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000 or more experienced 5.6 injuries per 100 firefighters. As the size of the community decreases

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U.S. Firefighter Injuries in 2017


An estimated 58,835 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2017, a decrease of 5 percent from the year before and the lowest number since NFPA began analyzing this data in 1981

BY BEN EVARTS AND JOSEPH L. MOLIS • 10 MINUTE READ

Audio: Listen to this article.

Firefighters work in varied and complex environments that increase their risk of on-the-job deaths and injuries. Each year, NFPA studies firefighter deaths and injuries to provide national statistics on their frequency, extent, and characteristics. Earlier this year, NFPA reported that there were 60 on-duty firefighter fatalities in 2017. A better understanding of how these fatalities, nonfatal injuries, and illnesses occur can assist in identifying corrective actions that could help minimize the inherent risks of firefighter work.


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"U.S. Firefighter Injuries - 2017" report.

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This summary report examines firefighter injuries in the United States in 2017. The results are based on data collected during the NFPA Survey of Fire Departments for U.S. Fire Experience (2017). Based on that data, we estimate that 58,835 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2017. This is a decrease of 5 percent from the year before, and the lowest number since NFPA began analyzing this data in 1981. In recent years, the number of reported firefighter injuries has been considerably lower than it was in the 1980s and 1990s, due in part to additional survey questions on exposures to hazardous conditions and infectious diseases, information that allows us to place them in their own categories. Previously, some of these exposures might have been included in total injuries under other categories.

NFPA estimates that there were 7,345 exposures to infectious diseases such as hepatitis, meningitis, and HIV in 2017. This amounts to 0.3 exposures per 1,000 emergency medical service runs by fire departments in 2017.

We also estimate there were 44,530 exposures to hazardous conditions such as asbestos, radioactive materials, chemicals, and fumes last year. The increase in these types of exposures in recent years can in part be explained by the heightened awareness about cancer and other chronic illnesses in the fire service and the importance of documentation. This could be a result of improved reporting for such exposures.

An estimated 10,155 injuries, or 17 percent of all firefighter injuries, resulted in lost time.

This summary report includes among its results an estimate of the total number of U.S. firefighter injuries in 2017, estimates of the number of injuries by type of duty, an estimate of the number of exposures to infectious diseases, trends in firefighter injuries and rates, fireground injuries by cause, fire department vehicle accidents and resulting firefighter injuries, the average number of fires and fireground injuries per department by population of community protected, and descriptions of selected incidents that illustrate firefighter safety problems.

METHODS AND RESULTS

NFPA annually surveys a sample of fire departments in the U.S. to make national projections of the fire problem. The sample is stratified by the size of the community protected by the fire department and includes all U.S. fire departments that protect communities with a population larger than 5,000.

The 8,846 fire departments in the eight highest strata protect a population of 283 million, or 87 percent of the U.S. population, as of July 2017. The rest of the sample includes 12,642 randomly selected departments that protect populations under 5,000 for a total sample size of 21,488 departments, or 72 percent of all U.S. fire departments known to NFPA.

The method used for the survey was ratio estimation with stratification by community size. For each firefighter injury statistic, a sample injury rate was computed for each stratum. This rate consisted of the total for that particular statistic from all departments reporting it, divided by the total population protected by the departments reporting the statistic. This means the departments used in calculating each statistic could be different, reflecting differences in unreported statistics. The national projections are made by weighting the sample results according to the proportion of total U.S. population accounted for by communities of each size. Around any estimate based on a sample survey, there is a confidence interval that measures the statistical certainty or uncertainty of the estimate. We are confident that the actual number of total firefighter injuries falls within 5 percent of the estimate.

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