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State Fire Commissioner Highlights Fire Fighters’ Cancer Risk with Live Roundtable Discussion During Safety Stand Down Week

06/21/2021

Harrisburg, PA – State Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego is focusing the attention of the firefighting community on critical safety and health issues facing emergency service personnel with a live roundtable discussion as part of this year’s “Safety Stand Down Week.”

To highlight SSDW, Commissioner Trego will participate in a roundtable discussion with several other members of the first responder community, covering a wide variety of relevant topics.

The roundtable will be broadcast live, online via the OSFC Facebook page on Thursday, June 24 at 1:00 PM.

Running from June 20-26, this year’s theme for SSDW is “Rebuild Rehab.” This theme focuses on the critical importance of physical and psychological rehab to mitigate the physiological and mental impacts of firefighting.

“Now more than ever it is important for first responders to take their health seriously,” Trego said. “Frontline workers interact with the public on a daily basis and regrettably see things that very few others have to see. Exposure risks associated with COVID-19 and the daily stress that affects first responders’ mental wellbeing are capable of rendering our downtime just as dangerous as the worst of fires.”

The goal is to make sure everyone is ready to respond to the next emergency. The expectation is that departments will re-visit rehab procedures to ensure that post-incident protocol covers all areas of health and safety, including cardiac, nutrition, exposure, psychological, hydration, and heat stress.

Fire fighters have high risks of respiratory, digestive, and urinary cancers compared to the general population. As an example, the risk of developing mesothelioma is roughly twice that of the general population. According to data from the International Association of Fire Fighters, cancer has caused 61% of career fire fighter line of duty deaths since 2002.

Trego shared a few best practices that he frequently discusses with fire fighters to limit their exposure to cancer-causing materials:

  • Participate in rehabilitation activities when assigned.
  • Maintain hydration.
  • Advise company officers when level of fatigue or exposure to heat or cold is approaching a level that could negatively affect you, your crew, or the operation.
  • Remain aware of the health and safety of other members of their crew at all times.
  • Discuss the importance of dealing with mental well-being and stress.

Departments are asked to suspend all non-emergency activities during the week to focus their attention on safety and health education efforts.

For additional information about Safety Stand Down Week, visit www.safetystanddown.org.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  L. Paul Vezzetti: 717-651-2169; lvezzetti@pa.gov

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