We help firefighters and their families cope with cancer
Since 2005, the nonprofit Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) has provided assistance and one-on-one mentoring to thousands of cancer-stricken firefighters and their families. FCSN also delivers extensive firefighter cancer awareness and prevention training nationwide.
Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety today.
- Cancer caused 61 percent of the career firefighter line-of-duty deaths from January 1, 2002, to December 31, 2016, according to data from the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).
- Cancer caused 70 percent of the line-of-duty deaths for career firefighters in 2016.
- Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general U.S. population.
- Firefighters have a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population.
There’s little data about cancer among volunteer firefighters, and the U.S. Fire Administration’s firefighter fatality statistics do not include cancer-related deaths, but it’s a stark reality: Firefighting increases cancer risks significantly for every firefighter.
About the Firefighter Cancer Support Network
FCSN is a 501(c)(3) organization established by Los Angeles County Firefighter Paramedic Michael Dubron, a survivor of stage IV colon cancer. Today, FCSN’s key supporters and partners include the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), Firefighter Close Calls (FFCC), and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), among many other respected fire-service organizations. FCSN is a founding member of the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance. We also work with the American Cancer Society and the Live Strong Foundation.
Now in our 12th year, FCSN has active operations in 39 states. In 2016, we expanded FCSN’s cancer-prevention training and launched our new train-the-trainer program. Of course, we’re continuing our primary focus, which is supporting firefighters and their families following a cancer diagnosis.
FCSN can start helping immediately following a cancer diagnosis with an FCSN cancer-support toolbox. FCSN’s signature toolbox, delivered free of charge, contains tested, proven resources to help firefighters and their families cope with the cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery phases. If you have received a cancer diagnosis, please call FCSN’s toll-free number – 1-866-994-FCSN (3276) – or use the online assistance-request link at FCSN request assistance. One call, one click of a “send” button is all is takes to rally your brother and sister firefighters.
Next, FCSN offers free badge-to-badge peer support to fire/EMS members and their immediate families. FCSN’s unique network includes more than 130 volunteer peer-support mentors—nearly all are firefighters and paramedics who are cancer survivors themselves. FCSN’s network also includes mentors for spouses and children. Many mentors started their relationship with FCSN seeking assistance for themselves. Now they’re giving back by helping others through the process.
Awareness and prevention
FCSN has delivered our extensive occupational cancer awareness and prevention training to thousands of firefighters across America. The International Association of Fire Fighters online cancer awareness and prevention course, created in cooperation with FCSN, launched in May 2016.
FCSN instructors deliver our award-winning cancer-prevention training every day. Our popular train-the-trainer program gives instructors the cancer fighting tools and curriculum they can take back to their departments. We now have FCSN-trained instructors in nearly every state, across Canada, and all the way to Ireland and Australia. FCSN also provides training at some of the largest fire-service events, including the Fire Department Instructors Conference, at the National Fire Academy, and at a number of state fire training academies.
We also provide training for fire departments large and small. In 2015, FCSN collaborated with Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn and leaders of IAFF Local 718 to bring our cancer-prevention training to Boston. Cancer caused 67 percent of the Boston Fire Department’s line-of-duty deaths between 2002-2014.
“Boston firefighters develop cancer at a rate two-and-a-half times higher than other Boston residents,” Finn said. “We have recognized cancer’s effect on our firefighters, and FCSN’s department-wide prevention training is an important part of our ongoing, comprehensive safety, health, and wellness program.”
IAFF Local 718 President Richard Paris agreed. “Since 1990, the Boston Fire Department has lost 190 members to cancer,” Paris said. “It’s a staggering number. We know that cancer is killing our members, and we’re making a collaborative effort to save the lives of Boston firefighters. FCSN’s training focuses on preventive measures the department and firefighters can take to reduce exposure to carcinogens and help avoid contracting this deadly disease.”
FCSN President Bryan Frieders, a deputy chief with the Pasadena (CA) Fire Department, praised Boston’s collaborative, aggressive approach to reducing firefighters’ occupational cancer risk. “Addressing the occupational cancer epidemic requires a cultural change for the fire service,” Frieders said. “Joe Finn and Richie Paris are leading from the front. Their work together with FCSN illustrates how effective labor-management relationships can be to enhance the safety and well-being of firefighters.”
The Boston training was part of an FCSN pilot program initially funded by a FEMA Fire Prevention and Safety grant. FCSN’s new train-the-trainer program, which launched in 2016, helps FCSN ensure consistent, accurate education delivered with highly personal interaction by fellow firefighters and other qualified instructors. Please direct inquiries about FCSN’s firefighter cancer prevention training and new train-the-trainer program to Tim Elliott at Tim Elliott.
Research and development
FCSN’s widely hailed 2013 white paper, “Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service,” provides lifesaving details about recognizing and reducing firefighters’ cancer risks. It includes 11 immediate actions that firefighters should take to protect themselves, their families, and their fellow firefighters. The full paper is available as a free download at FCSN white paper 2013.
“The white paper created far-reaching results,” Frieders said. “FCSN’s 2013 white paper has been added to the study material for promotional exams, from lieutenant all the way up to fire chief. FCSN’s current research is building on those street-level actions with higher-level resources, including sample policies, practices, and guidance. We can’t eradicate cancer in the fire service, but we certainly can reduce firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens.” See FCSN’s “Preventing Cancer in the Fire Service” FAQ series and our featured column in FireRescue magazine for updated resources. If you would like to receive periodic news about cancer in the fire service, please sign up for FCSN email updates.
FCSN leaders are participating in cancer-related engineering and medical research across the nation, including at Harvard, the NFPA Foundation, the University of Arizona, and the University of Miami.
We are always seeking volunteers to help expand FCSN’s vital support, awareness, and prevention missions. To learn more about FCSN and how you can get involved as a mentor, state representative, or instructor, please click on the “I want to help” link.
FCSN relies exclusively on support from individuals, families, organizations, and corporate partners to fund our critical services and programs for the fire service. We value our donors, event sponsors, and corporate partners, especially our ongoing sustaining partners. For more information about FCSN’s event sponsorships and other partner opportunities, please contact Lisa Raggio, FCSN’s director of government and donor relations, at Lisa Raggio. Your donations to FCSN include the option to make memorial or honor gifts to recognize someone whose life has been affected by cancer.
The mission of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network is to help fire/EMS members and their families cope with cancer and to provide occupational-cancer awareness and prevention training nationwide.
Together, we can provide comfort, strength, and hope by sharing our own experiences with the devastating effects of cancer.
Together, we can educate fire/EMS members about the importance of cancer screenings and early detection.
Together, we can promote an understanding that cancer does not have to be faced alone.
Together, we can make a difference.
Thank you to John M. Buckman III for the use of his photography on this page and elsewhere on this site.