UA safety study centers around Tucson Fire Department - Tucson News Now

UA safety study centers around Tucson Fire Department

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - From putting out fires to transporting patients, firefighters have a physical job that often puts them at risk of getting hurt.

The Tucson Fire Department is taking part in a $1.3 million study with the University of Arizona and John Hopkins University to help prevent injuries on the job.

University of Arizona College of Public Health Epidemiologist Gerald Poplin is one of the researchers.

He says they chose to study firefighters for a reason.

"They are responsible for pretty much responding to our individual worst days. In the process they expose themselves to a host of hazards and potential risks that will lead to injuries."

The Tucson Fire Department is halfway through the four-year study and crews are already making changes to keep safe.

For example, many folks are aware of the yellow tape used at fire scenes to keep the public from crossing into a dangerous area.

Well the department is now using red tape as a warning to other firefighters.

Tucson Fire Department Chief of Operations Ed Nied says, "What that means to a firefighter is don't go anywhere near this. This is a collapse zone or an empty pool that you can't see because it's dark. This is an area we don't want you stepping in or being involved in."

Tucson Fire Department Public Information Officer Trish Tracy says around 80% of the department's calls are medical.

It's common for firefighters to hurt their backs transporting patients.

Through a co-study with Ohio State University, the department is ordering new slide boards for every medic truck, at no cost to the city, to make the job a little safer.

UA researchers are also taking a closer look how to keep crews safe when they're fighting a fire and when they're back at the station exercising.

Poplin says the biggest room for improvement is physical exercise.

He says the goal is to figure out what's going on when firefighters get hurt, then start training crews to manage those risks.

Eventually the Tucson Fire Department will serve as a safety model for departments all across the country.

Copyright 2011 KOLD. All rights reserved.

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