Safety Officer/Instructor Suffers Sudden Death After Training - Montana


FF ShieldDeath in the Line of Duty…A summary of a NIOSH fire fighter fatality investigation

F2015-14 Date Released: March 15, 2016

Executive Summary

On August 5, 2014, a 46-year-old male volunteer safety officer/instructor (“SO/I”) conducted 2 hours of apparatus equipment training for members of his volunteer fire department. After returning home,the SO/I fell asleep in a living room chair at about 2200 hours. When his spouse awakened at 0800 hours, she found the SO/I unresponsive in the same chair. 911 was called and an ambulance responded. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) noted obvious signs of death and contacted the county coroner, who pronounced the SO/I dead at the scene. The death certificate, completed by the county deputy coroner, listed “multi-drug toxicity” as the cause of death. No autopsy was performed. At the time of his death the SO/I was taking 13 prescription medications, most of which were prescribed for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to his military deployments in Iraq and Kuwait. Although the SO/I did not participate in fire suppression duties, as a volunteer SO/I he responded to fire emergencies. As a result, the SO/I should have received annual medical evaluations to determine his medical fitness for duty.

Key Recommendations

  • Provide preplacement and annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters in accordance with NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments
  • Ensure that fire fighters are cleared for duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of fire fighting, the personal protective equipment used by fire fighters, and the components of NFPA 1582.

The following recommendations address general safety and health issues:

  • Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for fire fighters.
  • Provide fire fighters with medical clearance to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as part of the fire department’s medical evaluation program
  • Conduct annual respirator fit testing
  • Perform an autopsy on all on-duty fire fighter fatalities.


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Page last reviewed: September 21, 2016