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Fire Prevention & Safety - Research & Development Grants - 2014 Grant Awards

This page contains a list of Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Research and Development (R&D) Grants awarded for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. The content is useful for those in the fire service seeking information about to how to improve the safety and health of firefighters.

EMW-2014-FP-00200

Cancer Prevention in the Fire Service: Exposure Assessment, Toxic Effects and Risk Management

Project Title:Cancer Prevention in the Fire Service: Exposure Assessment, Toxic Effects and Risk Management
Organization:Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona
Principle Investigator:Jefferey Burgess, MD, MPH
Grant Number:EMW-2014-FP-00200
Award Total:$1,500,000.00
Period of Performance:08/06/2015-08/05/2018
Grant Status:Active

Abstract

RELEVANCE
Cancer is a leading cause of fire service morbidity and mortality. Exposure to carcinogens occurs through skin contamination, through the lungs when respiratory protection is not worn during all phases of fire suppression and overhaul, and through inhalation during standby, operation of apparatus and off-gassing of equipment. In addition to fire smoke, diesel exhaust exposure can occur from operation of apparatus at the fire ground and in the station. Since cancer has a long latency period between exposure and disease onset, measurements are needed that can determine the effectiveness of new interventions on a much shorter time interval.

PURPOSE
The purpose of this research project is to identify effective methods of reducing firefighter exposure to carcinogens and associated toxic effects through completion of the following specific aims: 1) Evaluate exposure to carcinogens throughout the work shift; 2) Measure biomarkers of carcinogenic effect in relation to workplace exposures; and 3) Within a risk management framework, test the effectiveness of interventions to reduce fire service carcinogen exposure and effects.

METHODS
Exposure to particulates and volatile chemicals will be measured at the fireground and intransit. Diesel particulate matter monitoring during responses and in the fire station will also be completed. Blood and urine collected during annual medical surveillance evaluations and post-fireground activities will be analyzed for chemical contaminants. Biomarkers of carcinogenic effect will also be
analyzed pre- and post-exposure, and evaluated for association with measured chemical contaminants. The extent to which firefighter chemical exposures and biomarkers of effect can be reduced by following risk management steps will be determined.

ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES
The proposed research will identify carcinogenic exposures throughout the fire shift and measure the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce cancer risks.

EMW-2014-FP-00403

Validation of Cleaning Procedures for Firefighter Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Project Title:Validation of Cleaning Procedures for Firefighter Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Organization:Fire Protection Research Foundation
Principle Investigator:Casey Grant, MS, PE
Grant Number:EMW-2014-FP-00403
Award Total:$829,772.00
Period of Performance:07/23/2015-07/22/2018
Grant Status:Active

Abstract

RELEVANCE
Firefighter exposure to personal protective equipment (PPE) that is dirty, soiled, and contaminated is an increasing concern for long-term firefighter health. Firefighter exposure to persistent harmful contaminants in PPE is an increasingly serious problem both on the fireground to highly toxic substances including a variety of carcinogens, and more insidiously to an increasing range of infectious pathogens that are encountered in patient care and different emergency operations. Firefighter PPE becomes contaminated during these exposures and there are no industry standards that conclusively and reliably show that clothing is being adequately cleaned.

PURPOSE
This project is intended to establish clear and definitive guidance to the fire service for applying cleaning and decontamination procedures that effectively remove both chemical and biological contaminants. While general cleaning procedures have been established in NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, there are no requirements that demonstrate whether current cleaning practices will adequately remove contaminants from firefighter PPE. Gear cleaning recommendations from many manufacturers are vague and most cleaning product/process claims are unsubstantiated regarding contaminant removal effectiveness. Prior studies have identified persistent chemical and biological contaminants in structural fire fighting PPE. Therefore, industry methodologies and practices are needed that can promote safe cleaning techniques so that firefighters are not continually exposed to unclean or inadequately cleaned gear. Also, it is important to set cleanliness criteria for the continued use of firefighter protective clothing.

METHODS
This project encompasses an investigation of both chemical and biological contamination removal effectiveness. Because chemical and biological contaminations are fundamentally different, separate research tracks will be conducted to address each area. However, the same general methods will be used for both tracks. The key steps involve: (1) identifying target or surrogate contaminants, (2) devising methodology for simulating field contamination, (3) validating that methodology through field comparisons, (4) applying methods to evaluate cleaning, decontamination, or disinfection/sanitization effectiveness of different processes, and (5) ensuring procedures can be applied in field together with the establishment of acceptance levels for determining decontamination effectiveness and assessments that cleaning methods do not degrade the performance properties of protective clothing.

ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES
A key project deliverable will be a standalone industry Guidance Document on PPE Cleaning and Decontamination. The Guidance Document will be developed to offer maximum utility for firefighters, fire departments, independent service providers, and manufacturers in providing definitive instructions for how to properly clean and decontaminate firefighter protective clothing for structural fire fighting chemical contamination and blood/body fluid/biological contamination. The proposed cleaning verification procedures for demonstrating effective decontamination and ensuring clothing performance is minimally affected by cleaning will be a significant part of this document.

Working with the NFPA Technical Committee responsible for NFPA 1851, findings from this research will be used to substantiate specific recommended changes to the standard that will better define cleaning parameters, provide procedures for the verification that cleaning procedures effectively remove contaminants, and that demonstrate that selected cleaning techniques do not prematurely degrade PPE performance. This approach expands on existing verifications procedures built into NFPA 1851 that involved accredited verification organizations to oversee gear repairs but do not currently address the validation of cleaning effectiveness. The project team will submit and substantiate changes to the standard through public inputs and comments with supporting substantiation provided through the findings from this project.

EMW-2014-FP-00471

Study of the Fire Service Training Environment: Safety, Fidelity, and Exposure

Project Title:Study of the Fire Service Training Environment: Safety, Fidelity, and Exposure
Organization:Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
Principle Investigator:Stephen Kerber, MS, PE
Grant Number:EMW-2014-FP-00471
Award Total:$1,500,000.00
Period of Performance:08/06/2015-08/05/2018
Grant Status:Active

Abstract

RELEVANCE
The fire service is in the midst of revamping their tactics as they adapt to the changing structural fire environment. These tactical changes require an evaluation of the principles of fire service operations, specifically ventilation and suppression. Traditionally, these tactics are taught with both classroom and hands-on evolutions in fire department training buildings. The modern fire environment responds much differently to ventilation and fire control than once believed. Current firefighter training lacks the visual, hands-on piece that teaches recruits how tactics can affect the fire behavior in a structure. Many fire departments are working to develop modern training scenarios, however they lack the data to bridge the gap between current training facilities and the fire behavior in residential structures that has been identified though research conducted over the last 10 years.

PURPOSE
The purpose of this study is to improve fire service knowledge of fire dynamics and the impact of their tactics through a better understanding of how the safety, fidelity and exposure of the training ground relates to the fire ground. This project will expand on previous research studies (EMW-2008-FP-01774 - Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction, EMW-2010-FP-00661 - Effectiveness of Fire Service Vertical Ventilation and Suppression Tactics, EMW-2012-FP-00490 – Effectiveness of Positive Pressure Ventilation and 2012 FDNY, NIST, UL Partnership - Governors Island Experiments) that examined fire dynamics and fire service tactics and improve firefighter hands-on training. This research will assist in the creation of thinking firefighters with a good foundation of fire dynamics from the beginning of their fire service careers that will impact their safety and effectiveness for many years.

METHODS
This study will utilize test methods from small-scale material tests to full- scale residential structure tests. In order to get the best understanding of the material and combustion properties of the training and realistic fuels to be used in this study, small-scale tests will utilize the cone calorimeter, Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopic techniques, and gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy (GC/MS). These measurements will also be made throughout the study to understand the impact of ventilation and water application on smoke content and resulting exposure to firefighters. The fuel loads used in all of the experiments will be characterized for burning characteristics and heat release rate under a calorimetry hood in UL’s Large Fire Laboratory. Another series of experiments will take place under the calorimetry hood where training and realistic fuel loads will be placed in a fire service training prop with different wall lining materials that are commonly used by the fire service.

Additional experiments will be conducted in a ranch style test fixture that has been used for more than 50 horizontal, vertical, positive pressure and suppression experiments. Experiments in previous studies utilized “real” fuels. This series will utilize different training fuels with the same procedures used in the previous research experiments. This will show the difference between training fuels and “real” fuels providing context for firefighters and fire instructors. The same comparison will be made in a concrete fire training building. The same training fuels and “real” fuels will be used to quantify and qualify the differences in fire dynamics with the different structure and different fuels. Finally a series of experiments will examine different innovative training props and fuel loads that are being used in locations across the country. These props will be characterized and evaluated for safety, fidelity and exposure utilizing the experimental methods and measurements used in all of the previous experiments to make the connections where applicable.

ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES
It is anticipated that the data and visuals collected from these experiments will provide firefighters and fire instructors with the material and knowledge needed to bridge the gap between fire dynamics in the training environment and fire dynamics at actual emergencies. This improved context will enhance the limited hands-on training opportunities that firefighters receive. This should lead to better decision making on the fire ground and more effective and efficient firefighting.

EMW-2014-FP-00612

Feeding America's Bravest: Mediterranean Diet-based Interventions to Change Firefighters' Eating Habits and Improve Cardiovascular Risk Profiles

Project Title:Feeding America's Bravest: Mediterranean Diet-based Interventions to Change Firefighters' Eating Habits and Improve Cardiovascular Risk Profiles
Organization:President and Fellows of Harvard College
Principle Investigator:Stefanos Kales, MD, MPH
Grant Number:EMW-2014-FP-00612
Award Total:$1,500,000.00
Period of Performance:08/06/2015-08/05/2018
Grant Status:Active

Abstract

RELEVANCE
Nutrition and medical experts agree that following a Mediterranean-style diet can improve firefighter health. However, despite the demonstrated benefits there has been very limited effectiveness in changing firefighter eating and other lifestyle behaviors. Adopting the healthy eating principals behind the Mediterranean diet by firefighters and their families would lower firefighters’ risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer that are major concerns in the fire service.

PURPOSE
The ultimate purpose of the study is to lower firefighters’ risks for CVD and cancer by successfully getting more firefighters and their families to adopt and incorporate the healthy eating principles behind the Mediterranean diet.

METHODS
The Mediterranean Diet Nutritional Intervention (MDNI) overall development strategy will be to promote greater understanding, acceptance and adherence to Mediterranean diet principles through multi-pronged MDNIs combining evidence-based behavior change strategies. Strategies have been critically reviewed by the American Heart Association (AHA) for evidence of effectiveness and found to meet the highest standards. Our research indicates that volunteer firefighters take an average of three meals per week with their department (NVFC survey). Additionally, career firefighters usually consume six meals per week at the firehouse, and the nutritional quality of the workplace meals is significantly lower than home meals. Therefore, one target of our MDNIs will be directed at the level of the firehouse. Our preliminary work also indicates that firefighters eat more meals at home than any other location, and that over 80% opine that their spouse’s/significant other’s opinion/support are important for healthy eating. Therefore, the other major target of our MDNIs will be directed at the level of the family and spouse/significant other.

The MDNIs will also incorporate diet, fitness and lifestyle (sleep, stress, etc) education; individually accessed electronic education platforms and electronic reminders; and group and individual incentives/goals. Importantly, the MDNI’s components will be adjusted and fine-tuned via surveys, literature review and national and local firefighter input including labor/management feedback and fire service focus groups in the development stage. The latter point recognizes the unique fire service culture and its traditions around food; and embraces the principles of community-based participatory research. This means research participants and national fire service organizations will provide valuable collaborative input assisting the investigators to surmount obstacles and barriers to MDNI acceptance in the target groups. In collaboration with the firefighters, we endeavor to create a self-sustaining, positive culture of healthy eating and physical activity. Using firefighters’ input, we will combine and others on fire service eating habits to develop strategies targeted at improving specific areas of Mediterranean diet adherence.

ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES
Successful Mediterranean diet interventions disseminated and implemented nationally in the fire service will reduce CVD morbidity and mortality; obesity-related costs on injuries, workers compensation and disability; and costs related to other chronic health conditions; as well as decrease cancer risks.

EMW-2014-FP-00688

Development of Real-time Particulate and Toxic-gas Sensors for Firefighter Health and Safety

Project Title:Development of Real-time Particulate and Toxic-gas Sensors for Firefighter Health and Safety
Organization:Case Western Reserve University
Principle Investigator:Fumiaki Takahashi, PhD
Grant Number:EMW-2014-FP-00688
Award Total:$1,500,000.00
Period of Performance:08/06/2015-08/05/2018
Grant Status:Active

Abstract

RELEVANCE
Post-fire (overhaul) phase is the firefighting stage in which fire suppression is complete and firefighters are searching the structure for hidden fire or hot embers. During the overhaul phase of a structure fire, when there is little or no smoke in the environment, firefighters is most likely to remove their respiratory facepiece and work in this environment without respiratory protection. Removal of respiratory protection could expose firefighters and investigators to a variety of toxic gases, vapors, and airborne particulates. Findings from previous AFG funded research performed by Underwriters Laboratories (EMW-2007-FP-02097), indicated that smoke particles collected during overhaul were too small to be visible by naked eye, suggesting that “clean” air was not really that clean.

Through a one-year preliminary study (EMW-2012-FP-01284), we obtained a sufficient amount of evidence to justify implementation of combined particulate and toxic-gas sensors for structural and wildland firefighter health and safety.

PURPOSE
Removal of respiratory protection during fire overhaul activities can expose firefighters to unknown toxicants, but current practice relies solely on the CO concentration. Wildland firefighters do not even wear respiratory protection despite low-level but long-term exposure to smoke. Through a preliminary study, we obtained evidence to justify the needs for simultaneous monitoring of particulates (including ultrafines), aldehydes (formaldehyde, acrolein), and hydrocarbons (benzene) as they include carcinogens and frequently exceed recommended exposure limits during fire overhaul and wildland firefighting. The purpose of this project is to develop prototypes of compact, highly sensitive, real-time particulate/gas detection systems capable of alerting firefighters to hazardous conditions to reduce the number of firefighter fatalities and injuries.

METHODS
This study endeavors to develop and test prototype sensing packages by: (1) combining the NASA-developed compact particulate and gas (O2, CO, and hydrocarbons) sensors, (2) micro-fabricating and integrating new sensitive aldehyde sensors, and (3) evaluating prototypes in the laboratories, burn rooms, fire overhaul, and wildland fire environments in cooperation with the fire services.

ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES
The performance and accuracy of the prototypes will be demonstrated in the various testing environments. Compact real-time particulate and toxic-gas detectors to be derived from the prototypes maybe commercialized and nationally adopted by fire services eventually through NFPA standards and/or US Forest Service specifications.

EMW-2014-FP-00945

Evaluation of the NFFF's Behavioral Health Stress First Aid Intervention

Project Title:Evaluation of the NFFF's Behavioral Health Stress First Aid Intervention
Organization:National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.
Principle Investigator:Sara Jahnke, PhD
Grant Number:EMW-2014-FP-00945
Award Total:$1,497,200.00
Period of Performance:08/06/2015-08/05/2018
Grant Status:Active

Abstract

RELEVANCE
The NFFF’s Consenus Protocol on Firefighter Behavioral Health Stress First Aid Intervention (SFAI) was the result of one of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives developed in consultation with the leading fire service organizations in the United States and experts from the traumatic stress research community. Failing to effectively address grief and trauma incidents or symptoms can have devastating effects for firefighters, fire departments, and families. The SFAI was developed to be the national model of trauma intervention to ensure that evidence-based cost-effective care is available to all firefighters.

PURPOSE
Behavioral health interventions implemented to mitigate negative outcomes linked to trauma in the fire service have had limited or iatrogenic effects on firefighters. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and the national fire service community have invested considerable resources developing a new behavioral health model to address exposure to traumatic events. The proposed randomized controlled trial will be the first to determine the efficacy of the SFAI, as well as evaluating its implementation and acceptability.

METHODS
Using a cluster randomized clinical trial design (CRCT), experienced scientists and fire service personnel will evaluate the implementation, acceptability, and initial efficacy of the SFAI compared with usual care (i.e., delayed intervention) with 10 fire departments (8 Career, 2 Volunteer) located across the country. Study outcomes include measures assessing implementation of SFAI components, acceptability among firefighters and department leadership, changes in knowledge about and self-efficacy for managing trauma, changes in department morale, and individual firefighter behavioral health outcomes such as symptoms of PTSD and personal growth through coping with traumatic events.

ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES
Findings will provide the empirical basis for the newly developed SFAI.

Last Updated: 
12/08/2017 - 16:21