As firefighters, we know that firefighting activities can lead to chemical contamination from a wide variety of materials found in smoke today and we have focused on some ways to reduce these exposures. We also encounter chemicals through response to hazardous materials incidents and bloodborne pathogens through response to EMS incidents.

Some questions to ask:

  • Have we been documenting these exposures?
  • How do we document these exposures?
  • Are we required to document these exposures?

Exposure reporting requirements affect firefighters in various arenas, through various standards and regulations. Various NFPA Standards and OSHA Regulations impact reporting of exposures for different reasons. Some of these reporting guidelines parallel one another. One big difference is some of these are required by regulation, while NFPA reporting unless adopted into state regulation is not. But that makes it no less important for firefighters to document all occupational exposures that occur while they are performing their duties (whether compensated or not for those duties). This is the best way to look out for your future. We will limit our discussion of documentation of exposures to what is addressed in NFPA 1500-18. Chapter 14 Exposures to Fireground Toxic Contaminants: Section 14.6. Different agencies have utilized different mechanisms for reporting exposures. We will look at a few different systems out there and some guidelines if you choose to develop your own.

Online reporting is a very effective way to report exposures versus paper documentation and we will take a look at several options.

These are only a few and there are other systems or applications out there:

  • Fire service casualty module in NFIRS reporting system and other systems
    • Contained within NFIRS reporting system
    • Limited to varying amount of information for exposure reporting depending on users individual reporting system
    • Some department have developed in house systems for reporting with assistance from their IT Staff
  • PERS Reporting System
    • Read: PERS Reporting System 
    • Online system developed by California Professional Firefighters
    • Costs $15 per year per firefighter. Fire Departments can also pay for their members to use.
    • At least one department in Virginia is using
  • National Fire Operations Reporting System & Smartphone App
    • Online reporting system and app available
    • Read: for general information
    • Read: for specific information on exposure module
    • Smart Phone application can be used independently even if your department does not participate in NFORS. You must manually enter all information.
    • If your agency reports into NFORS, the phone application will integrate and pull information in.
    • Several videos available on website for this system and smart phone application.

Manual reporting and use of paper reports is also a way to document exposures. Some departments have modified their reporting systems to cover bloodborne pathogens, chemical and any other occupational exposures. Here is an example of an exposure report that can be used as a template for development if your agency does not have one.

Access: Exposure Report Template

Whichever system or resource you choose, make sure that firefighter’s exposures are being tracked. Share this information with your respective agencies. It is vitally important to document exposures to fire service personnel. Also retention of records requirements differ between NFPA 1500 Chapter 14 and OSHA Medical Recordkeeping requirements. NFPA 1500 Chapter 14.6 says to maintain the exposure records for 15 years after separation or death of the firefighter, whichever occurs first. OSHA record keeping requirements say medical records should be maintained for 30 year after separation. Exposure records could be interpreted to be medical records, but check with The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry or OSHA if you need information there.

Additional information or resources can be obtained by contacting Briant Atkins, Chief Safety Officer at VDFP at 804-249-2173 or