Post 9/11 First Responder Deaths Nearly Equals The Number Of Firefighters Who Died In 2001

The amount of first responders who unfortunately passed away due to illnesses relating to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has almost reached the number of first responders who died on the actual day, 22 years ago.

343 New York firefighters died during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Today, a total of 341 New York City Fire Department firefighters, civilian support staff, and paramedics have died from post-9/11 illnesses.

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The 341 first responders who passed away within the past two decades have been memorialized at the FDNY World Trade Center Memorial Wall, according to the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

According to a news release from Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, reported by CNN, the fire department added 43 names to the memorial on September 6.

“As we approach the 22nd anniversary of 9/11, the FDNY continues to feel the impact of that day. Each year, this memorial wall grows as we honor those who gave their lives in service of others.”

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“These brave men and women showed up that day, and in the days and months following the attacks to participate in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site. We will never forget them.”

The heightened risk of cardiovascular disease among the firefighters has been tied to the intense exposure of dust from the towers collapsing. Respiratory disease and thousands of cancer diagnoses have also been linked to the pollutants that were released during the attacks.

According to reports, more than 71,000 individuals are enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry. The Registry itself is a long-term study to better understand the physical and mental health impacts of the attacks.

Beyond the first responders who have been impacted by these ailments, workers of the World Trade Center, NYC citizens who were on the streets during the attacks, volunteers who were on Ground Zero after, and residents of surrounding buildings have also suffered lasting health impacts.


How Virtual Reality Is Changing The Way We Train Firefighters

Climate change has certainly taken its toll on our planet within the past decade. 2019 was defined by a myriad of natural disasters and unfathomable damage to the Earth and its many inhabitants. Specifically, the Australian bushfires have kept the continent ablaze for over three months; burning over 2.3 million hectares of land, and killing over 1 billion animals. 

While climate change wasn’t the sole reason for the fires, as Australia has an annual bushfire season regardless, it definitely intensified them to a level that the continent has never experienced before. The same issue occurred in California earlier in 2019 when the results of climate change only further fueled the wildfires that ravaged the state.

Australia’s firefighters did their best to contain the fires and focus on search and rescue efforts for any and all living things. They even called on American firefighters to join the movement, creating a unified law enforcement base that would work to contain the fires as much as possible. Since these bushfires were unlike anything that most firefighters have seen in their career, some departments are developing new methods of training to better prepare them for the unexpected. 

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These new methods involve virtual reality (VR) technology that can quite literally place the firefighters in the middle of a massive bushfire without any risk of actual injury or burns. The specific VR technology that Australian and American firefighters are beginning to implement into their training programs come from an Australia-based tech company known as FLAIM Systems.

“The whole point of VR is that we can put people in a traditionally dangerous situation, let people make decisions, and let people make mistakes. The VR technology produces realistic renders of smoke, fire, water and fire-extinguishing foam in several different scenarios, such as a house fire, an aircraft fire or wildfire,” said James Mullins, founder and CEO of FLAIM Systems.

Beyond the visual element, Mullins states that the technology also pairs with a heat suit that can replicate temperature levels based on each VR fire scenario. The suits themselves can heat up to 100 degrees Celsius, and also pairs with a FLAIM extinguisher that has sensory elements to replicate the force one would feel if they were actually extinguishing a fire, or putting it out with a fire hose. The suits also are able to measure the trainee’s heart and breathing rate, to ensure that they remain calm and steady during the simulation. 

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The technology is especially beneficial to volunteer firefighter trainees who don’t get as much exposure to real world fires; it also is much more environmentally friendly. Typical firefighter immersion training involves setting contained fires on designated plots of land, which not only releases unnecessary smoke/pollutants into the air, but also requires massive amounts of water; which is problematic for environments like California and Australia that have both found themselves dealing with severe droughts within the past few years. 

After California’s devastating 2019 wildfires, the Cosumnes Fire Department in Sacramento decided to test using VR technology to train 20 new recruits for future emergencies (this was October 2019, right before Australia’s bushfire epidemic). The trial period with the new recruits, and some more experienced firefighters as well, was hugely successful, to the point that they continue to use the VR training program now, as well as other departments in the state. 

“It allows them [trainees] to experience first hand the unique challenges with communication, limited visibility and come face to face with the flames in fire situations that they most certainly will encounter during their firefighting career. I could feel my heart rate climb as I looked around the room, seeing where the fire started, watching the rapid rate of fire spread. It was amazing to experience the inherent risk, extreme danger and fire intensity without feeling any of the dangerous effects from the fire,” said Cosumnes Fire Department Captain Julie Rider

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Runners Coordinate to Support Australian Wildfire Relief Efforts

The historic and massive wildfires currently devastating Australia have inspired people around the world to raise money in order to aid in the relief efforts, as the resources necessary to combat the fires are overwhelming. The global running community is among those who are trying to help, as thousands of runners will participate in a virtual race taking place on January 18th and January 19th, with 100% of proceeds going towards relief efforts in Australia. The event, which anyone around the world with the Strava smartphone app can participate in, will consist of a 5k race and a half-marathon race, and the effort has already raised $345,000 with the event still more than a week away.

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The idea was born when Samantha Gash, a 35-year-old endurance athlete from Australia, was watching the destruction unfold on TV and felt compelled to help in any way she could. Though she contemplated simply donating to existing organizations, she ultimately decided her efforts would be more successful if she tapped into the fundraising potential of the running community. In order to participate in the virtual event, people must enter in advance on the organization’s website and contribute a minimum of $50. Because of the large number of runners expected to participate in the event, Gash is working directly with Strava, an app that bills itself as a social network for runners, to ensure that the races go off without a hitch.

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Thanks to the internet and the vast network of runners around the world wanting to pitch in to help Australia, the website reached dozens of countries, including the United States, New Zealand, and Germany within 48 hours of its launch. The organizers have already exceeded their wildest fundraising expectations, as their original goal was to raise just $20,000. Of course, you don’t have to be a runner to participate, as you can donate directly to relief efforts through the organization’s website even if you don’t plan to participate in the race.