Health and fitness is the key

CarolinaFireJournal - Michael Medeiros
Michael Medeiros
07/25/2010 -

All across America we see fire departments and emergency services taking measures to outfit there companies with newer trucks and better equipment. These same departments spend large amounts of money to make sure the apparatus we ride on has all the bells and whistles, yet we are still neglecting the major tool in our arsenal, the people who drive and use this equipment.


As emergency responders we do everything we can to keep the public safe and try to emphasize that with, proper response times, public education and just the normal everyday duties. While we keep the public safe, are we doing the same for our members?

Let’s not forget that the job of a firefighter and emergency medical technician has many different stressors. Responding to emergency calls can be mentally and physically challenging, but the down time tends to be the worst of the stressors.  It is the initial shock to the body’s internal system when the call comes in that causes a spike in the heart and respiratory rate.  The adrenaline dump makes it difficult for the unhealthy responder to recover.  If we are not in tip top shape, the body has a very hard time adjusting to these stressors.

Is This Your department?

Too many times departments find themselves with numerous health issues and injuries from members who have neglected there health. NIOSH and NFPA continue to emphasize the health and fitness of our first responders to battle cardiac disease and stroke which is still the number one killer of first responders today.

Many departments rely on written, psychological, and agility tests, interviews and of course background checks for new hires. All of these tests make a great entry level assessment and most of the time gives the department a viable and reliable employee.

The problem begins when these standards are left in the training division for new hire testing and do not translate into the members normal duties.  On many occasions, the new member gets out on the street and falls through the cracks.

Where to begin

A fire department and EMS service should always keep the continuing education of there members a priority. Incorporating a wellness program will keep their members on the right track to a successful and healthy service. To accomplish this, they must invest time and money on programs like annual medical physicals, physical fitness programs, annual job related agility testing, crisis management and dietary health.

One way to start is to find a department that is similar to yours with a wellness program and see what they are doing. You may be surprised to find that many departments started with ideas and suggestions that came from existing programs. Most programs can easily be molded to fit another department with little to no effort.

A great resource to a well rounded wellness program can be found through the IAFF Wellness and Fitness Initiative. You also can find good information to help you and guide you to a structured fitness program from the National Fire Protection Association under the NFPA 1583: Standard on Health Related Fitness Programs.

Michael Medeiros is a Certified Fitness Trainer with National Endurance as a Sports Trainers Association Wellness Coach. He is a Functional Training Specialist, Health and Safety Officer, FFII-EMT-B and a Combat Challenge Competitor.
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