_HEALTH MEDICINE Occupational Safety

_Safety for Those Who Save

Jennifer Taylor is developing a comprehensive database that can be used to reduce firefighter injuries nationwide.

_Jennifer Taylor

Taylor is an associate professor in the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at the School of Public Health.

How do you improve safety in the fire service, one of the most dangerous and unpredictable occupations? Drexel’s Jennifer Taylor says it’s all in the details. She’s been working to help fire departments track injuries in the field so they don’t happen again. And thanks to a recent grant, she’s taking her work nationwide.

Taylor received a three-year, $1 million grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security to expand her work on a firefighter injury data system.

Fire Safety

“If the fire service and safety researchers have comprehensive, consistent and accurate information about who is being injured, how they are being injured, and what types of injuries occur, then these injuries could be prevented,” says Taylor.

The grant will fund a study to test the reliability of findings from a 2009 FEMA-funded project, called the Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST). In two pilot sites in Philadelphia and in Florida, the FIRST project standardized information collected for other purposes (e.g., hospital visits and workers’ compensation claims), and unified them into one dataset to more deeply study firefighter injuries.

The new study will examine if project FIRST’s data architecture can be replicated successfully in additional states and fire departments across the United States.

“Data linkage is a powerful public health tool to get previously ‘siloed’ data to communicate,” says Taylor. “This deepens our ability to understand firefighter job risk and associated health outcomes in dangerous occupations. And the analysis we do serves as a basis for devising new safety policies, and evaluates the benefit of expenditures on safety gear and equipment.”

Taylor’s work so far has yielded interesting and somewhat unexpected results. Her team has uncovered a concerning problem of assaults to paramedics by the patients for whom they care. The research team is conducting interviews and leading focus groups with first responders to understand this problem and how it can be prevented.