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31-Year-Old Fire Fighter Suffers a Seizure at Fire Department Training and Dies of Sudden Cardiac Arrest—New Jersey

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

F2018-04 Date Released: April 04, 2019

Executive Summary

On October 23, 2017, at 1900 hours a 31-year-old male volunteer fire fighter (FF) began a regularly scheduled weekly training session. The training was held at the county fire training center and was focused on automobile extrication. Minutes after the hands-on training began, the FF began having a seizure. An ambulance was dispatched at 2021 hours and arrived on scene at 2035 hours. The FF was loaded into the ambulance and en route to the hospital emergency department (ED) he suffered a cardiac arrest. Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) was initiated in the ambulance and continued in the hospital ED. Efforts to revive the FF were unsuccessful and the FF was pronounced dead at 2256 hours.

The death certificate listed the cause of death as “cardiac arrest.” No autopsy was performed. The FF’s past medical history was significant for epilepsy and smoking. NIOSH investigators concluded the seizure suffered by the FF may have played a role in precipitating his sudden cardiac event.

Key Recommendations

NIOSH offers the following recommendations to reduce the risk of sudden cardiovascular events and other incapacitating conditions among fire fighters at this and other fire departments across the country.

  • Ensure that all fire fighters receive an annual medical evaluation consistent with National Fire Protection Association (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 fire fighting, the personal protective equipment used by fire fighters, and the various components of NFPA 1582.
  • Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for fire fighters.

In addition, NIOSH offers the following recommendation:

  • Perform autopsies on all on-duty fire fighter fatalities.


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