Support for Firefighter Personal Protective Equipment

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus

Program Description

The United States currently depends on approximately 1.1 million fire fighters to protect its citizens and property from losses caused by fire. Of these fire fighters, approximately 336,000 are career and 812,000 are volunteers. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration estimate that on average, 90 to 100 fire fighters die in the line of duty each year.

In 1998, Congress recognized the need for further efforts to address the continuing national problem of job-related fire fighter deaths and funded the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to implement a fire fighter safety initiative. With fire service stakeholder input, the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP) was developed in the Division of Safety Research.

The FFFIPP conducts independent investigations of select fire fighter line-of-duty deaths, to provide recommendations to prevent future deaths and injuries. It is a public health practice investigation program and investigations are not conducted to enforce compliance with state or federal job safety and health standards. Fault or blame is not placed on fire departments or individual fire fighters.

In 2001 the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) was established. NPPTL became responsible for testing and approving respirators as well as conducting research on personal protective equipment, developing standards, and creating guidance documents. The events of September 11th necessitated developing standards for respirators to protect users from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents.

NPPTL staff with expertise in personal protective equipment assist the FFFIPP program with investigations by evaluating the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) worn by fire fighters during incidents resulting in a line of duty death, serious injury, or other adverse event.

The evaluations are conducted in a laboratory equipped to conduct various SCBA tests to determine if the unit worn during the incident was in compliance with the applicable regulations.

Page last reviewed: November 5, 2019