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Drexel School of Public Health Awarded FEMA Grant for Firefighter Injury Surveillance

July 8, 2010

School of Public Health to Lead Development of National Model

Drexel University School of Public Health officials today announced that it was awarded a major fire prevention and safety grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Drexel researchers will use the grant to help advance the occupational safety and injury prevention programs for firefighters nationwide.

The School of Public Health will use the three-year award of $870,000 to develop F-NISS, the Firefighter Non-fatal Injury Surveillance System. F-NISS will standardize information from surveillance systems and unify these into a core data set describing firefighter injuries accurately and consistently at the national, regional and local levels. The work fulfills a significant need as firefighters and researchers lack a comprehensive surveillance system documenting injuries and risk factors essential to informing policy and practice.

“While data are now available for fires and firefighter fatalities, existing data on firefighter injury remain incomplete and unreliable,” said Dr. Jennifer A. Taylor, an assistant professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health, who will serve as the grant’s principal investigator. “Substantial information is currently gathered at the local level describing the categories and prevalence of firefighter injuries, and indicating whether these injuries occur on or off the fireground. However, it is not yet possible even to count the injuries resulting in hospitalization or long-term disability.”

“Existing firefighter injury surveillance efforts are not based on scientific data collection methods, produce widely ranging estimates, and lack important information regarding the nature, cause, and context of injury,” said Taylor. “Current firefighter injury data are not generalizable, reliable, or reproducible, and therefore cannot serve as a basis for devising new safety policies or evaluating the benefit of safety interventions. We hope our research will help enhance the occupational safety and prevent injuries for our nation’s firefighters.”

Led by the Drexel University School of Public Health, F-NISS is a collaborative effort among the Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner’s Office, the Philadelphia Fire Department, and the Florida State Fire Marshall’s office. Philadelphia and Florida will serve as test sites for development of the data architecture and dictionary. Additionally, Dr. Gordon Smith, an internationally recognized occupational injury surveillance expert from the National Study Center for Trauma & EMS at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, will serve as senior advisor on the data linkage and integration effort. Fire Chiefs from local and national fire houses will form the F-NISS advisory board along with academic and government surveillance experts.

“The new surveillance system will help us to better track injuries, and can be used to help fire houses in the selection of equipment, training programs and operating procedures that best protect the health and well-being of firefighters,” said State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann “I am proud to be a part of this novel program.”

This new grant award to Drexel University will assess the utility of F-NISS in serving the planning and evaluation needs of the fire service and the scientific needs of researchers. F-NISS will build on an analysis of existing fire surveillance and exemplary non-fire surveillance programs by evaluating existing data systems, government regulations, and novel data sources, culminating in demonstration of F-NISS in Pennsylvania and Florida, and recommendations for national implementation.

Taylor is an expert in the fields of injury prevention and control, quality improvement and occupational safety. She has been trained in the field of injury prevention and control, uses its principles to address healthcare safety and quality issues in both patient and provider populations. Taylor received her Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management. She earned her master’s of public health degree in health services from the Boston University School of Public Health.

The Drexel University School of Public Health promotes the health of communities through education, research, service and practice. As the only fully-accredited school of public health in southeastern Pennsylvania, the school’s innovative academic and research programs integrate real-world experience with classroom learning in one of the most diverse and culturally rich communities in the United States. The School of Public Health is built on a foundation of understanding that health and human rights are inextricably entwined. This unique, community-collaborative approach fosters leadership and provides students with the critically necessary hands-on experience to meet today’s public health demands.

For more information on the Drexel University School of Public Health, visit


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