Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Public Health (M.S.P.H.)

Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Raymond D. Harbison, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Truncale, D.O.

Committee Member

Ping Xu, Ph.D.


Fire Department, Fit Testing, National Fire Protection Association, Respirator


Introduction: Non-compliance with respiratory protection programs among firefighters may put them at increased risk of injury and illness from occupational exposures during fire extinguishing activities. This research aims to characterize respiratory protection practices among Florida firefighters. This information will allow better understanding of factors that are associated with non-compliance with respiratory protection guidelines.

Methods: Survey questionnaire was used to characterize Florida fire departments in this cross sectional study. Four hundred and seventy-seven surveys were administered to Florida firefighters both in person and electronically to collect information regarding firefighter knowledge and participation in their respective respiratory protection programs during the past twelve months. Survey questions were developed from the model set by the National Fire Protection Association which provides standards and regulations regarding firefighter protections. Collected data were used to produce summary statistics regarding firefighter department size, coverage area, and firefighter employment type. Further data analysis used Statistical Analysis Software to compute multinomial logistic regression analysis.

Results: The 477 respondents were 91% male with a mean age 39 years old (range 21-65 years). The majority of respondents, 76%, were non-smokers, 21% former smokers, and 3% current smokers. In regards to ethnicity, respondents were 77% Caucasian, 13% Hispanic, 3% African-American, and 4% other. Most respondents were career firefighters, 97%, with less than ten years of experience, 44%, working in a fire department with at least 21 firefighters, 98%. Most respondents, 80%, had a written respiratory program in place. The most cited reason for not having implemented a written respiratory program was lack of knowledge related to the program. Multinomial logistic regression analysis of departments with response areas of at least 250,000 square miles produced a statistically significant 0.44 odds ratio for having a written respiratory program as compared to those with a less than 10,000 square miles response area.

Conclusion: Additional resources need to be given to Florida fire departments to ensure that all firefighters receive adequate respiratory protection in accordance with National Fire Protection Association guidelines. There is an association between fire departments with large response areas and non-compliance with respiratory protection guidelines in regards to: having a written respiratory program, the frequency of respiratory fit testing, and the frequency of medical fitness testing. This suggests that rural fire departments need additional resources to ensure fire fighters are adequately protected. Additional research should focus on why these differences exist in the rural fire departments. Respondents stating a lack of knowledge or no requirement for a written respiratory program suggest that future efforts should focus on respiratory protection education and training.