FIRST Center Announces 5 Latest Fire and EMS Research Endeavors

FIRST Center Announces 5 Latest Fire and EMS Research Endeavors

Article Oct 02, 2017

Drexel University’s Center for Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends (FIRST) is a research enterprise dedicated to supporting the U.S. fire and rescue service through the collection of objective data and analysis. FIRST recently announced five important new research projects, including efforts to study stress in EMS aspects of firefighting and how to keep better track of occupational illnesses and injuries.

The first major announcement concerned a new FEMA R&D grant to study stress and violence in fire-based EMS responders. Jennifer Taylor, PhD, MPH, CPPS, FIRST's director, announced receipt of a $1.5 million grant from the Assistance to Firefighters program. 

The  project, “Stress and Violence in Fire-based EMS Responders” (SAVER), responds to seven of FEMA’s national prevention priorities on firefighter safety projects “designed to measurably change firefighter behavior and decision-making.” Never before has FEMA R&D grant funding addressed the EMS aspect of fire, even though EMS accounts for 70%–90% of combined departments' work. The SAVER study seeks to address the lack of research in this area and determine the predictors of fire-based EMS responder injury and stress. Read more about what SAVER entails here.

The FIRST Center also announced the recent release of the USFA report Mitigation of Occupational Violence to Firefighters and EMS Responders. This report was created by the FIRST team through USFA’s funding of a contract to IAFF. The goal was to examine existing knowledge regarding violence against the fire service. Specifically the report identified the need to create reliable and consistent epidemiological data on violence against EMS responders, identify risk factors associated with violent exposures and develop effective policies, procedures and practices to best address the issue, all of which are core objectives of the SAVER grant. Download the full USFA report here.

Just as it’s important to study violence trends against employees of EMS and fire services, so is keeping track of their health. Three million Americans succumb to workplace injuries and illness annually, costing society $250 billion, yet there is no national tracking system for occupational disease and injury in the U.S. A new study makes the case for adopting I/O standards in healthcare: “Time Well Spent: Patient Industry and Occupation Data Collection in Emergency Departments,” published in the Journal of Occupation and Environmental Medicine.

In an effort supported by the AFG grant program, scientists from FIRST assessed the time and cost of making I/O inquiries in emergency departments. On average it took 48 seconds to collect I/O information. The cost incurred by accounting for the average number of patients seen per year and the average registrar salary was between $520–$623 per registrar per year. The total annual cost for the two participating hospitals to gather industry and occupation information on every patient was $4,160 and $15,000. The costs to hospitals to create a surveillance system for occupational injuries and illnesses were found to be reasonable and manageable. No undue burden was observed in comparison with the estimated $250 billion cost of occupational illnesses and injuries. Read the press release and access the full study here.

Another project being supported by AFG funding aims to develop a culture of safety survey in the fire service. “Ladders and Lifting: How Gender Impacts Safety Behaviors in the Fire Service” was published in the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, and it explores how safety behaviors are impacted by gender in the fire service.

The study illuminates women firefighters as “outsiders within,” observing reasons why they may be more likely to weigh the risks and benefits of dangerous situations, focus on biomechanics and technique, ask for help, report injuries, speak up and experience hostile work environments. Access the full study here.

Lastly, this summer’s Fire Service Injury Research, Epidemiology and Evaluation Fellowship (FIRE Fellows) emphasized fire service safety culture. The second annual class of FIRE Fellows had opportunities to work with the Fire Service Organizational Culture of Safety (FOCUS) survey data, fire service stakeholders and other nonfatal-injury data sets, extending work completed by the 2016 Fire Fellows. This 10-week fellowship was conducted in partnership with the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) and was supported in part by AFG funding.  Read more about the 2017 Fellows here.

Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends, Drexel University

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