Firefighter Autopsy Protocol

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USFA has issued an updated version of its original Firefighter Autopsy Protocol. The Protocol has been extensively revised since its original 1994 edition. In this new protocol, general background related to the conduct of autopsies is provided, as well as additional information where current autopsy practices may be supplemented to ascertain causes and mechanisms of firefighter fatalities. It includes discussion on the examination of personal protective clothing and toxicological evaluations.

It is recommended that autopsies be performed for all firefighter fatalities where a line-of-duty death has occurred. It is further recommended that an autopsy be performed when a non-line-of-duty death may be linked to a line-of-duty exposure.

The revised Firefighter Autopsy Protocol addresses additional areas of information to take into account emerging issues and new technologies for conducting autopsies.

General autopsy procedures must be supplemented with additional analyses and reviews in order to ascertain specific causes and mechanisms of death and to add to the body of knowledge for understanding firefighter fatalities, which, in turn, helps to prevent future firefighter fatalities. The protocol gives specific attention to several areas where current autopsy practice may be supplemented with additional evaluations and considerations. Examples of these supplemental factors include:

The Firefighter Autopsy Protocol is intended to advance the analysis of the causes of firefighter deaths to aid in the development of improved firefighter health and safety standards, operational procedures, and technology. Implementation of this protocol will increase interest in the study of deaths as related to occupational illnesses among firefighters, both active and retired.