Career firefighters include full-time (career) uniformed firefighters regardless of assignments, e.g., suppression, prevention/inspection, administrative. Career firefighters included here work for a public municipal fire department; they do not include career firefighters who work for state or federal government or in private fire brigades.
Volunteer firefighters include any active part-time (call or volunteer) firefighters. Active volunteers are defined as being involved in firefighting.
Estimated number of firefighters in 2006: 1,140,900 (career: 316,950, volunteer: 823,950)
Firefighters by age group: 16-19 (3.9%), 20-29 (21.1%), 30-39 (28.7%), 40-49 (26.4%), 50-59 (14.9%) 60 and over (5.0%)
Seventy-four percent of career firefighters are in communities that protect a population of 25,000 or more.
Ninety-five percent of the volunteers are in departments that protect a population of less than 25,000 and more than 50% are located in small, rural departments that protect a population of less than 2,500.
Source: National Fire Protection Association, U.S. Fire Department Profile Through 2006
The Economic Consequences of Firefighter Injuries and Their Prevention Report
Every occupation brings degrees of safety risk, and one of the higher risk jobs is
firefighting. At the scene or on the way to a fire, a multiple vehicle crash, an explosion, or even
while training, firefighters face a relatively high chance of being injured, possibly killed. The
National Institute of Science and Technology historically has been concerned with the risks to
firefighters, and has devoted research to finding ways that reduce the incidence and severity of
work-related firefighter injuries. In this latest research effort, NIST seeks to quantify the
economic impact that injuries have to firefighters, their departments, the insurance industry, and
TriData Corporation of Arlington, Virginia, a public safety consulting company,
conducted the cost-of-injury research and wrote this report. The research team culled information
from a broad search of literature and examined various methodological approaches for insight
into models that could be used to calculate the many components that comprise financial losses
from injury. Though several previous studies successfully investigated certain aspects of what
fires cost, each had limitations, and many dealt broadly with the cost of fire, not the costs of
firefighter injuries. Studies of injury-related data, on the other hand, were helpful but did not
usually address occupational injuries. When they did, costs were not necessarily a key factor of
the research. The study team derived estimates, therefore, using elements of other methods and
calculating costs from original research as well.
Based on methods applied from two of the more relevant economic studies, the estimated
cost of addressing firefighter injuries and of efforts to prevent them is $2.8 to $7.8 billion per
year. The cost elements that comprised those two studies were based on workers compensation
payments and other insured medical expenses, including long-term care; lost productivity;
administrative costs of insurance; and others.
Other costs heretofore have not been factored into assessments of firefighter injuries. The
study team analyzed such elements as the labor costs of investigating injuries, along with the
hours required for data collection, report writing, and filing. Another cost relates to what
employers of firefighters pay to provide insurance coverage, and for safety training, physical
fitness programs, and protective gear and equipment—all of these expenses are related to
preventing injuries and reducing their severity. The study researchers were fortunate to obtain
workers compensation information that was specific to the occupational codes for firefighters, a
unique feature of this new research. Some of these expenses were applied to the total number of
injuries, while others were factored around the total number of firefighters since they involve all
firefighters, not just those who are injured. Estimates of these cost components alone accounted
for $830 to $980 million in direct and indirect costs.
There is much to be done in the future if the impact of injuries to firefighters is to be
reduced. To cause a drop in fireground-related injuries, preventing fires from occurring in the
first place is, and always has been, the best means. In particular, controlling criminal, incendiary
fires is a goal worth pursuing, since fires that are intentionally set are often more fully developed
when firefighters arrive on the scene. Incendiary fires can have multiple points of origin and be
fueled by accelerants so they burn faster and hotter. These are very dangerous fires. Reducing
injuries that occur during training can be accomplished by better supervision, strict adherence to
training guidelines and regulations, and proper preparation. Firefighters who are healthy and fit
can better handle the physical requirements of the job and return to work faster if they are
injured. Basic and recruit training must emphasize safety over exaggerated heroics, and drill on
More fire departments need to take physical fitness seriously and adopt a formal program that monitors progress against goals and goals met against number and severity of injuries. There should be no compromises on using protective equipment, including SCBA.
Studies in the future need to support the information requirements of new safety and loss
control initiatives Especially needed are better data and research on the severity of injuries to
firefighters and the associated costs by level of severity. Few fire departments keep the types of
records needed to establish an injury profile much less a program that uses that data to measure
performance in meeting workplace safety goals. We need to better understand the time it costs to
investigate injuries and to document reports, and though most fire chiefs know how much was
budgeted for and spent on overtime, the amount which correlates to covering lost work time
because of injuries, often is not identified. Finally, a scientific study on the relationship between
the number of firefighters per engine and the incidence of injuries would resolve a long-standing
question concerning staffing and safety.There is still a lot to do to diminish the direct and indirect costs and the more intangible quality of life costs paid by firefighters who
work to keep us safe.