Central Appalachian Regional Education and Resource Center (CARERC)

Current Projects

Kentucky Appalachian Firefighters' Exposure to and Perception of Risk

Both police and career (paid) firefighters are in the top fifteen U.S. occupations for risk of fatal occupational injury, and their traumatic fatality rates are approximately three to four times higher than the average for all occupations.

The injuries most frequently experienced by firefighters are traumatic injuries, cuts and bruises, burns, asphyxiation and other respiratory injuries, and heat stress. The primary causes of injury at the fire scene are physical stress and overexertion, falls, being struck or making contact with objects, and exposure to fire products. Physical stress, being lost or trapped in a fire situation, and vehicle crashes are the primary causes of death. Physical stress is responsible for nearly half of all on-duty deaths.

Approximately 88,000 U.S. firefighters are injured each year; about 2,000 of their injuries are potentially life-threatening. Most injuries to firefighters occur on scene, “on the fire ground,” during the fire attack, search and rescue. Additional injuries occur from activities such the use of fire apparatus or falls during salvage operations. In Kentucky all 54 counties in the CARERC region have primarily volunteer fire services with only 10 departments listed as paid professional services. The Kentucky Fire Commission reports a total of 8,845 volunteer firefighters serving in these counties.

Numerous articles have identified safety and health issues that firefighters encounter when responding to an incident, as reported to Worker Compensation providers (Rand, 2011). However, to date, there has not been a robust survey focused solely on volunteer firefighters and what they perceive or recognize as hazards to their safety and health. Additionally, there is scant reporting of “near miss” incidents or “close calls.” A survey recently developed and field tested by the co-investigator (Goetz, 2013) will be modified for use in this project. Descriptive statistics, analysis of variance, chi square and general linear regression will be used to explore the relationships among variables such as years of experience, training, and exposure(s) to hazard, with various perceptions of risk and exposure(s) to hazard. Results from this pilot study will be useful in identifying targeted training and communication needs for volunteer firefighters and their local leaders.

For more information contact:

Joan Mazur, Ph.D.

Bill Goetz, PhD