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Why do we need FIRST?
Firefighting is dangerous work. Although there have been major advances in safety planning, technology, and protective equipment, firefighters continue to get injured on the job. However, these injuries can be prevented if the Fire Service and safety researchers have comprehensive, consistent, and accurate information about who is being injured, how they are being injured, and what types of injuries occur. As the responsibilities of the Fire Service grow and change, it is important to have an information system that can identify new hazards in the Fire Service.
While snapshots of firefighter injury exist and give us valuable insights on particular populations at particular points in time, there is currently no comprehensive national system for capturing firefighter injuries. Without a comprehensive system that provides consistent and accurate information, it is challenging to identify intervention opportunities which will effectively reduce or eliminate injury.
The Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST) Project is the initial step towards filling in this information gap. In two pilot sites, the project will standardize the information already being gathered by various systems (e.g., hospitals and workers’ compensation), and unify them into one data set. This single data set will be evaluated to determine its degree of completeness and accuracy when reporting firefighter injuries at both the state and local levels.
What is the Fire Service telling us they need?
Data that tells a story at the local level (in addition to national and state-wide).
Data collection that is simple, quick, and does not increase the reporting burden for firefighters.
Data that describes all firefighter injuries regardless of career or volunteer status.
A clear connection between the data collection system and benefits for the Fire Service.
Accurate data that can support the following activities: injury prevention; education; safety training; advocacy; grant writing; and identifying trends (local, state-wide, and national).
FIRST is strongly influenced by the needs and guidance of both the Fire Service and the safety research community. An expert advisory board which represents both groups has been appointed, and the advisors' input is incorporated into all aspects of the project (e.g., system design, partnerships, sustainability).
At the end of the three year grant period, the project team will generate recommendations to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding how to establish and sustain FIRST at the national level. The recommendations will include an evaluation of the pilot implementation process and outcomes, as well as an analysis of the human and material resources required to support the system.
Why "Get the Data FIRST"?
FIRST uses a public health approach to help improve firefighter safety. A public health approach involves collecting and using data at each planning stage in order to prevent injury:
Step 1- Define the Problem: The first step is to identify and understand firefighter injuries. Collecting data at this stage helps determine who is being injured (e.g., career or volunteer); how they are being injured (e.g., motor vehicle crash or fall from a ladder); and what types of injuries occur (e.g., burn or sprain). This information can demonstrate how frequently injury occurs, where it is occurs, and emerging hazards.
Step 2- Identify Risk and Protective Factors: In addition to defining the injury problem, we also want to know which factors are likely to protect firefighters, and which factors increase the risk of injury. For example, is work location a risk factor or a protective factor?
Step 3- Develop and Test Prevention Strategies: Using data to inform prevention strategies offers the best chance at success. For example, if we identify an increasing trend of California firefighters with leg burns, resources can be focused on that particular group to solve the problem. Perhaps a boot defect will be found among manufacturers serving the California fire departments, suggesting a simple solution to correct this defect. Data also helps evaluate the actions taken to solve the problem. After the manufacturer corrects the problem, is there a decreasing trend in leg burns?
Step 4- Share Solutions with Widespread Adoption: As effective prevention strategies are developed and verified in Step 3, these new prevention opportunities should be shared throughout the Fire Service. For example, if a driving simulation program effectively reduced accidents and injuries among Philadelphia firefighters, we want to make sure information about the program is available to all fire departments who are interested in replicating this strategy.
Image Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Link
Contact: Andrea Davis, Project Manager
Click here to submit your input on the project.