Yourlawyer.com (Firefighters PASS Device News) http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/firefighters_pass_device Fri, 19 Sep 2014 09:51:21 -0400 Fri, 19 Sep 2014 09:51:21 -0400 pixel-app en Federal unit 'ignored' concerns over PASS devices http://www.yourlawyer.com/articles/title/federal-unit-ignored-concerns-over-pass-devices Mon, 05 Feb 2007 00:00:00 -0500 http://www.yourlawyer.com/articles/title/federal-unit-ignored-concerns-over-pass-devices
According to part one of the two-part series, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) called for higher standards for testing PASS alarms in April 2005.

But a firefighter protection engineer at the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) first raised concerns to bosses about the devices in 2000.

The CDC did not return FireRescue1's requests for comment.

The CDC was given responsibility in 1998 for investigating firefighter deaths and finding ways to prevent future fatalities. Fifteen firefighters have died since then in fires where a PASS device failed to sound or was too quiet, said the MSNBC.com report.

Reliability questioned
Nine of the fatalities occurred in the five years after firefighter protection engineer Eric Schmidt first voiced fears over the reliability of the devices while investigating a house fire in Iowa that killed three firefighters.

The three firefighters had each been wearing two PASS devices but no colleagues recalled hearing alarms from two of the men, the report claimed.

But Dawn Castillo, head of the firefighter program at the NIOSH, allegedly criticized aspects of Schmidt’s probes, reportedly hampering his investigations into possible PASS failures.

Schmidt was dismissed by the CDC in 2000 for "marginal" performance in his investigative duties.

Following the CDC’s decision in 2005 to call for stricter testing, a tougher new standard for testing PASS devices will be issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) this week.

Tests have revealed some devices fail to function properly if they are too hot or wet.

Alarm at delays
FireRescue1 columnist Jeffrey Stull, president of International Personnel Protection, Inc., which provides expertise on the design and evaluation of equipment, said he was alarmed by the CDC’s apparent delays in addressing concerns.

"The groups that put together a standard do the best job they can, but they don't always get it right," he said.

"Just because something is certified, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is going to work perfectly all of the time.

"There needs to be a government group that oversees life-safety equipment, and an enforcement process and mechanism, so when something does go wrong or there are concerns they are addressed straight away."

Sen. John Kerry is now calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the CDC's handling of the case.

In a letter to its inspector general, he said, "The allegations … are disturbing and warrant an exhaustive federal review. We owe it to the families of the deceased firefighters as well as the nearly 1 million firefighters who still use PASS devices to get answers and hold the negligent parties to account."

'Basic safety ignored'
Michael Petroff, western region director for the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA), said while the matter highlighted possible government bureaucracy, it raised other concerns, too.

Firefighters sometimes relied too heavily on technology and protective gear in untenable situations, he said, while ignoring basic safety procedures.

"In several of the 15 deaths reported, the firefighters were in locations unknown to command, which is failure of accountability, firefighters were alone, or the firefighter lost his/her way out of the building, which could be a lack of basic firefighting technique to follow a hoseline or search rope," Petroff said.
 
 "We (firefighters) may be relying on flawed or unproven technology. And, because of our overconfidence, we are ignoring basic simple safety rules.

"The PASS device is the best tool we have for its purpose, right now. I am afraid some overreaction may now occur. Firefighters may see the reports, decide the devices don't work, and stop using them."]]>
Kerry calls for investigation of firefighter unit http://www.yourlawyer.com/articles/title/kerry-calls-for-investigation-of-firefighter-unit Mon, 05 Feb 2007 00:00:00 -0500 http://www.yourlawyer.com/articles/title/kerry-calls-for-investigation-of-firefighter-unit
“It is completely unacceptable that our first responders don’t have the proper safety equipment, and if these allegations prove true, it’s unfathomable that the CDC would cover up something so detrimental to our firefighters’ safety,” Kerry told MSNBC.com. “I have asked the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a full investigation into these allegations. Nearly 1 million brave men and women risk their lives every day; we owe it to them and to the families of the deceased firefighters to get answers and hold the negligent parties accountable.”

Within hours of the story’s publication, Kerry’s office issued a press release stating that the Massachusetts Democrat had written to HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson requesting the investigation of the unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention charged with investigating firefighters’ deaths.

Donald White, a spokesman for the inspector general’s office at HHS, said the office would review Kerry’s request over the next several weeks, after which “it will get assigned to the proper component within the office ... for further investigation as warranted.”

Kerry's letter cited MSNBC.com’s special report indicating that the CDC's firefighter fatality unit had ignored a warning from its own fire safety engineer in 2000 that the alarms, known as PASS devices, appeared to have failed in two separate incidents in which firefighters died.

The MSNBC.com investigation, based on federal investigative reports, documents made public under the Freedom of Information Act and extensive interviews, revealed that 15 firefighters have died since 1998 in fires where a PASS, or Personal Alert Safety System, either didn't sound or was so quiet that rescuers weren't given a chance to find the firefighter quickly. Nine of those deaths came after the federal government blocked the investigation by its own expert into possible failures of PASS alarms and other firefighting equipment, the documents show.

The report cited a letter from a manager for the Centers for Disease Control ordering the fire safety engineer to "minimize your fact gathering during investigations" and to refrain from “the collection of detailed information not of likely use in an investigation.”

No one can say for sure that a PASS device caused any of the 15 deaths in which the alarms weren’t heard. And it's impossible to say that any firefighter would necessarily have survived if the PASS alarm had been seen and heard.

Five years later after the engineer's warning, in March 2005, the CDC’s firefighter fatality program recommended that “manufacturers, researchers and standard-setting bodies should investigate the performance of PASS alarms/devices under extreme conditions,” and the following month called for higher standards for the devices.
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Firefighters PASS Device,(Personal Alert Safety System) Product Liability Injury Linked To Device Failure. http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/firefighters_pass_device Mon, 05 Feb 2007 00:00:00 -0500 http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/firefighters_pass_device Firefighters PASS Device Product Liability Injury Lawsuits

Firefighters PASS Device,(Personal Alert Safety System) | Lawsuits, Lawyers | Product Liability: Injury | Device Failures

On February 5, 2007, Senator John Kerry requested the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explore deeply troubling information from an MSNBC.com special report signifying that the federal unit charged with probing firefighter deaths overlooked a warning in 2000 that personal alarms used at fire scenes might be failing. “It is completely unacceptable that our first responders don’t have the proper safety equipment, and if these allegations prove true, it’s unfathomable that the CDC would cover up something so detrimental to our firefighters’ safety,” Kerry told MSNBC.com. An estimated 1 million courageous men and women put their lives at risk every day; we owe it to them and to the families of the deceased firefighters to get answers and hold the negligent parties accountable.”

The PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) device is a motion sensor that makes a dreadful racket if a firefighter stops moving for 30 seconds while combating a blaze. The device flashes its lights and lets loose a sequence of ear splitting beeps; alerting others that a fellow firefighter is in danger. Unfortunately, it’s a call that is not heard all the time. Tests by federal and independent labs illustrate that some PASS alarms can fail to perform as intended if they get too hot or wet, which causes a serious problem for firefighters who rush into burning buildings with water hoses.  Federal investigative reports evaluated by MSNBC.com shows that 15 firefighters have died since 1998 in fires where a PASS, (Personal Alert Safety System) device, either didn't sound or was so quiet that rescuers weren't given a chance to find the firefighter quickly. The first generation of PASS devices were introduced in the early 1980s.

Documents made public under the Freedom of Information Act disclose that nine of those deaths came after the federal government blocked an investigation by its own expert into possible failures of PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) devices and other firefighting equipment. A manager for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency that is charged by Congress with investigating firefighter deaths, ordered an agency fire safety engineer on Feb. 14, 2000, to "minimize your fact gathering during investigations" and to restrict his investigations to issues relevant for the prevention of future similar events.

In March 2005, the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) firefighter fatality program finally recommended that manufacturers, researchers and standard-setting bodies should investigate the performance of PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) devices under extreme conditions, and the following month called for higher standards for the devices. After the CDC’s warning, tests quickly demonstrated that temperatures commonly encountered by firefighters could hurt the performance of at least some PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) devices.

Tests in a convection oven at the National Institute of Standards and Technology found a flaw with the two models it tested: the volume of the beeping diminished significantly at temperatures as low as 300 degrees Fahrenheit, the sort of temperatures that firefighters come across in a room next to a fire. Researchers said they believe that all of the half-dozen or so brands of PASS (Personal Alert Safety System), alarms on the market would be similarly affected. Additionally, a number of PASS (Personal Alert Safety System), devices made by at least three manufacturers have had problems over the past decade with water leaking into the electronics or battery compartments, causing them to either beep repeatedly or stop working altogether, according to interviews and documents reviewed by MSNBC.com.

A tougher new standard for testing PASS (Personal Alert Safety System), devices in heat and water is going to be issued by the National Fire Protection Association. But manufacturers say it will be months before an improved device is on the market. And even when new models are available, there is no plan for recalling the old ones, so fire departments may have to bear the cost of replacing them./p>

Legal Rights for Victims Affected By Firefighters PASS Device

If you or a loved one worked as a firefighter and suffered a wrongful death as a result of a defective PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) device you may be entitled to compensation. Please fill out the form at the right for a free case evaluation by a qualified attorney or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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