Fire-Rescue Service Roundtable: Fire Department Health & Wellness Initiatives

Firehouse Magazine asks fire service leaders to discuss ways to keep firefighters fit and healthy, on and off duty, with the goal of reducing health related fatalities and injuries.


DAVID DANIELS MHRM, MIFireE, CFO, is fire chief/emergency services administrator for the City of Renton, WA. He is international director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Safety, Health & Survival Section and a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA...


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PADGETT: Many of us make excuses as to why we do not exercise or eat right. Not enough time in the day is probably the most common excuse. We must prioritize and place this at the top. I try to go to the gym in the mornings and ride the bike as I read the morning paper. I know this may sound as if I am not getting a "real" workout, but my heart rate is up above 120 beats a minute for 45 to 60 minutes and I am starting my morning off right.

Convenience, on the other hand, is what we are the most guilty of when it comes to eating. Quick and easy doesn't always mean fast food. It can be a nice restaurant that is close to work, or something at the house that is not really what we should be eating. However, it's convenient because it's on the way home or we just don't have time to get something else. There is only one of you and you are the one that must take care of yourself.

Fire chiefs must come to realize that the most important thing in their organization is the firefighter. The big red trucks don't operate without a "fit-for-duty" firefighter riding on that truck. Allow firefighters time to workout and keep that important piece of equipment (the firefighter) in shape and ready to perform when called upon.

One of the easiest ways to stay in shape is walking, and it doesn't cost one penny. Set time aside for crews to just walk. They can do this at the firehouse or go to the local high school track. Volunteer departments can conduct their weekly training and follow up with a short walk to discuss how it went and other issues in the department. This can be a time to build relationships and also get that much-needed exercise in an informal environment.

TIPPETT: Firefighters must take ownership of their personal fitness and health. Optimally, departments will adopt the IAFF/IAFC Wellness Fitness Initiative or NFPA 1582. However, in lieu of those two exceptional resources, I think there are several steps firefighters can take on a daily basis to stay fit. Eating properly and getting sufficient rest is paramount. We all recognize that the schedules firefighters keep are horrific. Often, these schedules are self-imposed. The value of a good night's sleep is becoming more evident from scientific research. Whether you are a shift-working career firefighter or a volunteer summoned from home, getting sufficient rest is essential to restore every body system.

The proper diet component cannot be underestimated either. Most of us don't eat the way we should because less-nutritious foods are easier to obtain given our schedules. Most nutritionists suggest a more planned approach to meals as opposed to eating on the run. There are a number of easy-access resources now available on the web to help with nutrition planning. Infusing even a modest exercise program pays huge dividends. You don't need a gym membership to take a walk around the block, use the stairs instead of the elevator for short trips or knock out 10-15 pushups and core exercises.

One other consideration is an annual physical. Make an appointment with your doctor once a year to make sure you are fit enough to do the job..