the US and Canada. This new format in delivering information was well received from our members. A full post-Summit website is available with videos of speaker’s presentation, along with presentation power points.
- Dermal Cleaning Study (University of Ottawa) – This research will assess dermal PAH levels and urinary PAH metabolite concentrations in two cohorts of subjects examined before and after standardized firefighting activities at training events. One of the cohorts will employ skin wipes to remove dermally-deposited PAHs, and the other will not use the skin wipes (i.e., status quo). Comparisons of the pre- and post-firefighting levels of dermal PAHs and urinary metabolites in each of the two cohorts will permit an assessment regarding the ability of dermal decontamination to reduce internal PAH exposures. Additionally, they will assess several several types of dermal wipes and examine their decontamination efficiency to determine if certain formulas are more effective than others at removing PAHs.
- Per/Polyflouroalkyl Substances (PFOS) Blood Study (University of Arizona/Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study (FFCCS)Team) – This will be a study on the amounts of PFOSs within structural fire fighters blood to determine if it is greater than the general population. These substances can have adverse health effects on our members, including higher rates of cancer (kidney, bladder, testicular). These chemicals are utilized as stain resistant surfactants on furniture and carpeting. The results will assist us in seeking a change in the use of these chemicals.
The majority of fire fighters placed on the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Wall of Honor are dying from occupational cancer. Flame retardants are known carcinogens and our members are exposed routinely doing their job. The debate in reducing toxic exposures is center around an open flame and smolder test. The bill HR 4220 – Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act (SOFFA), would make California Technical Bulletin 117-13 the federal Flammability standard, moving from an open flame test to a smoldering test. The IAFF supports this effort, as the smoldering test is a more effective test and would allow furniture manufacturers to use fewer or no flame retardants in their products.
Grant Funded Training Development Programs
Since our last convention, the IAFF obtained over $5 million in health and safety funds from the federal government. These funds assist in the development and deployment of programs like the IAFF Fire Ground Survival Training Program, wellness-fitness initiative, behavioral health education, building codes awareness, fire behavior and burn prevention.
In 2017 the division received two grants from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program for 2018 or 2019. Work has begun on the development of a Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Training program for structural fire fighters to understand the WUI environment. Development also began on an online course to increase awareness of the risk associated within the context of firefighting and cardiovascular disease. The course will outline the importance of annual medical evaluations and create guidance documents for physicians and wellness professionals that outline the role of medical clearance for duty.
The development of a burn prevention, treatment and awareness train-the-trainer (TtT) program was developed that draws upon other successful national projects completed with prior grants. The train-the-trainer classes will introduce burn injury assessment and treatment protocols, behavioral health and peer support programs, risk reduction initiatives and analyze the relationship between building codes and civilian and fire fighter safety. Nationally recognized subject matter experts, task force groups and stakeholders will provide the beta testing, training and delivery of the program.
While it is true that management and labor often disagree on many issues, we continue our efforts to eliminate any division between management and labor in discussions about safety. We developed an unprecedented system that brought management and labor together to work on issues affecting member health and safety. We developed our Wellness-Fitness Initiative, the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), the Peer Fitness Trainer (PFT) program, implementation of NFPA 1710 and the FGS Training Program. While we are proud of these achievements, the IAFF will never allow any organization or individual to hinder our efforts to develop and implement critical life-saving programs. We continue to enhance this collaboration to solve essential health and safety problems of fire and EMS departments to make our job safer.
The IAFF is developing the FGS training program to ensure that training for MAYDAY prevention and MAYDAY operations are consistent among all fire fighters, company officers and chief officers. Fire fighters must be trained to perform standard, potentially life-saving actions if they become lost, disoriented, injured, low on air or trapped. Such training exercises must be consistent throughout the fire service. The fire service has for decades trained for success. We teach how to put a fire out and mitigate other hazards. What we failed to do consistently is train for when failure does occur. Without such training fire fighters do not have the necessary skills to draw upon if and when they encounter trouble.
This initiative relies upon experiences that our members face on the ground so fire fighters in the same situation will be prepared. The online FGS Awareness Program was launched on September 1, 2010. In June 2011, we fully integrated the online awareness program into the IAFF Learning Management System (LMS). More than 44,000 of the 52,625 registered members completed the online component and are certified at the awareness level, representing an additional 11,000 members certified in the last two years.
The skills portion of the program is being delivered in the train-the-trainer format. The IAFF recognizes that many jurisdictions already have qualified instructors on staff. The IAFF format provides 32 hours of FGS lecture and practical training from an instructor’s perspective, allowing an instructor candidate the opportunity to observe an IAFF master instructor delivering the course materials. This four-day FGS workshop, delivered through a network of host sites, is available to assist the instructor candidate in preparing for the IAFF FGS certification which will enable them to provide the IAFF FGS Program to the members of their department. As of April 2018, 71 trainer classes were held, and 2,026 fire fighters were certified at the trainer level. The potential exposure to the FGS operations level training includes 79 departments and 105,603 members.
The IAFF deployed five FGS Mobile Training Apparatus to disseminate this critical training program. One is being housed and operated by Local 1014 and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The second is hosted and operated by Local 2068 and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. A third is being operated by Local 416 and the Indianapolis Fire Department. A fourth mobile unit was deployed to the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, C0006 last fall. The fifth unit was operated last summer by the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Association C0005. The host local will be responsible for coordinating the FGS training within a 200-mile radius. Deployment of these units will expand access to training for affiliates that do have a facility. Currently, 19 departments in 10 states (California, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington) and three Canadian provinces (Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia) are operating FGS training mobile trailers. There are 26 trailers in operation across the U.S. and Canada.
The 4th edition of the Wellness-Fitness Initiative (WFI) is completed along with updates to the candidate physical ability test (CPAT) and the peer fitness trainer (PFT) Program We are working with our WFI task force to market the manual. To assist our affiliates who are engaged in the process of developing wellness and fitness programs, we expanded the WFI Resource site. This online resource allows fire fighters to gather information on successful programs, contact those who are managing successful programs and learn from the experiences of others. The site features 23 affiliates, including the 10 cities on the Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness-Fitness Initiative Task Force. Each fire department’s wellness program can be searched by jurisdiction. The jurisdictions are broken down by WFI Task Force and non-WFI Task Force departments. We will continue to add resources to the site when new information is made available. This initiative is not limited to the task force jurisdictions as all IAFF affiliate departments are encouraged to submit information on their programs, which we will add to our site.
Components of the online resource include program descriptions of fire fighter wellness fitness programs representing departments of all sizes, combination and fully career fire departments, all regions of the U.S., and programs that provide a range of wellness fitness services and various approaches to program delivery. The online resource also includes:
- copies of program management SOPs that can be downloaded and edited;
- photographs of program-related equipment and setups;
- copies of purchasing specifications for program-related equipment;
- information on Fire Protection and Safety (FP&S) grant-funded programs;
- copies of successful FP&S grant proposal materials;
- contact information for wellness-fitness program managers;
- links to fire fighter wellness-fitness related materials;
- links to streaming video of existing wellness-fitness related materials produced by participating fire departments and local affiliates.
We are adding new features to the Fit to Survive website. The web-based meal generator application lets you customize meals on the menu planner by selecting alternative ingredients. The meal generator displays healthy recipes based on the options selected, calculates calories and nutritional data based on user choice and alerts the user when meal choices do not adhere to USDA nutrition guidelines. In addition to meal options, the nutrition information helps users make informed decisions about their diet.
The layout of the web-based meal generator application allows users to search by daily menu, print monthly and daily menus, customize meals, or search by ingredient. The menu planner rotates monthly. Other Fit to Survive tools such as “On the Run” and “Fire Drill”, continue to be updated quarterly. “On the Run” includes a quiz about making choices when dining out and provides nutrition information to help users make the best nutrition decisions. Fire Drill features surveys with questions about nutrition and exercise. The program allows for comparisons with other users’ answers and read about healthy facts related to the topic. Fit to Survive is hosted on our server and gives the IAFF full ownership of all the content to prevent the loss of material we previously experienced.
We contracted with a nutrition specialist who will work with the Health & Safety Department to revamp the IAFF nutrition program. The initial goal is to create a nutrition campaign with the long-term goal of developing an IAFF–sponsored nutrition program redesign. Nutrition is vital for reducing health risks, specifically heart disease and cancer amongst fire fighters.
During the last WFI task force meeting participants agreed that there is a great need for more nutrition programming and education for our members. This led to an evaluation of the current nutrition offerings available to the members, Fit to Survive, recommendations made through the WFI and the peer fitness trainer program. There are multiple opportunities for increased engagement and nutrition implementation. These can come in the form of awareness, education and participation in new strategies focused on the ultimate goal of improving quality of life for our members. Objectives for the new nutrition program will include:
- Bring awareness to the importance of nutrition and its role in overall health status
- Educate members about proper diet at home and on-duty
- Engage members in making sound dietary changes for the long term
- Encourage slow, consistent lifestyle changes
- Generate buy-in for changes to the IAFF-sponsored nutrition program
The first phase of the program will begin with a detailed review of current information on the nutrition issues confronting the fire and emergency medical services.
Another goal of the WFI Task Force was to develop a valid evaluation tool in the selection of fire fighters to ensure that all candidates possess the physical abilities to complete critical tasks safely. Since its initial release in 1999, the candidate physical ability test (CPAT) has become the most widely used program to evaluate a candidate’s physical ability prior to training. There are1,234 (up from 1,170 in 2016) IAFF-licensed jurisdictions conducting the CPAT. These jurisdictions are conducting this IAFF program using the identical testing procedures in addition to recruiting and mentoring programs.
We are safeguarding the integrity of the most widely-used and fully-validated program by following up on complaints of misuse and contacting departments suspected of conducting the CPAT without proper licensure. There are 35 limited licensees, each paying an annual $5,000 fee. The funds are used to audit those agencies issued a limited license to ensure they are administering the test in compliance with CPAT standards. We conducted 37 full audits of a limited licensee with only minor issues that needed correction. We will proceed with additional audits and anticipate completing eight audits by the end of 2019.
To assist in our data collection effort, all licensed departments and agencies are still utilizing the current CPAT database administrator and/or saving data that will be migrating into a newly developed system. The new database system in development will have enhanced reporting capabilities to assist with validation while ensuring the IAFF continues to fulfill EEOC requirements. Numerous licensees entered data on 72,000 candidates into the CPAT database administrator. The new system will include national comparison reports and track trends to improve the validity of CPAT. It will also generate reports that enable continued improvements to the fitness and mentoring programs that are already utilized to facilitate the success of CPAT candidates and for departments and agencies just beginning to use the CPAT program. Additionally, there will be online tutorials to assist members who are using this program.
CPAT Database Project Status
- New database functional requirements completed
- Ensure proper historical CPAT data migration to new system
- Identify and commence best design and application structure of new system
- Develop database administrator and user requirements and workflows
It has been almost 15 years since the CPAT was released. The new CPAT database and the University of Texas at Austin validation study conducted in 2013 will assist with validation and ensuring the IAFF continues to fulfill the EEOC requirements. We strongly believe these efforts will enhance our program and allow for increased diversity within our fire service with candidates who meet the physical demands. Our staff will provide technical assistance to departments where CPAT has been authorized for use and to departments requesting assistance to implement the CPAT program.
No wellness program is complete without addressing the mental health of those involved. The behavioral health of uniformed personnel is every bit as important as their physical health. However, it has been largely ignored or taken for granted as few departments offer a comprehensive behavioral health program. Traditionally, medical and physical fitness take precedence over mental health in the fire service. It is clear in the aftermath of 9/11, the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting, the Parkland, Florida shootings, hurricanes such as Katrina, Sandy, Harvey and Irma, massive Wildland fires and other disasters that priorities are changing. Increasingly, fire fighters are being called upon to assist during the most trying times in people’s lives. Fire fighter suicides are now at alarming levels.
The new behavioral health online training and the two-day IAFF Peer Support Program teach members how to provide support to their peers. Launched in 2016, the peer support program is the centerpiece of IAFF behavioral health activities. About 1,600 peers representing more than 170,000 IAFF members across North America completed training in 70 classes. Several jurisdictions applied for and received AFG awards to fund their peer support training.
The IAFF Peer Support Training program will focus next on developing continuing education including resilience and recovery mentor sessions. We are also developing an online training course for clinicians who need to understand the fire service culture before working with fire fighters and paramedics.
The grand opening of the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health, Treatment and Recovery occurred on March 5, 2017. General President Schaitberger and Dr. Lewis Gold, ARS Board Chairman, offered remarks at a moving ceremony attended by 375 people including district vice presidents, affiliate leaders, IAFF members interested in behavioral health and elected officials from Maryland. The center has 64 beds and offers treatment for substance abuse and behavioral health conditions including patients who are diagnosed with PTSD. Among325 IAFF members who received treatment at the center 140 of those were for PTSD. Many patients were returned to their communities with detailed aftercare plans to continue their recovery.
Developed in partnership with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), a leader in behavioral health care management, the IAFF Center of Excellence is the first treatment and recovery facility exclusively for IAFF members. Unlike other treatment centers for substance abuse and mental health, the center includes features not found anywhere else. The facility, located on a 15-acre campus in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is the first in the country to offer specialized residential treatment dedicated to PTSD and co-occurring addictions offered in an environment that is both functional and therapeutic for IAFF members to aid in their recovery. Designed by fire fighters for fire fighters, the center has a well-equipped gym and a firehouse-style kitchen. IAFF members at the center are treated like family, just as they are at the firehouse, and they undergo treatment with other IAFF members who share similar experiences. Licensed to treat numerous addiction or dependence disorders involving medication, alcohol or illicit drugs, treatment is available for other addictions.
Peer Fitness Trainer Program
Our Peer Fitness Trainer (PFT) program has not only been extremely successful, but it is becoming the most recognized health and fitness trainer program for the fire service. We conducted 319 workshops (46 since the 2016 convention) in 41 states, Washington, D.C., and five Canadian provinces, and 8,826 fire fighters participated in certification classes and for the exam.
The PFT program trains our own members to help other members exercise properly, stay fit, so they can handle the physically demanding nature of the job in addition to preventing injuries that affect our members. The WFI and PFT programs are designed to do more. Each member is not just a fire fighter. They are also a father, mother, brother, sister, loved one or friend. These programs are as much about preparing them for life as they are about preparing them for the job beyond their career and into retirement.
We updated the entire PFT curriculum and all course materials including the facilitator and student manuals to incorporate the latest research on fire fighter injuries and exercise science. We also revised our delivery methods, including integration of a majority of the lecture portion of the course into the IAFF Learning Management System (LMS). This enables greater hands-on training during the actual certification course so instructors can focus on areas that help ensure fire fighters are successful when they return to their departments.
The newly updated PFT curriculum was officially released in March 2015. Prior to this release it was beta tested in Seattle, Indianapolis and Calgary. With each delivery, the curriculum was adjusted to ensure trainers have the tools to design fitness programs for their department members.
After releasing the updated PFT curriculum we turned our focus to the thousands of certified PFTs who used the previous PFT curriculum. It was vital that these PFTs also have the opportunity to receive the latest research-based science on fire fighter injuries and biomechanics so they can incorporate it into their work. We developed a two-day PFT continuing education workshop specifically for certified PFTs. This workshop is an abridged version of the five-day PFT class that uses a combination of lectures and hands-on activities to improve the trainer’s ability to assess, design, implement and evaluate exercise sessions for fire fighters.
To enhance the PFT program’s member resources, we developed another two-day PFT workshop designed for trainers who understand the overlying demands-capacity framework within the PFT program. Through a series of hands-on activities, attendees will improve their ability to assess and personalize the design of exercise sessions for fire fighters. All attendees will be provided with resources to assist with the administration of the newly updated WFI 4th Edition Fitness protocols along with a series of screening tasks to identify specific mobility, control and fitness needs.
After attending a workshop, the fitness trainer will receive enough continuing education credits to renew their certification. The PFT certification lasts for two years, and we have a program to maintain certification through all PFT continuing education courses. The available courses include: ACE live and distance learning, ACE-approved professional conferences or symposia, CPR, AED and first-aid training or equivalent and successfully passing the ACE Personal Trainer Certification Exam. Online continuing education credit modules are available for PFTs so they have easy access to obtaining credits. We agreed that any earned credits will be accepted towards renewal of our PFT certification from all NCCA-accredited certification organizations and the Canadian Association of Fitness Professionals.
We encourage all IAFF affiliates and departments to support this program which has enhanced all programs the IAFF developed within the wellness-fitness initiative.
National Fire Protection Association
Our entire health and safety staff has remained active in ensuring that federal OSHA, state, provincial and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards are properly developed, implemented and enforced. We continued our work on the Interagency Board on Standardization on Equipment Interoperability to encourage the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to adopt a number of NFPA standards for emergency responders. Once standards are adopted by DHS, they set requirements for all federal agencies and state and local officials responsible for procuring equipment and services used by emergency responders. The documents require that any procurement decisions regarding professional qualifications, occupational safety and health, training, fire apparatus, personal protective clothing, powered rescue tools or other equipment must follow these standards when using federal funds.
The activities of IAFF members work in standards development is also coordinated through the division including the activities of IAFF representatives on all National Fire Protection Association, Canadian General Standard Board (CGSB) and the International Codes Council (ICC) committees. We updated our procedures for coordinating efforts in the standards development process to ensure our representatives are adequately prepared to represent our interest. All our representatives attended a two-day Standards Development Summit in 2017. The purpose of the summit was to provide our representatives with the information they need to be successful as IAFF representatives in the standards process. The agenda included two full days reviewing their roles and responsibilities, critical updates in the status of various codes and standards affecting our members and a review of IAFF programs that are relevant to their position.
Multiple standards were developed that reflect the needs of our members, the professional fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. The IAFF worked directly with the NFPA and the technical committee responsible for NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments to ensure that the standard and the IAFF/IAFC Wellness-Fitness Initiative were consistent with each other.
The NFPA 1710 Technical Committee on Fire and Emergency Service Organization and Deployment – Career continues to support ongoing research to determine what staffing levels, response times and deployment of resources work best when responding to a variety of fires (single occupancy, multi-occupancy and high-rise structures) and EMS events to minimize safety risks to fire fighters, paramedics and the public. The committee continues its efforts to enhance the standard.
Nothing is more important to fire fighter safety than the ability to communicate with each during a fire or another emergency. The division petitioned the NFPA to initiate development of a standard that will establish and the minimum requirements for design, performance, testing and certification of two-way, portable land mobile radios for use by emergency services personnel during incident operations without compromising compatibility with field emergency communications networks. This new standard (NFPA 1802) will also establish minimum requirements for proper functioning of electronics embedded in emergency safety equipment when it is exposed to hostile thermal conditions, immediate safety threats, and non-hostile emergency situations.
The IAFF informed the NFPA that mobile radios are a critical safety tool that must be in the hands of every responder at every emergency scene. The radios must meet the unique demands of the job of firefighting. Fire fighters need to communicate during situations with extreme temperatures, in wet and humid atmospheres full of flammable materials and dust. Communication is also essential when responders are under or above ground, inside or below buildings and in rubble piles. Other environmental challenges include loud noise from apparatus, warning devices, tools and the fire itself. As part of this project, a definition of the firefighting environment needs to be established along with performance and design criteria to ensure operability.
During the past two years, we continue to maintain and secure effective health and safety legislation at the local, state and provincial levels. Legislations is needed not only for heart, lung cancer and infectious diseases laws but also for staffing, notification, right-to-know and effective protective clothing and equipment. We increased our daily activities in providing direct health and safety technical assistance. To assist our members, the IAFF remains dedicated to these issues whether in arbitrations or a public hearing that, addresses safe staffing, medical research on air quality, fire station exposures or protective clothing. We increased our efforts by ensuring proper regulations for heart disease to the U.S. federal PSOB legislation and in obtaining state and provincial level presumptive benefits for health, lung cancer and infectious diseases. During the past two years we provided direct assistance and expert testimony to policymakers throughout Canada and the United States.
We are especially proud that during the past two years, we helped affiliates obtain or maintain presumptive legislation by providing written and oral testimony before legislative bodies.
Preventing occupational cancer from afflicting our members is a major goal of the IAFF, and we developed specific programs for both primary and secondary prevention programs for our members and their departments to implement. Primary prevention is aimed at stopping a cancer from developing and includes avoidance of hazards and behavioral changes to decrease risk for cancer. This includes IAFF programs addressing personal protective equipment, diesel exhaust control devices, tobacco cessation and improved nutrition. Secondary prevention includes techniques that detect early cancer or precancerous conditions so that early interventions can decrease the risk of advanced disease. The IAFF has incorporated these measures into mandatory annual medical evaluations under the Wellness-Fitness Initiative.
We developed a valuable online resource to help IAFF affiliates and members better understand the presumptive laws in the states and provinces. We worked diligently to secure and maintain presumptive legislation addressing heart disease, lung disease, cancer and infectious diseases. We will update this resource with detailed information regarding legislation in each state and province.
We continue working with affiliates in several states and provinces which have passed laws banning brominated flame retardants (Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) including Penta-, Octa-, and Deca-BDEs). Besides working with manufacturers of flame retardants and the EPA, the IAFF will support efforts to protect our members at the state and provincial levels that address carcinogenic fire retardants and fire fighter exposures to toxic materials. We believe many state and provincial legislative efforts to evaluate flame retardants are good programs. Bans adopted by law in various states ensure that any new flame retardants are evaluated for toxicity and that efforts are undertaken to reduce and eliminate exposures.
With IAFF assistance “Behavioral Health Presumption Laws” passed in several states and provinces. Research indicates that one in five fire fighters with be diagnosed with PTSD sometime during their career. If diagnosed with PTSD, the suicide rate for a fire fighter is six times higher than the public. We will continue to assist our affiliates to make sure that access to quality behavioral health care is covered for our members suffering from on-the-job injuries.
Medical Residency Program
We continue to provide medical assistance through our extremely successful medical residency program which was launched at the convention in August 1986. More than30 later, 150 medical residents have received training. During their rotations medical residents spend time familiarizing themselves with the occupational health concerns of fire fighters by reviewing the different studies, reports and medical standards maintained in the health and safety department. They also conduct literature reviews and pursue advice and guidance from physician experts to assist our affiliates. They provide research assistance on issues related to fire fighter health to protect our members. They provide information to affiliates to support of workers’ compensation claims and give expert testimony for state and provincial associations seeking legislation in their states and provinces.
Our program works directly with Johns Hopkins University, but we are continuing our cooperative agreement with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) to accept residents in occupational and preventative medicine their program. These physicians are members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their residency is paid for by the military branch with whom they serve. There are occasions when the IAFF has two medical residents available to affiliates at the same time.
John P. Redmond Symposium
The 24th John P. Redmond Symposium on the Occupational Health and Hazards of the Fire Service was held in conjunction with the Dominick F. Barbera Emergency Medical Services Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from August 6 -10, 2017. An estimated 1,000 attendees participated in two and half days of plenary, information and workshop sessions. The conference addressed issues related to fire fighter and EMS provider health and safety. The event featured an innovative presentation and new technology to enhance the educational experience, including two days of plenary sessions and two days of workshops. The conference also featured several well-attended sessions on behavioral health including suicide prevention, building resilience, peer support and stamp out stigma. During one of the symposium’s events, 75 peers attended a day-long training session on how to help members with substance abuse.
The symposium featured several briefing and roundtable sessions where members were able to participate in discussions with physicians who specialize in occupational medicine. Peer fitness trainers spoke with members about implementing wellness and fitness programs within their departments. Experts on fire department apparatus and vehicles discussed the latest developments in safety and design. Workshops included talks on fire behavior and tactical considerations, communications, respiratory protection and functional fitness. The conference concluded with three LODD reports and lessons learned.
Thanks to IAAF initiatives in occupational health, safety and medicine, the fire service today is indeed a safer place to work. We are helping our fire fighters come home after their tours. The IAFF will provide all mechanisms to continue improving the health, safety, fitness, wellness and survival of every IAFF member.
Disaster Relief Program
The division responded to six major events affecting our members: civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the Las Vegas, NV shooting, major wildland fires across California and Canada and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in Parkland, FL.
Disaster relief assistance and operational support were provided for each event. Assistance included behavioral health support, food and supplies, vaccinations, and major acquisitions. Supplies sent to the sites included: 100 generators, 40 fans, hundreds of roof tarps and 400 cots to stations where multiple shifts worked together. Disaster relief debit cards were issued to 800 members valued at $400,000. Operational costs to deliver services totaled $1,700,000.
Wildland Firefighting Safety and Response
The department’s mission is to assist members in all areas of the Wildland/WUI issues such as advocacy, training, research and code enforcement. During the last few years, the Wildland/WUI issue has grown into an all-encompassing conundrum ranging from awareness, training, staffing to health and safety issues. Almost 40 percent of the eastern United States is considered developed Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) with over 70,000 communities, 98 million people and 43 million homes considered at risk of an Urban Interface event.
Many locals are either unaware or unable to focus attention on this evolving issue. Training is the most important issue facing our members. The IAFF Responding to the Interface training program will provide locals with the fundamentals for fire fighter survival when faced with an interface event. This class is specifically designed for the structure fire fighter, their work schedule and to minimize out of station in-service training and is in response to resolution 50 passed by the delegates at the 2016 IAFF Convention.
We expanded our initial cadre to include 10 subject matter experts from around the United States. This task group developed a 10-hour online training class with a two- day “hands on” field verification class that will follow the CAL FIRE Urban Interface Operating Principles book.
The NWCG wildland training system is geared for complex wildland fire incidents that are typically managed by state or federal authorities and may be multi-jurisdictional in nature and not the small initial attack incident that our members will face.
We have been updating the IAFC Wildland Fire Policy Committee and seek to enter a relationship to bring these issues to the attention of federal agencies such as NWCG and FEMA in the hope that they will accept our program as a more viable training option for structural fire fighters.
The department continues to support research for the Wildland community. “Advanced Fire Blocking Materials for Enhanced Performance in Wildland Fire Shelters” is a research project led by North Carolina State University with support from the Fire Protection Research Foundation. Funding for this project is through a DHS/FEMA Assistance to Fire Fighter Fire Grant (AFG).
Wildland fire shelters are used by fire fighters as a last line of defense when they are trapped by an approaching wildfire. Recent fire fighter deaths in Yarnell Hill, Arizona in 2013 exposed limitations in the current fire shelter. These shelters were redesigned in 2002, and since then new advanced materials have become available that could provide significant performance improvements.
There are several ongoing projects where we have provided input for greater protection of fire fighters worldwide. The ISO Wildland Garment standard will be approved in the European Union. Over the last several years we have been working to harmonize the two (ISO and EN, European) standards. While harmonizing the two documents we increased the protective levels for the wildland garment to match the NFPA standard.