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Occupational hazards of emergency first responders

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Police officers.
  3. Firefighters.
  4. Emergency medical personnel.
  5. Implications of terrorism.
  6. Conclusion and recommendations.

Emergency responders, as defined by police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel, are often exposed to potential hazards within their work, due to the very nature of their work. Many of these people are heroes in that they willingly sacrifice their lives for the altruistic benefit of others. The potential for occupational injury, be it physical or mental, is quite real and significant, any members of the first responder community are exposed to threats to their safety on a regular basis. It is critical that the safety and health of the emergency personnel which serve us is safeguarded.

[...] For first responders on the front line of an emergency situation, PPE may very well be the main barrier of defense against potential exposure to infectious disease, radiological contamination, or exposure to hazardous chemicals. One source of injury and/or fatality present within all the categories of emergency responders was vehicle accidents, which accounted for a large amount of injuries and fatalities across all emergency first responders. This fact may suggest that better, and more extensive, emergency driving training is needed for our first responders. [...]

[...] As such, we would expect a significant amount of occupational injury and fatality within this class of first responders, and much research exists to support a diverse array of alleged occupational health hazards associated with being a firefighter. Many factors exist which contribute to these hazards our firefighter face, from building material being combusted (such as asbestos, for example), to even acrobatic-like high rise maneuvers risked in efforts to save lives. With respect to common types of injury, the most significant rates, on account of firefighters within the U.S., can be attributed to traumatic injury resulting from falling from a significant height, being struck with an object in the scene of a fire, burns (obviously), and cardiac/respiratory malfunction (Houser, 2004). [...]

[...] The terrible events of that day have motivated many people to perhaps rethink current occupational safety policy pertaining to emergency first responders. Also, much more emphasis has been placed upon not only sufficiently preparing our first responders for every day emergencies, but also attempting to prepare them for events of mass casualty, likely resulting from a terrorist act (Leskin, 2003). This includes training in areas of concern that would be anticipated in the event of such an attack, such as Infectious Disease control, decontamination procedures, and psychological preparedness on behalf of the emergency responders (Leskin, 2003). [...]

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