Environmental Exposures Impacting Fire Fighters and Fire Insurance Policies

environmental Strategist, between the lines:  The links below highlight the vast array of environmental exposures impacting fire fighters.  Since 2002, almost two out of every three firefighters who died in the line of duty died of cancer.

What’s causing this tragedy for fire fighters?  In basic terms, when buildings and contents burn, they give off hazardous fumes along with contaminate the ground, ground water, neighboring property’s, waterways, natural resources and more.

Besides the obvious pollution cleanup after a fire, affected property owners can also be impacted by third party pollution liabilities from neighboring properties for bodily injury, property damage, business income and more.

We have strategized in the past, how pollution policies, are designed to fill in coverage gaps created by standard property & casualty policies.

As the old saying goes, there are two reasons a risk is not covered under an insurance policy:

  1. Risks carriers can’t insure because the claims / losses can’t be calculated.
  2. The risk is better covered under another type of insurance policy.

A great example of #2 are fire policies which generally offer $10,000 for Pollutant Clean-Up and Removal after a fire.  The inadequate limit of $10,000 is designed more to protect the insurance carriers from paying for the true costs of pollution cleanup after a fire.  This leaves property owners unknowingly self-insuring this exposure, which creates an increased E&O exposure for insurance agents.

Note:  Fire departments are immune from pollution liabilities while putting out a fire.

The solution, back stop a fire policy with an environmental site pollution policy to fill in the pollution liabilities coverage gap.

I have been asked about pollution coverage under “Debris Removal”.  Generally, policies contain language that debris removal does not apply to costs to extract pollutants from land or water or remove, restore, or replace polluted land or water.

https://www.fireandemsfund.com/cancer-in-the-fire-industry-and-a-lack-of-public-policy/:  As this link points out, “since 2002, almost two out of every three firefighters who dies in the line of duty died of cancer.”  “It’s not the fire itself, but the fumes that come off burning buildings.”

https://apnews.com/article/582a301c3a064a4f96c4c53b5e5d38a8:  This link discusses how cancer is the No. 1 line-of-duty cause of death for men and women who fight fire structures.  Much of the risk comes from burning plastics, chemicals and toxic materials that fire fighters are exposed to when they respond to a burning structure, car, or dumpster.

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/wildfire/worker-health-and-safety-during-fire-cleanup.html:  Commercial and residential structures are built of materials that may release or break down into hazardous substances when burned.  The article (under Other Hazardous Substances) list some of the potential hazardous substances that may be released during a fire as: Arsenic, Cadmium, lead, manganese, nickel, Zinc, PAHs, PCBs, PBBs, PFAS, PFOAs, Dioxins and Furans.

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