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Real-time Heart Health Monitoring for Firefighters

Posted: July 20, 2023

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is developing a model for real-time heart health monitoring in firefighters.


Firefighters work in strenuous environments, carrying heavy objects, climbing stairs and enduring extreme temperatures with a limited ability to cool off. These factors make firefighters a high risk for cardiac conditions and fatal cardiac events.

According to the National Fire Protection Association’s annual report:

  • Cardiac-related fatalities usually account for the largest share of on-duty firefighter deaths each year.
  • In 2022, about one-third of the 96 firefighters who died in the line of duty succumbed to a sudden cardiac event or a cardiac-related condition.


NIST is using machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence, for their Heart Health Monitoring (H2M) model.

H2M was trained on actual electrocardiogram (EKG) data from 112 firefighters who were monitored throughout their entire 24-hour shift. When tested with approximately 6,000 abnormal EKG samples it had not previously seen, H2M identified them correctly with about 97% accuracy.

The goal

NIST hopes the monitoring technology will eventually be incorporated into a portable heart monitor that will accurately identify abnormal cardiac rhythms in firefighters so they can seek medical attention before it is too late.

Learn more about this research on NIST’s website and read the published study in Fire Safety Journal.

This article is based on content in the
July 20, 2023 InfoGram.

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