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Drexel Awarded $1.5M Grant to Study Stress and Violence in fire-based EMS

Jennifer Taylor, PhD, MPH, CPPS, Director of the Center for Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends (FIRST) in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University is proud to announce receipt of a $1.5 million grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG) run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Regan Murray, MPH ’17, EMT will oversee the study as Project Manager. She will be assisted by Senior Project Manager Andrea Davis, MPH ’12, CPH and Outreach and Communication Manager Lauren Shepler, MPH ’15.  GIS Lead Analyst Steve Melly, MA, MS of the Dornsife School will provide mapping support.

The new project, “Stress and Violence in fire-based EMS Responders (SAVER),” responds to seven of FEMA’s national prevention priorities on firefighter safety projects “designed to measurably change firefighter behavior and decision-making”. Never before has FEMA R&D grant funding addressed the EMS aspect of fire, even though EMS accounts for as high as 70-90% of the work. The SAVER study seeks to address the lack of research in this area and determine the predictors of fire-based EMS responder injury and stress.

Through this study, the FIRST Center will create EMS impact by developing a systems-level checklist for violence against fire-based EMS responders. The checklist will be developed using findings from a recently completed USFA/IAFF-funded systematic review of academic and industrial literature conducted by FIRST and will speak to each phase of emergency response, from traveling to the event through assessing readiness to return to service. During a two-day meeting, national stakeholders will develop consensus on the efficacy, utility, and usability of the systems-level checklist.

The systems checklist will then be implemented with fire departments in San Diego, Miami-Dade, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Evaluation of the checklist’s effectiveness will use a mixed methods approach: interviews and focus groups combined with a quasi-experimental repeated-measures design using validated psychological scales. The team will assess organizational outcomes (burnout, engagement, job satisfaction, etc.), mental health outcomes (depression, PTSD, etc.), and injuries pre- and post- intervention.

FIRST is honored to continue its collaboration with Joseph Allen, PhD, Associate Professor in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Jin Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Kansas State University. Dr. Allen will moderate the consensus conference, drawing from his extensive scientific research on meeting science, in addition to working with Dr. Lee to bring essential methodological expertise to the project on the psychological evaluation and injury outcomes assessment. 


The SAVER project is proud to announce its newest collaborative partner -  the Center for Leadership, Innovation, and Research in EMS (CLIR) in St. Cloud, MN.  Currently, there is no system to capture exposures to verbal and physical violence that do not result in injury to fire-based EMS responders. SAVER will modify CLIR’s EMS Voluntary Event Notification Tool (EVENT) and Emergency Medical Error Reduction Group (EMERG) systems to increase reporting of verbal and physical violence.  Reports will be cross-referenced with workers’ compensation claims for violence-related physical injuries to evaluate under-reporting. 

Geographic Information System (GIS mapping) methods, have been widely utilized to visually display data.  The SAVER project will analyze EMS calls to the participating fire departments using dispatch data linked to patient care reports describing community need and investigating clusters of high utilization. In addition, detailed analysis on all calls that result in verbal or physical injury to firefighters will be conducted.  Finally, maps of reports to EVENT/EMERG and workers’ compensation systems will be created to study correlations with community need.   

FIRE Fellowship: The FIRST Center runs the only paid summer research program designed to inspire the next generation of fire service researchers – the Fire service Injury Research, Epidemiology, and Evaluation Fellowship (FIRE Fellows).  The SAVER grant provides funds that will allow the Center to offer the fellowship for the next three years.


The Center for Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends (FIRST) is a research enterprise at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA organized to support the United States fire and rescue service through objective data collection and analysis. The FIRST center is led by Dr. Jennifer Taylor, an expert in injury prevention, healthcare quality improvement, and occupational safety. Current FIRST center projects include: organizational safety climate assessment; nonfatal injury data system development; investigation of violence against paramedics and EMTs, and the FIRE Fellows. FIRST uses its federal funding to make sure research findings are freely downloadable to the fire service and the public through its website. 


Dr. Taylor is an Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health. She received a PhD from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, and a Master of Public Health degree in Health Services from the Boston University School of Public Health. She is a Certified Professional in Patient Safety (CPPS). 

For more information, please contact Victoria Gallogly, Outreach & Communications Coordinator: