Tracking firefighters’ exposure to smoke and cancer-causing materials is important when it comes to assessing liability claims, workers compensation, and coverage for occupational health claims. In a broader sense, tracking exposure to carcinogens provides important data for research to evaluate exactly how these materials affect the health and safety of firefighters.

Tracking and documenting exposure data for firefighters is easier than ever using the National Fire Operations Reporting System (NFORS) Exposure Tracker App, developed by the International Public Safety Data Institute (IPSDI) as part of the NFORS Analytics Data System.

The NFORS Mobile App, available in app stores, works on the iOS and Android platforms. The app helps firefighters, paramedics and officers create a personal and secure Career Diary, capable of logging both physical and mental exposures along with the incident details, in a private, encrypted, and secure online environment.

The app enables firefighters to track their health exposure, on the go, prompted by questions that include the nature of an incident, the presence of smoke, fire and flames, soot, and other information, including the extent of on-scene decontamination and gear cleaning.

simplifying documentation of exposure at fire scenes

The app helps firefighters, paramedics and officers create a personal and secure Career Diary, capable of logging both physical and mental exposures

It simplifies documentation of exposure at fire scenes after an incident response, and then maintains the information if verification for occupational cancer claims is needed later. Data is shared in the app indefinitely, and exposures are documented throughout a firefighting career. Every firefighter can even take his or her personal exposure database into retirement so that data are available if needed to document a cancer claim after they leave the job.

The app was developed through a collaboration of the International Associations of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Urban Institute, and other fire service experts. The NFORS Exposure Tracker was funded by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program and the Ramsey Social Justice Foundation.

The Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool (AMRRP) is providing the app to its members as a way to remove documentation hurdles fire service members face when seeking health coverage for occupational health claims. “With the app, member firefighters will be able to better assemble their exposure data for evaluation during any claim evaluation process,” says AMRRP President Rudy Rodriguez.

The challenges of firefighter occupational cancer claims

With the app, member firefighters will be able to better assemble their exposure data for evaluation during any claim evaluation process

For municipal risk pools, there are two challenges when it comes to firefighter occupational cancer claims. One is the undue burden of out-of-pocket costs for the firefighter when a claim is denied; and another is firefighter documentation of exposures to support the claim.

AMRRP is providing member firefighters access to the firefighter Exposure Tracking App for their phones. After AMRRP is notified of a claim, the primary focus of the claim evaluation process will be reviewing records.

Each first responder submits his or her data, including medical information, any previously maintained documentation about the types of incidents in which the first responder had been involved, and the exposure data compiled and stored on the NFORS Firefighter Exposure Tracking App.

The importance of preparedness

“The hope is that this data is never used, but if the need arises, each firefighter will be better prepared,” says Brian Jefferies, President of Arizona Professional Firefighters and a cancer survivor.

The International Public Safety Data Institute (IPSDI) procures, assembles, analyzes and reports information from fire, rescue and law enforcement data. IPSDI provides live dashboards for local public safety agencies to ensure usable information about their operations.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor,, Notting Hill Media

In case you missed it

Impact Of COVID-19 Pandemic On Fire Service Extending Into 2021 And Beyond
Impact Of COVID-19 Pandemic On Fire Service Extending Into 2021 And Beyond

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the fire service will continue at least through 2021 and possibly for years to come. Specifically, several aspects of the pandemic have impacted the fire service long-term and have possibly changed it forever.  More awareness of Health Issues For one thing, the pandemic has heightened awareness about issues of health and wellness of firefighters. In this regard, COVID-19 has been just the latest in the series of health and wellness issues surrounding the fire service. However, a global pandemic is difficult to ignore or neglect, unlike some other perpetual health concerns, such as physical exhaustion, cancer risks and mental and emotional burnout. Ideally, the urgency of addressing the health concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus will translate into better management of longer-term concerns about the more enduring and ultimately, less retractable health concerns. In the end, concerns about health should be broad-based and intrinsic. Heightened awareness of the broad spectrum of health issues should be ingrained in the fire serve to engender more action, which is much needed and a long overdue. Greater focus on Personal Protective Equipment Another positive of the COVID-19 pandemic is a greater focus on personal protective equipment (PPE) Another positive of the COVID-19 pandemic is a greater focus on personal protective equipment (PPE). Might emphasis on the use of masks during the pandemic translate into broader and long term awareness of the important role of PPE and more consistent usage to protect fire personnel? Concerns about PPE supply during the pandemic also point to a need to manage usage levels of the equipment to ensure changes in the market do not leave a department’s personnel unprotected. Financial and budget challenges for fire departments The COVID-19 pandemic has also emphasized the fragile nature of fire department budgeting at all levels. Departments across the board were negatively impacted as tax revenues and fundraising funds decreased. And it’s not over yet. Financial struggles will continue through the final phases of the pandemic. Addressing the budgetary impact will extend into future budget cycles and fire departments will continue to feel the impact. More than ever, departments will need to look for additional funding sources, such as government and foundation grants.  Imminent manpower crisis and concerns The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rates of retirement among firefighters, not to mention the likelihood of lower head counts because of budgetary cutbacks. The stresses of dealing with COVID-19 could discourage possible recruits from joining the fire service. The bottom line is an imminent manpower crisis for the fire service; or, I should say, a hastening of a manpower crisis that already exists. Furthermore, volunteer departments are finding it harder than ever to attract personnel and recruiting paid firemen has its own set of challenges. A legacy of the pandemic might be even more difficulty recruiting manpower for fire service.    Training fire service personnel As the public health and safety environment has evolved, so too has the role of the fire service The COVID-19 pandemic stretched the resources of many fire departments as they sought to help out in myriad ways during public health emergencies. For example, more departments were called on to fill in the gaps in emergency management, community safety, etc. As the public health and safety environment has evolved, so too has the role of the fire service. To the extent that those changes persist into a ‘new normal’, fire departments will be struggling to fulfill their expanded roles. Departments will need to invest their scarce resources in training fire service personnel to respond to community needs in new and different ways. Fire services need to do more with less Taken together, these factors point to a need for fire departments to do more with less and fire departments need to up their game when it comes to addressing health concerns, managing PPE supplies, recruiting new personnel, and expanding services to meet the changing needs in the community. However, less funding and fewer other resources reflect an operational environment that may be changed forever. In general, the fire service rose to the occasion during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The aftermath will also require fire service volunteers and professionals to work even harder than they already have to deliver on a challenging and expanding mission.

Waste Fire Safety - The Role Of The Insurer
Waste Fire Safety - The Role Of The Insurer

Businesses operating within the waste industry are susceptible to a wide range of fire risks. Storage of combustible materials, the ongoing use of industrial vehicles and waste’s natural ability to rise in temperature all add to these risks. The sector’s safety has improved over recent years, with the Environment Agency (EA) making Fire Prevention Plans (FPPs) mandatory for every waste and recycling site. However, there’s still a way to go to ensure maximum safety - and insurers have a crucial role to play. James Mountain, Sales and Marketing Director, Fire Shield Systems Ltd, speaks to an anonymous insurance advisor, operating within the waste and recycling and waste to energy sectors, to explore the next steps the waste industry needs to take to create a safer environment for all. effective fire prevention What are the common fire safety issues you see in the waste industry? While the EA has made FPPs mandatory for all sites, these tend to state the need to install ‘a suppression solution’ For waste and recycling and waste to energy sites in particular, we tend to see a general lack of effective fire prevention and suppression systems. While the EA has made FPPs mandatory for all sites, these tend to state the need to install ‘a suppression solution’. It often won’t stipulate any required standards, particular specifications for compliance, and it also doesn’t always consider the conditions in which the system will be used and should operate effectively. The difficulty is decisions are primarily driven by costs. This can lead to sites unknowingly cutting corners by selecting substandard systems that don’t address their individual risks. For example, a business may select a sprinkler system as a cheaper alternative to an automatic suppression system, however, should a fire break out, that system may be designed to protect the warehouse shell, rather than the teams and valuable equipment inside it. fire safety systems How do insurers usually recommend fire safety systems? In many cases, insured systems will arise from a manufacturer’s deal. For example, a forklift may be pre-fitted with a vehicle fire suppression system, which was installed as part of a bulk deal with the manufacturer. However, that template system may not be fit for purpose in every operating environment, such as those which require the vehicle to operate continuously, with little downtime, to fulfil busy work schedules. If a site demonstrates that it has fire protection measures implemented, some insurers will accept the policy, without verifying how effective those measures are in practice. This can lead businesses to trust a system that isn’t the most suitable for their individual risks. Also, insurance underwriting templates will often only stipulate the need for ‘an approved system’, giving little incentive for businesses to go beyond the minimum approval requirements. That’s where insurers can play a crucial part in driving up standards. individual risk assessment What more could be done? Some certification standards can be used to guide insurer decisions and safeguard sites more effectively Although not compulsory, some certification standards can be used to guide insurer decisions and safeguard sites more effectively. Two key examples of these standards being the FM Approval and SPCR (P-Mark). If a system carries the FM approval mark, subject to an individual risk assessment, businesses and insurers can trust its ability to effectively safeguard a site. Whereas the SPCR (P-Mark) standard acts as an industry benchmark for the fire suppression systems for heavy vehicles and machinery. Both of these standards evaluate the effectiveness of a system, applying a range of tests to ensure they are fit for purpose in practice. The onus for driving safety standards forward is with the insurer. It’s about recommending the right systems for the right sites and environments - education is a crucial part of that. Insurers need to confidently carry out checks to ensure measures and systems are robust enough to adequately protect the site.  It’s a win-win scenario. factors influencing risk The standards promote greater transparency on the suitability of systems, preventing businesses from unknowingly selecting a substandard solution and delivering confidence in the safety of the site for teams and assets. For insurers, a safer site means decreased fire risk, meaning pay out costs are also likely to decrease. How has the safety of the industry changed over recent years? Typically, waste and recycling and waste to energy have always been ‘rogue’ operating areas, but safety standards have moved on in recent years, and the EA continues to become more stringent in its fire safety guidance. There are a number of different factors influencing risk across the sectors, making addressing the issue all the more urgent. fire suppression systems By adopting safety standards, the insurance industry can move to reduce inadequate fire prevention systems These include Brexit and the resulting implications of the Basel Convention regulations and China’s ban on solid waste imports, both of which are causing new export restrictions to be placed upon areas which were previously highly relied upon for waste disposal. This is causing a number of waste transportation delays and higher storage levels for waste sites, leading sites to operate closer to storage capacity. In turn, this increases dependence on fire prevention and suppression systems to ensure safe sites. unique operating environments What are the next steps throughout 2021 and beyond? The whole insurance market needs to work together. It’s a collective approach. The EA will continue to push for greater mitigation measures on site. However, by adopting effective safety standards, such as FM approval and SPCR (P Mark), the insurance industry can move to reduce the presence of inadequate fire prevention and suppression systems. Fire safety is all about selecting and insuring the right systems. Insurers need to account for the unique operating environments of sites within the waste and recycling and waste to energy sectors - that is the crucial next step.

Pocketalk Provides Instant Translations In 82 Languages For First Responders
Pocketalk Provides Instant Translations In 82 Languages For First Responders

Translation in an emergency setting is a challenge that first responders face on a daily basis. For example, London Luton Airport’s Fire Service would previously have to find a member of staff or a passenger that could help them translate, which is not always possible. As a last resort, the service would carry around a large flipbook containing numerous medical questions in a multitude of languages, but this did not solve the problem of understanding any responses. AI-Powered Language Translation Device Now they have a more instant device to provide a faster and easier way to communicate. It’s called Pocketalk, an AI-powered language translation device designed for instant and accurate two-way conversations at the touch of the button, even in noisy environments. Pocketalk supports 82 languages, addressing 90% of the world’s population. It has been used as an emergency communications tool to break down barriers between first responders like fire service staff and healthcare practitioners and their service users/patients. Quick, Easy, Calm Firefighters can use Pocketalk to communicate quickly, easily, and calmly with people at the scene of an emergency. It helps them to overcome language barriers and achieve a range of goals – from assessing injuries of people who don’t speak English as a first language to asking them for more information about an emergency situation. Organizations face a growing challenge to meet changing communication needs. For example, among the United Kingdom’s increasingly diverse population, around one in ten people do not speak English as their first language. In areas like London, this figure is around one in five people. Emergency Services Donations Healthcare providers including five UK ambulance services received donations and are using Pocketalk Following an announcement earlier in 2020 that 500 Pocketalk W devices were being donated to emergency services providers in Europe to help them deal with COVID-19, London Luton Airport’s Fire Service was one of the organizations to apply for units. Healthcare providers including five UK ambulance services - North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Avon Valley Community Responders, St Johns Ambulance (Norwich), St Johns Ambulance (Greater Manchester), and Special Ambulance Transfers – also received donations and are using Pocketalk. The parent company, Sourcenext, has an interest in language learning, which is where Pocketalk came from. The product vision was simple –to make it easy for people who speak different languages to understand each other. Pocketalk is now helping to break down language barriers all over the world. Awareness & Usefulness The best way to increase awareness of Pocketalk and its usefulness in an emergency situation is to get the devices in the hands of service users, the company says. “During the start of the COVID pandemic, we wanted to help people by donating devices to emergency services teams,” says Tomoaki Kojim, Senior Managing Director of Sourcenext Corp. “This, in turn, has helped these teams to understand exactly how it can be of benefit in an emergency —namely, by providing quick and accurate language translations, without the need for an interpreter (in person or on the phone).” Two-Way Communication Pocketalk helped to open up two-way communication quickly and save time for medical emergencies  For the London Luton Airport Fire Service, Pocketalk devices have helped to open up that two-way communication quickly. In medical emergencies, time can be crucial – Pocketalk not only helps them to save time but also to get a detailed account from the patient or any witnesses to an incident. It has also helped with general communication from the passengers, some of whom are distressed when trying to find the correct gate or which bus to catch as they leave the airport. No Language Barrier London Luton Airport Fire Service has not had to change any of its procedures after implementing Pocketalk, but they have been very happy to retire their translation book. It also reassures them that language is not the barrier it used to be when dealing with people during their working day. For them, implementing Pocketalk devices has been easy, and all operational members of staff at the fire station have had a short training session on how to operate the Pocketalk devices. The fire service has also loaned its spare device to passenger services assistants at the airport to help them with any potential communication issues. One challenge to implementing the device could be getting staff to learn how to use it and practice with it in training situations, so they can really rely on it in an emergency. That said, “Pocketalk is easy to use and does not take long to master,” says Kojim.