Volunteer Lieutenant Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death at Fire Station While Doing Fitness Training – New York
Death in the Line of Duty…A summary of a NIOSH fire fighter fatality investigation
F2013-28 Date Released: April 2014
On November 11, 2013, a 52-year-old volunteer Lieutenant (LT) attended the monthly business meeting at the fire department (FD). Following the meeting he went upstairs to use the exercise room. After approximately 5 minutes, members heard a crashing sound, found the LT unresponsive and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The ambulance crew that was stationed at that FD began advanced cardiac life support (ACLS). The LT was transported to the emergency department (ED) where ACLS continued. Despite these efforts, the LT died. The death certificate and autopsy report, both completed by the County’s Chief Medical Examiner, listed the cause of death as “atherosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.” The autopsy revealed severe coronary atherosclerosis but no evidence of an acute thrombus or plaque hemorrhage.
NIOSH offers the following recommendations to reduce the risk of heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest among fire fighters at this and other fire departments across the country.
- Ensure that all fire fighters receive an annual medical evaluation consistent with NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments.
- Ensure fire fighters are cleared for duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of firefighting, the personal protective equipment used by fire fighters, and the various components of NFPA 1582.
- Perform an annual physical performance (physical ability) evaluation.
- Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for fire fighters.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1998, Congress appropriated funds to NIOSH to conduct a fire fighter initiative that resulted in the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program which examines line-of-duty-deaths or on duty deaths of fire fighters to assist fire departments, fire fighters, the fire service and others to prevent similar fire fighter deaths in the future. The agency does not enforce compliance with State or Federal occupational safety and health standards and does not determine fault or assign blame. Participation of fire departments and individuals in NIOSH investigations is voluntary. Under its program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident who agree to be interviewed and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the death(s). Interviewees are not asked to sign sworn statements and interviews are not recorded. The agency’s reports do not name the victim, the fire department or those interviewed. The NIOSH report’s summary of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the fatality is intended to provide context to the agency’s recommendations and is not intended to be definitive for purposes of determining any claim or benefit.