Firefighters face an ever-growing number of hazards during fire fighting activities that result in injuries. Based on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) survey, more than 80,000 firefighters in the US get injuries every year in the line of duty (Poplin, et al. 36). However, the number of firefighter’s injuries has been decreasing in recent years compared to the number of injuries reported in the past two decades. According to Karter and Molis (25), most of the injuries are obvious since fire-fighting activities involve direct contact with the fire and exposure to hazardous conditions. The survey also shows that most of the firefighters injuries occur during foreground operations, such as structure fires, vehicle fires, and bush fire among others. Other injuries occur when responding to an incident, training, non-fire emergency and other on-duty activities. The most common type of injuries that firefighters face include burn, wound, cut, dislocation, strain, muscular pain, respiratory distress, smoke inhalation, and thermal exhaustion (Poplin, et al. 43).
Preventing Injuries in the Fire Ground
As indicated, most of the injuries during firefighting occur on the fire ground. Most of the injuries occur as a result of fall, slip, jump, strain, and overexertion. Structural collapse is also a major contributor of injuries and fatalities during the firefighting operations in large structures. Although structural collapse is the major cause of injuries and fatalities to firefighters on the fire ground, it is one of the difficult situations to predict and prevent (Della-Giustina 57). Nevertheless, if proper measures are taken in place, injuries on the fire ground can be prevented. To prevent the injuries, it is recommended that firefighters receive proper training on fire fighting strategies. Training help fire fighters to gather skills and knowledge of the fire ground environment hence take precautions in the fire fighting exercise. Additionally, training help firefighters to understand precautions measures that should be carried out before the exercise. During training, firefighters should train on proper posture that reduce strain, proper lifting techniques, use and maintenance of pneumatic and power tools, and use of firefighting equipment. Training also helps firefighters to learn how to use protective equipment hence reducing the rate of injuries. During training, demonstrations should be carried out to ensure that firefighters understand all relevant information. Drills should also be conducted frequently to test the skills of the firefighters (Karter and Molis 27).
It is also recommended that firefighters should have proper equipment that can facilitate fire fighting in the fire ground, especially in large properties. For example, firefighters should have protective gears, such as asbestos jackets to prevent them from being burnt. They should also be provided with gas masks to prevent them from inhaling smokes and other poisonous fumes in the fire grounds. The fire engine should have long horse pipes to allow firefighters to fight the fire at a distance to avoid structural collapse that may result in several injuries. The firefighting equipment should allow firefighters to be in a good posture to avoid strain and dislocations. Regular modifications and maintenance should be conducted on firefighting equipment to ensure they are in good conditions when engaging in fire fighting activities. The purpose of regular maintenance is to ensure there are no loose connections on the pipes, and the ladders are firm to avoid fall or slip during the exercise (Poplin et al. 89).
Firefighting injuries in fire ground can also be prevented by increasing the number of firefighters assigned to the task. Adequate staffing is important in reducing fire ground injuries since the work is spread out over a large base hence reducing over exhaustion. Adequate staffing also enables firefighters to take breaks to relieve fatigued muscles and reduce the potential for heat stress. The breaks also help firefighters to breathe fresh air reducing the risks of respiratory problems. The administrator at the fire scene should also encourage job rotation between the firefighters to reduce the potential for heat stress (Della-Giustina 18).
The administrator should also ensure that all firefighters deployed in the firefighting mission are in good physical and mental conditions. Workers in good health are productive and are more responsible in the roles hence reducing the number of potential injuries. For example, firefighters with respiratory problems are at a higher risk of being injured during firefighting exercise if he or she inhales smoke or fumes from burning property. Such a worker may also collapse during the exercise and are injured or die. It is recommended that firefighters keep fit through regular exercise to be flexible during firefighting exercises. Overweight and obese firefighters should not be assigned tasks in high places such as in long building since they have a high risk of losing their balance hence they may fall when working (Jahnke, et al. 1507)
Firefighting is a risky exercise and firefighters usually get injuries. Some of them die during the exercise. Most of the injuries result from burns, cuts, fall, dislocations, strains, and inhalation of hazardous fumes and smokes among others. Some of the injuries that occur during firefighting exercise are preventable if proper strategies and measures are taken in place. Firefighters injuries on the fire ground, such as large building can be prevented through proper training, proper equipment, proper administrations, adequate staffing, and personal body conditioning among others.
Della-Giustina, Daniel E. Fire Safety Management Handbook. CRC Press, 2014.
Jahnke, S. A., et al. “Obesity and incident injury among career firefighters in the central United States.” Obesity 21.8 (2013): 1505-1508.
Karter, Michael J., and Joseph L. Molis. US firefighter injuries-2010. National Fire Protection Association, Fire Analysis and Research Divison, 2011.
Poplin, Gerald S., et al. “Beyond the fireground: injuries in the fire service.” Injury Prevention (2011): injuryprev-2011.