Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on May 1, 2018.



Toronto fire safety educator recognized by NFPA

Denise Hynes of the Toronto Fire Services has been named NFPA’s 2018 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year. She will be honored at the NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas in June.

Hynes has used NFPA programs and materials to educate the public since 2002. Her work has broken down language and cultural barriers to teach fire safety to the diverse population of North America’s fourth-largest city. One project she coordinated, for example, used NFPA handouts translated into Arabic to teach Syrian immigrants who had recently arrived in Canada about fire safety. Immigrant populations are often at a higher risk for fires than the general public.

Each year, NFPA awards the Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year to an educator who works for a local fire department or fire marshal’s office in the United States or Canada who has demonstrated an exceptional ability to use NFPA programs and materials consistently and creatively.

Study challenges notion of sauna use, sweating for firefighter detox

Faced with the stark reality of an increased risk of developing cancer, some firefighters have turned to saunas in an attempt to “sweat out” the carcinogenic toxins they’re exposed on the job. Sauna makers have marketed their products as ways to detox, and some fire departments have even made them available to firefighters.

But scientists have been wary of the claim that sweating out toxins is legitimate, and a new study backs their suspicion. A study published in February in the journal Environment International found that even when people do excrete environmental pollutants through their pores, the amount they sweat out is extremely small. According to National Geographic, researchers found that, at most, two liters of a person’s sweat would contain less than one-tenth of a nanogram of pollutants. For context, a single grain of rice weighs roughly 29 million nanograms.

“It makes you wonder why fire chiefs are taking the claims at face value and aren’t even questioning whether there is science behind the idea of cancer-fighting saunas,” Dave Statter, a former firefighter and journalist, wrote in an article about the study. “On the other hand, the cancer scourge is so prevalent in the fire service, it’s not hard to understand why we want to believe these claims without scientific backup.”

Two members added to NFPA Standards Council

The NFPA Board of Directors has appointed two new members to the NFPA Standards Council. Both come from the private sector and will serve three-year terms.

Jack Poole, a fire protection engineer and principal of Poole Fire Protection, Inc. in Kansas, specializes in building and fire code consulting as well as designing fire suppression, alarm, and detection systems. He previously served as a volunteer firefighter and fire marshal, and currently serves on several public safety boards and committees, including NFPA technical committees.

Rodger Reiswig, global director of industry relations at Johnson Controls in Wisconsin, has over 30 years of experience in fire protection and serves on several public safety boards and committees, including NFPA technical committees. He holds a U.S. patent for a technology he developed for use in emergency communication systems.

The Standards Council is a 13-member board charged with overseeing the NFPA codes and standards development process.

Suicide deaths outpace line-of-duty deaths for first responders

A white paper published in April found that more first responders died by suicide last year than were killed in the line of duty.

The paper, titled the “Ruderman White Paper on Mental Health and Suicide of First Responders,” commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation, found that 103 firefighters and EMTs and 140 law enforcement officers died by suicide in 2017. By comparison, the paper reported that 129 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty. The upcoming firefighter fatality report produced annually by NFPA (which will appear in the July/August issue of NFPA Journal) will report fewer than 70 on-duty firefighter fatalities in 2017.

The paper identified several barriers that prevent first responders from accessing needed behavioral health care, including the stigma surrounding conditions like depression. “We need to end the silence that surrounds the issue of first responder mental health,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation. “Departments should encourage or require first responders to access mental health services annually. This will enable our heroes to identify issues early and get the help that they need. It will save lives.”

NFPA’s Fourth Needs Assessment Survey of the U.S. Fire Service identified behavioral health care as an area where fire departments need to improve. The survey found that only one out of five departments in the country have a behavioral health program.

For more on the Ruderman White Paper, visit the Ruderman Family Foundation website.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: Thinkstock