Firefighter physical exams can save lives

Physical exam firefighter save life
Screen grab from the video.

As we reported earlier today, the Bureau of Land Management is beginning to provide medical exams for federal Emergency Firefighters (EFFs) in Alaska. The goal is to increase safety by identifying pre-existing conditions that could be aggravated by the arduous duty of wildland firefighting.

These two videos, each about two minutes long, tell the stories of firefighters who discovered during the physicals that they had life-threatening medical conditions. They were then able to take actions which probably saved their lives.

Alaska emergency firefighters to undergo medical exams starting in November

Alaska EFF firefighters
The Kobuk River #2 Type 2 EFF Crew working on a fire in the Lower 48 in 2018. AFS photo.

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service in partnership with the Department of Interior Medical Standards Program (DOI MSP) will soon provide medical exams to federal Emergency Firefighters (EFF). The goal of the exams is to increase safety by identifying pre-existing conditions that could be aggravated by the arduous duty of wildland firefighting.

The medical exams will be provided in approximately 28 Alaska villages through mobile medical units and by scheduled appointments at 18 facilities throughout the state.

Starting in November EFFs in Alaska who are hired on an as-needed basis will need medical exams once every three years and self-certify in between years. The medical screening established by the DOI MSP will screen EFFs for any disqualifying medical conditions prior to participating in the Work Capacity Test (WCT), otherwise known as the pack test. Only wildland firefighters performing arduous duties are required to undergo medical exams and pass the WCT.

Schedules for the exams will be posted on the BLM AFS EFF webpage .

For the past two years, Alaska EFFs were granted exemptions to these medical screening requirements. The first phase of implementation of the medical exams began in 2015 and only included regularly employed Department of the Interior wildland firefighters. Applying the requirements to Alaska EFFs was originally planned to begin in 2017, but implementation was delayed until measures were in place to provide mobile units in rural Alaska to conduct the medical examinations. The exams do not include drug testing or affect State of Alaska EFFs.

There is no cost to the EFF for the examination, however, if the individual chooses a location other than their local village BLM AFS will not cover the associated travel costs. After the exam is completed, a determination will be made regarding the candidate’s eligibility to participate in the pack test and the arduous duty of wildland firefighting.

The BLM AFS provides wildland fire management for the Department of the Interior and Native Corporation lands in Alaska and provides oversight of the BLM Alaska aviation program. Firefighter safety and the safety of the public are core values and are fundamental in all areas of wildland fire management.

For more information, EFF candidates can email or call EFF Program at 1-833-532-8810 or (907)356-5897.


Drill baby drill — training for an incident within an incident

The Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team #2 posted this video about training, or conducting a drill, for a medical emergency at an Incident Command Post — an “incident within an incident”.

Medical issues dominate the reports received by the LLC

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center distilled this information from the 24-hour reports, 72-hour reports, and facilitated learning analysis documents they have received so far this year, about halfway through the 2013 wildfire season. The word “incidents” refers to the above reports which have been forwarded to the Center.

Incidents, medical

Creation of arduous duty EMT Fireline positions

EMTThe National Wildfire Coordination Group’s Risk Management Committee has distributed a memo announcing that new positions have been created — Line Emergency Medical Technicians with the requirement of passing the Pack Test at the arduous level. The three positions are, EMT Fireline, Advanced EMT Fireline, and Paramedic Fireline.

Below are the first two pages of the memo. Details about the qualifications can be found at the NIFC site.


“Safety Advisory

Date: May 28, 2013

Subject: Creation of Arduous Duty Line Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Positions

Issue: The Risk Management Committee has agreed that the creation of these new positions is in the best interest of the wildland fire community. Federal members have worked with agency Training and Qualifications staff to incorporate them into the Incident Qualification and Certification System (IQCS) as Technical Specialists.

Consideration was given to the need for these positions to maintain an Arduous Fitness level:

1. Line going emergency care providers will carry all the prescribed medical equipment and their line gear to sustain them through a work shift requiring above average endurance and superior conditioning.

2. The very purpose of providing emergency medical care to an employee in the fire environment means they may be called upon to respond on foot at a rapid pace in adverse environmental conditions. The pace of this work is set by the emergency.

3. Once on scene, the EMS resource will provide for patient care. The physical action of transporting the patient will typically be carried out by fireline resources on scene; however the physical demands of maintaining patient care may last for an extended period of time in adverse environmental conditions while carrying fireline gear.

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