One theme is consistent among the members of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC ). The safety of all firefighters and emergency response personnel is imperative. Chief fire officers, whether it's in the fire station, responding to the scene or on the scene, are responsible for the safety, health and well-being of their firefighters and other emergency response personnel.
In 2009, 90 firefighters lost their lives in the line-of-duty. This was the lowest number of firefighters killed in the line-of-duty since 1993, when it was 81.
But this is still 90 too many. Of those, more than half were related to heart attacks and strokes, which tend to occur either during or immediately after incidents that require heavy exertion. Science is now uncovering that these heart attacks and strokes occur after firefighters have also been exposed to high concentrations or levels of carbon monoxide (CO).
The IAFC fully supports rehabilitation and medical monitoring of firefighters during fireground operations. The National Fire Protection Association 1584 addresses this important issue. The rehabilitation of firefighters should occur whenever on-scene activities pose the risk of members exceeding a safe level of physical or mental endurance. These types of incidents will vary from structural and wildland fires to hazmat and long-term EMS incidents.
We've all felt the fatigue and exhaustion that comes from intense work. That’s why it’s important we properly rehabilitate and monitor the CO levels of those engaged in on-scene activities that can push their stamina past safe levels of physical and mental endurance.