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Fire fighter/driver operator suffers sudden cardiac death after responding to a residential burning odor call - Illinois.

Baldwin T; Hales T
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 F2012-29, 2013 May; :1-14
On November 11, 2012, a 61-year-old male career driver/operator ("D/O") and his truck company (Truck 40) were dispatched at 2205 hours to a three-story apartment building for a report of a burning odor. At the scene, the D/O set up the ladder and carried a ventilation saw to the roof. Fire fighters inside the building determined the smoke was caused by cooking and notified the D/O that ventilation was not necessary. When the D/O descended the ladder and reached the ground he was breathing rapidly. His shortness of breath persisted during the return trip to the fire station. While cleaning Truck 40 at the station, the D/O's shortness of breath worsened, and he reported some chest pain to crew members. They gave him oxygen and summoned an ambulance. The ambulance paramedics began treatment for pulmonary edema with oxygen, diuretics, and nitroglycerin and transported the D/O to the hospital's emergency department (ED). Shortly after arriving in the ED, the D/O had a cardiac arrest. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was started followed by advanced life support including intubation with 100% oxygen. After 40 minutes in the ED, the D/O was pronounced dead at 2321 hours, and resuscitation efforts were stopped. The death certificate and autopsy report listed "hypertensive cardiovascular disease" as the cause of death with "coronary atherosclerosis" as a contributing factor. Additional autopsy findings included coronary artery disease, cardiomegaly (enlarged heart), and left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). Given the D/O's underlying heart disease, NIOSH investigators concluded that the physical stress of responding to the call and ascending/descending the aerial ladder to the roof of a three-story building probably triggered his sudden cardiac death. NIOSH investigators offer the following recommendations to address safety and health issues and prevent similar incidents in the future. 1. Provide annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters consistent with NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments. 2. Conduct exercise stress tests into the fire department medical evaluation program for fire fighters at increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). 3. Provide fire fighters with medical clearance to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as part of the fire department's medical evaluation program. 4. Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for fire fighters. 5. Perform an annual physical performance (physical ability) evaluation for all members.
Region-5; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Cardiovascular-disease; Cardiovascular-system-disease; Cardiovascular-system-disorders; Heart; Medical-screening; Physical-stress; Physical-fitness
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-F2012-29; B20130520
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Public Safety
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: April 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division