NFPA study finds increased proportion of firefighter training deaths

100 firefighters died in training over the past 10 years

The proportion of firefighter deaths that have occurred during training has increased while the number of firefighter deaths overall has declined over the years, according to a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report released today.

NFPA's report finds that 100 firefighters died while engaged in training-related activities from 1996 through 2005, accounting for 10 percent of all on-duty firefighter deaths.

Of these 100 victims, 47 were local volunteer firefighters, 39 were local career firefighters, and the remaining 14 were from other organizations.

"Training is an essential part of fire department operations and it is worrisome that the training proportion of firefighter deaths has increased," said Rita F. Fahy, Ph.D., manager of fire databases and systems for NFPA. "Firefighting is a dangerous profession and to see deaths occurring due to activities that are meant to prevent death and injury is distressing."

The largest number of firefighters died while participating in apparatus and equipment drills, accounting for 36 deaths. Twenty-one of the 36 firefighters who died during this activity suffered sudden cardiac death. The second largest number of training deaths over the 10-year period occurred while firefighters were taking part in an activity meant to promote health - 30 died during physical fitness training. Twenty-three of the deaths during physical fitness training were attributed to cardiac events.

Sudden cardiac death (usually heart attacks) is the number one cause of firefighter fatalities overall and the same is true for those during training. Just over half of the firefighters who died while training during the 10-year period died, due to cardiac events. According to the study, sudden cardiac death was responsible for 53 of the 100 deaths.

"It is our hope that this 10-year study will help prevent future deaths by identifying areas where training safety can be improved," said Fahy.

Each year NFPA issues an in-depth report on firefighter fatalities in the United States. The new 10-year analysis on deaths related to training utilizes information from these broader annual studies that cover overall firefighter fatalities in the U.S.

NFPA publishes a range of standards that provide guidelines for safely conducting firefighter training and address health issues. NFPA 1403, Standard on Live Fire Training Evolutions describes a process for conducting live fire training evolutions to ensure that they are conducted in safe facilities and that the exposure to health and safety hazards for the firefighters receiving the training is minimized. NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments contains descriptive requirements for a comprehensive occupational medical program.

NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training and education. Visit NFPA's Web site at

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