FFFIPP – Investigations
Since 1999, the program’s first year, the fire service has lost 2,767 firefighters from line-of-duty deaths. Of these deaths, we have conducted 740 (27%) investigations. 56% of these fatality reports are trauma-related, while the remaining 44% are medical-related. These investigations allow us to name contributing factors and develop recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the fire service. We share these findings and insights in each fatality report as a result of the investigation.
We do not investigate cancer deaths because they rarely occur on-duty. While these deaths are beyond the scope of the program, the information is still important to the firefighter community. NIOSH maintains the National Firefighter Cancer Registry. Please register all firefighter cancer deaths.
As part of our decision to initiate an investigation, we prioritize investigations using a decision flow chart [PDF – 227 KB] and evaluate whether an incident fits within one of two fatality types — medical or traumatic injury. An investigation results in a report describing the incident, contributing factors, and recommendations for preventing similar events.
National Fire Protection Association data shows that sudden cardiac death is the most common type of line-of-duty death for firefighters. Our investigations assess personal and workplace factors. Personal factors include individual risk factors for coronary artery disease, while the workplace evaluation:
- Estimates the acute physical demands placed upon the firefighter
- Estimates the firefighter’s acute exposure to hazardous chemicals
- Assesses fire department coronary artery disease screening efforts
- Assesses fire department efforts to develop fitness and wellness programs
Our program investigates fireground and non-fireground fatalities resulting from a variety of circumstances, such as:
- Structure fires
- Structural collapses
- Diving incidents
NIOSH experts in personal protective equipment and respirators may also assist with investigations where the function of protective clothing and respiratory protective equipment may have been a factor in the incident. They evaluate the performance of the protective clothing and/or self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and conduct evaluations of SCBA maintenance programs.