Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, announced today the United States Fire Administration (USFA), has initiated a partnership with the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) to study growing issues related to firefighter occupational health and safety in the volunteer fire service and to begin to develop initiatives, programs, and strategies to reduce on-duty firefighter fatalities among volunteers.
"In 2004 alone, this nation tragically lost almost 70 volunteer firefighters in the line of duty," said Brown. "There is a critical need for effective safety and health support to the estimated 800,500 volunteer firefighters in the United States. I join with President Bush and Secretary Chertoff in supporting efforts such as this that go directly to the protection of our nation's first responders."
The National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) U.S. Fire Department Profile Through 2003, shows that nearly 71 percent of the fire departments in the U.S. are all volunteer and over 17 percent are mostly volunteer, representing the vast majority of fire departments who are dependent on volunteer firefighters to protect their communities.
"I am very pleased to work with the NVFC to examine critical health and safety issues among the volunteer fire service and develop initiatives to reduce the number of volunteer firefighter line of duty deaths," said R. David Paulison, U.S. Fire Administrator. "This partnership effort will also support the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Firefighter Life Safety Initiative and the NVFC Heart Healthy Firefighter Program to mitigate on-duty firefighter fatalities, and further ensure that Everyone Goes Home safely, following a response to an emergency."
The volunteer fire service has distinct issues related to health and safety such as time commitment availability, long distances away from training facilities, antiquated equipment, rural operations, declining number of volunteers, the wide age range of volunteer firefighters, etc. This study will examine occupational health and safety issues not just of active firefighting staff, but will also include Emergency Medical Service (EMS) responders; fire-police and other traffic control emergency response personnel; and non-response support staff performing administrative and other non-emergency activities for the volunteer fire department. This study will also look at regional issues related to health and safety for the volunteer fire service.
"As volunteers represent a major component of the American Fire Service, it is critical to examine what specific occupational health and safety issues impact them, and develop initiatives and programs to reduce volunteer firefighter on-duty deaths," said NVFC Chairman Philip Stittleburg. "This is an extremely important issue of concern to the volunteer fire service and the NVFC is very committed to eliminating on-duty firefighter deaths through this innovative partnership."
Further information about this partnership effort, as well as other USFA research studies in firefighter safety and health, may be found on the USFA Web site at: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/research/safety/