NFPA staff members focused on research and support of first responders gathered with peers from other top fire service organizations in Phoenix last week to discuss a topic that is hotter than the Arizona sun - firefighter cancer.
Hundreds convened at the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium hosted by the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance (FSOCA). Attendees listened and learned from thought leaders, including Casey Grant with the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of NFPA. During the two-day program contamination, cancer, research, education, outreach, prevention, and support for firefighters and their families were explored during informative presentations and breakout sessions. FSOCA is addressing the cancer issue with a common voice among fire service organizations, and asked the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to serve as a facilitator for meetings.
Grant updated the audience on three important research projects that the Foundation is currently involved in to reduce firefighter cancer and exposure to harmful contaminants. The FPRF executive director shared key takeaways from last month’s Campaign for Fire Service Contamination Control research project workshop in Columbus, Ohio where stakeholders with a vested interest in firefighter health and safety discussed the development of best practices, fire station and equipment design, codes, standards, and other resources. The one-year study, which is currently wrapping up, will serve as an educational tool for the fire service, so that those on the front line and in the upper ranks are well-informed about safety risks and strategies for controlling contaminant spread. Grant also informed attendees about two other FPRF studies currently underway:
- Validation of Cleaning Procedures for Fire Fighter PPE (a three-year study due in late 2018) that is taking a hard look at general PPE cleaning procedures to identify modern-day best practices and scientific methods for removing toxins.
- The “Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study” is a 30-year information collection campaign, led by the University of Arizona, to fully understand which exposures are responsible for cancer in firefighters, how exposures cause cancer, and the effective methods needed to reduce exposure.
Fire service members and subject matter experts flocked from all over the country to the cancer symposium in Arizona. Topics of discussion included labor and management collaboration; presumptive legislation; healthy lifestyles; cultural change; carcinogens in fire stations and apparatus; hazards associated with today’s fires; the role of leadership; support of colleagues with cancer; and fire investigation cancer.
In its long history, NFPA has done a great deal of work to understand the firefighter cancer conundrum. As new observations arise and new challenges surface, the association protects first responders by raising awareness, analyzing data, sharing best practices, and collaborating with emergency responders around the globe. These efforts go well beyond NFPA’s codes, standards, and training and demonstrate that, “NFPA goes where the fire service goes”.