NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Fire fighter visibility: which way is out?

Powers JR
NOIRS 2003-Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium 2003, October 28-30, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh, PA: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2003 Oct; :62
From 1991 through 2000 303 firefighters lost their lives while responding to structure fires. NIOSH's Fire Fighter Investigation reports from 1997 to 2001 indicate approximately 20 fire fighters lost their lives after becoming "lost" or "disoriented" while inside a burning structure. An important factor to consider is that visibility can be reduced to zero in a matter of seconds, especially after water is applied to the fire. Numerous NIOSH Fire Fighter Investigation reports mention eyewitness accounts of hearing a low air alarm, seeing the fire fighter leave the area, but the fire fighter never exits the building. When the fire fighter is located he/she is found in an area totally unrelated to where he/she was originally. Many accounts of fire fighters who do manage to get out safely mention that the hose line was very difficult to follow due to low visibility or overlapping lines and not knowing which one to follow or which direction to go. There are numerous products available that can be beneficial in assisting fire fighters with visibility problems inside of a structure. These include lighted/reflective ropes, Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices, high power lights at entryways, etc. The USFA's Technical Rescue Technology Assessment [1995] mentions lighted/reflective ropes and PASS devices as they relate to rescue efforts. However, a question to consider is "How many fire departments really know what is available when it comes to visibility products?" This session will discuss visibility products, how they are used, and what needs to be done. It will be an open discussion to try to focus research in this much needed area of fire fighter safety.
Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Fire-hazards; Occupational-hazards; Air-quality; Rescue-measures; Rescue-workers; Safety-measures; Fire-safety
Publication Date
Document Type
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Disease and Injury: Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Upper Extremities
Source Name
NOIRS 2003-Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium 2003, October 28-30, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division