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Sergeant Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death While On Duty – Michigan


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

F2016-02 Date Released: August 17, 2016

Executive Summary

On November 18, 2015, a 49-year old fire department sergeant (the “SGT”) working a 24-hour shiftresponded to one call in the afternoon. Upon returning to the fire station, the SGT became ill, vomited, and retreated to his bunkroom. He remained there the rest of his shift. When the next crew arrived at 0700 hours the next day, they found the SGT unresponsive in his bunkroom. A paramedic in the fire station checked the SGT. His vital signs indicated that he had been dead for several hours. The paramedic notified dispatch and medical control were notified. A medical examiner responded to the fire station and pronounced the SGT dead.

The death certificate and the autopsy report were completed by the Assistant Medical Examiner. The cause of death was listed as “hypertensive cardiovascular disease.” “Liver cirrhosis” was noted as a contributing factor. The SGT’s hypertensive cardiovascular disease was undiagnosed before this incident.

Key Recommendations

  • Provide annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters consistent with NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, to identify fire fighters at increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Perform symptom-limiting exercise stress tests (ESTs) on fire fighters at increased risk for CHD
  • Ensure that fire fighters are cleared for return to 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 and would not have prevented the SGT’s death:

  • Perform an annual physical ability evaluation
  • Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for fire fighters


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