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Firefighter Suffers Cardiac Arrest at Motor Vehicle Accident – Georgia

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

F2021-03 Date Released: July 1, 2021

Executive Summary

On July 14, 2020, a 50-year-old male career firefighter (FF) became disoriented and suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while performing extraction work at the scene of a motor vehicle accident. On-scene emergency medical services (EMS) immediately initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and provided manual defibrillation. Advanced cardiac life support was provided on-scene and enroute to the emergency department (ED). The FF went into full cardiac arrest by a return of spontaneous circulation. In the ED, electrocardiograms (EKGs) indicated that the FF was having a myocardial infarction (heart attack). The FF was taken to the cardiac catheterization laboratory, but no obstructions were found. The FF remained in the hospital in intensive care for six days but never regained consciousness. He suffered post-event anoxic brain injury and was pronounced dead on July 20, 2020.

The Medical Examiner’s report listed the cause of death as coronary atherosclerotic disease and hypertensive heart disease. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigators concluded that the physical work of the extrication in the heat initiated a sudden cardiac arrest in the FF with underlying cardiac disease.

Key Recommendations

Key Recommendation 1: Ensure that all firefighters receive an annual medical evaluation consistent with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments.

Key Recommendation 2: Ensure firefighters are cleared for duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of firefighting, the personal protective equipment used by firefighters, and the various components of NFPA 1582.

Key Recommendation 3: Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for firefighters.

Read the full report