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Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities

Fatal Occupational Injuries to Emergency Responders

Emergency responders include public-sector law enforcement, firefighting and prevention personnel, and ambulance crews. Workers in these occupations regularly risk harm to themselves to protect the public. During 2011–15, 838 emergency responders died from fatal occupational injuries.

Law enforcement

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers suffered most of the fatal occupational injuries among law-enforcement workers. Law-enforcement workers also include bailiffs, correctional officers and jailers, detectives and criminal investigators, and associated supervisors.

Between 2011 and 2015, law-enforcement workers suffered 606 fatal work injuries.

The following chart shows a breakdown of each event or exposure category for law enforcement officers.

Fire and Rescue

Fire and rescue services provide emergency firefighting services and often other life safety services, such as technical rescue, hazardous materials spill clean-up, and fire prevention. Cities and counties of a million or more residents, and many smaller towns, typically provide advanced life support emergency medical services in tandem with firefighting. The same personnel often perform both services (National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)).

Local governments are increasingly integrating emergency medical services into their fire and rescue operations (NFPA). Because firefighting and emergency medical services are becoming more integrated, firefighters are typically trained in emergency medical services and hold an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. There are usually more medical calls than fire calls (NFPA), so this analysis groups ambulance drivers and attendants and emergency medical technicians and paramedics in fire protection and ambulance services with firefighting and prevention workers and their associated supervisory positions. The analysis includes emergency responders in both “dual role” fire and rescue services and in traditional firefighting-only and ambulance-only services.

Between 2011 and 2015, fire and rescue workers suffered 232 fatal work injuries.

The following table shows the kinds of fires in which these workers suffered fatal injuries.

Kinds of fires in which fire and rescue personnel suffer fatal work injuries, 2011–15
Kinds of Fires Total Fatal Injuries

Fires, total


Forest or brush fire


Collapsing building structure or structural element during fire


Other structural fire without collapse


All other fires


The following chart shows a breakdown of each event or exposure category for fire and rescue workers.

For further information, see this firefighter fact sheet and article.

Background Information

For technical information and definitions, please see the BLS Handbook of Methods.

You can obtain data from the Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program by using the following tools: Create Customized Tables (Multiple Screens), Create Customized Tables (Single Screen), and the Online Profiles System. Additional tables and charts are on the IIF homepage and the IIF State page.


1 The National Fire Protection Association reports that, in 2014, there were 1,134,000 local firefighters in the United States, with 346,150 (31 percent) career firefighters and 788,250 (69 percent) volunteer firefighters. Firefighters in communities with less than 25,000 population are more likely to be volunteers. Haynes, Hylton J.G. and Stein, Gary P; U.S. Fire Department Profile—2014, p. v.

Last Modified Date: January 29, 2024