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Fire fighter suffers a heart attack and dies after completing work capacity test - Idaho.

Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE F2007-34, 2008 Jan; :1-16
On April 28, 2007, a 66-year-old male volunteer Fire Fighter (FF) participated in a "Pack Test;" one of three work capacity tests designed to simulate the physical demands of wildland firefighting. The Pack Test requires an individual to complete a 3-mile walk within 45 minutes, while wearing a 45-pound vest. Successful completion allows fire fighters to participate in federal wildland firefighting operations. The FF began his Pack Test at approximately 1000 hours, and successfully completed the test at 1045 hours. About 3½ hours later, the FF telephoned a neighbor asking for a ride to the hospital because he was having chest pains. In the hospital's emergency department, an electrocardiogram and cardiac enzymes confirmed a heart attack. As emergency angioplasty and stent placement of his left anterior descending coronary artery was started, the FF had an arrhythmia and cardiac arrest. Resuscitation was not successful. The death certificate (completed by the coroner) listed "cardiac arrest with electromechanical dissociation" due to "acute anterior wall myocardial infarction" due to "coronary artery disease" (CAD) as the cause of death. No autopsy was performed. The NIOSH investigator concluded that the physical stress of performing the Pack Test about 4 hours earlier probably triggered the FF's fatal heart attack. The NIOSH investigator offers the following recommendations to possibly prevent a similar recurrence and to address general safety and health issues. 1. Check the vital signs of participants before and after the work capacity test. 2. Utilize a comprehensive medical form such as Standard Form 78 or the Federal Interagency Annual Medical History and Clearance Form for Arduous Duty Wildland Firefighters instead of the Physical Activity Readiness-Questionnaire (PAR-Q) to determine medical clearance for the work capacity test. 3. Provide pre-placement and periodic medical evaluations to ALL fire fighters consistent with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582 (or equivalent) to determine their medical ability to perform duties without presenting a significant risk to the safety and health of themselves or others. 4. Ensure that fire fighters are cleared for duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of firefighting. 5. Ensure that fire fighters participate in a mandatory wellness/fitness program designed for wildland fire fighters to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease and improve cardiovascular capacity. 6. Perform an annual physical performance (physical ability) evaluation to ensure fire fighters are physically capable of performing the essential job tasks of structural firefighting. 7. Provide fire fighters with medical evaluations and clearance to wear self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs). 8. Perform an autopsy on all on-duty fire fighter fatalities.
Region-10; Fire-fighters; Emergency-responders; Cardiovascular-system-disease; Cardiovascular-system-disorders; Cardiovascular-disease; Medical-examinations; Medical-screening; Physical-fitness; Cardiovascular-system; Medical-monitoring; Cardiac-function; Cardiovascular-function
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Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
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Identifying No.
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Services: Public Safety
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division