Tracking system to help sick firefighters get compensation

Truth file photo A new tracking system will ensure that Elkhart firefighters document every situation that could negatively affect their long-term health.

ELKHART — Firefighters are at greater risk than most of getting cancer. A new Elkhart Fire Department policy would make it easier to document how the firefighters' line of work may have contributed to them becoming sick.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, firefighters are 14% more likely to die from cancer than the rest of the population.

"And our guys are aware of that. We do our job knowing that," Fire Chief Steve Kamp said on Tuesday.

Three firefighters at the department are suffering from cancer, he said. But proving the disease is related to their duties has proven difficult. One firefighter who has been with the department for 20 years spent six months pulling documents that could show that his work caused his cancer. He still has another seven years of documents to go, according to Kamp.

He was speaking to members of the city's Board of Public Safety, encouraging them to approve a policy that means Elkhart firefighters are required to track their exposure to hazards that could cause cancer.

They will track exposure on a phone or tablet, filling out incident details such as what hazardous materials were present and how long they were exposed. That information will go to a spreadsheet that can be accessed by the firefighter or their family if it is ever needed. That should make it easier to get compensation for themselves or their families.

Until now, firefighters have had the option to fill out a similar form, but they were not required to do so. Kamp said only two of his employees have been filling out the form.

With the new policy, which was approved by the board, the officer in charge of a crew will be responsible for making sure every firefighter fills out the form. The Fire Department responds to about 200 fires each year, and filling out the form takes two to five minutes, according to Kamp.

"The guys are all on board with this," he said.

That was seconded by Dustin Flagg, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 338.

"I think it's a very good idea," he said.

New firefighters tend to think a lot about what they are exposed to, Flagg said. But once they grow used to it, it can feel less important to fill out forms like this one if it isn't required.

"It becomes routine," he said. "This is going to be a way to help us not become complacent in documenting those exposures."

And having to take a few minutes to fill out the information is not a concern for the firefighters.

"It's for our best interest, honestly, so even if it takes a few extra minutes to document what the exposure was, in the long run, it's a few extra minutes that are going to benefit us all," he said.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus

(4) comments

fire111

So raindrop, right now I'm absolutely shocked. I want you to know I hardly ever watch Chicago Fire. Since there was nothing new to watch on the boob tube, I decided to watch it. Low and behold the battalion chiefs were called to a special meeting. Subject.... cancer in the work place. A 10 year firefighter giving a seminar on firefighter cancer. Almost the same exact words were spoken. And the dirty diesel fuel smoke from rigs was mentioned. If ya get a chance catch that part of the show On Demand. No mention of saunas and such. Thanx for your time!

fire111

Having a little experience with this type of firefighter danger, I say work hard work safe, be vigilant! Firefighting is a dirty job! Once you walk through those doors, you are hooked! Most know that this is the place you will spend most of your working life. You are hooked!! It's almost like a drug addiction! Keep fighting brothers and sisters for safer conditions. Let's discuss your downtime in quarters! You have at 2 out of 7 stations that have had mold problems. At least one of those 2 should have been bulldozed! It has been remediated twice. Think the mold is gone? No way! Years ago I had a few very informative telephone conversations with state EPA officials. He asked me about the remediation. Then he asked did the city change carpets, window dressings, fabric covered furniture, beddings, including disposal of all mattresses, and more. No was the answer! His statement was, "you still have mold"! The big thing about your stations fellow firefighters is the fact that that big red truck may be adding danger itself. 7 stations! Not one with equipment to catch dirty diesel smoke! It permeates every nook and cranny. Now another terrible problem popping up. Sleep depredation. There is growing evidence that lack of quality sleep is essential to the bodies ability to repair the everyday ongoing damage to the bag of bones you call you! A few years back before the new dispatch system came about, the intercom system would make a little static crack sound before the actual over air dispatch happened. In that small period of time firefighters were already sitting on the bed edges waiting to hear the dispatch. Is this quality sleep? So tuned in that you hear astatic crack in your sleep? Maybe! Just maybe! It's time to consider 8 hour shifts. I don't pretend to know the all the answers. But I all to well the experience and the end results! And here is a very scary statement. I leave you with this! The EPA guy told me, if it was up to him, he would shut down the majority of school buildings in Indiana. They are chocked full of different molds!

raindrop

Lots of excuses here. It's a dangerous job that they're are fairly compensated for. From my knowledge there are many new methods to help detox the body after being exposed to the toxins such as: VO2 training, saunas, infrared saunas as well as a proper diet. As of last year they do NONE of the following. If it's such a concern and always has been, why the lack of proactiveness?

fire111

So raindrip you will bet your life saunas and infrared saunas and VO2 ! So I had no idea what infrared sauna was so I did a little reading. Pretty slippery science there drippy! Didn't see anything about cancer treatments or cures. Detox the body huh! It's a wonder no one ever discovered that as a cancer cure! But heck now that we know you as an expert, certainly you will be detoxing firefighters. Does infraredding help in better sleep? Cause that's a huge problem. Let me know when ya make your first million! I've been gone from the fire business for 12 years now. So about 24years ago EFD started and ordered daily physical training and exercise programs.

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