MFRI Report on Fire Training Safety Provides Useful Guidelines

The Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute recently released a study titled 'Health and Safety Guidelines for Firefighter Training' that reviews an extensive body of research on firefighter health, injuries and safety.

The goal of the project is to provide a tool to reduce the number of training-related injuries and deaths nationwide for professional and volunteer departments alike. According to an eight-year study conducted by USFA from 1997 through 2004, an average of 103 firefighters die per year. Of those, approximately 11 die during training exercises. (This estimate excludes the 343 firefighters that died Sept. 11, 2001).

The MFRI, part of the University of Maryland's Center for Firefighter Safety Research and Development, partnered with VivoMetrics Government Services ( VGS) to conduct the study, which was funded by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Grants and Training through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant. VGS established and oversaw the testing processes, data and biostatistical analysis and provided scientific oversight on the study.

Testing was conducted at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute on twenty dates between August 3, 2005 and October 14, 2005 and 200 firefighters between the ages of 21 and 55 were recruited by MFRI for inclusion. Subjects were required to possess a minimum of three years’ experience as a firefighter and hold a Firefighter II certification.

While firefighters undergo training exercises, the study said, they also suffer from similar negative affects on their bodies functionalities that they would in any live fire situation. The study highlights these areas of bodily stress and endangerment: cardiac health, thermal stress, inhalation of contaminants and disorientation and panic.

According to the study, cardiac- related events are the single largest identifiable cause of training fatalities, as well as a likelihood that the amount of cardiovascular stress seen in training activities is similar to that of actual live fires. In contrast, cardiac-related events do not play nearly as dominant a role as causes of non-fatal training injuries, where musculoskeletal injuries dominate all other categories.

The study also points to the need for a closer future examination of heat stress and the importance of investigating rehabilitation and recovery as well as exertion.

To view the full study, including a comprehensive list of guidelines for training safety, download the PDF here: Health and Safety Guidelines for Firefighter Training

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