Training Heart Healthy Firefighters

     For more than 20 years, the leading causes of line of duty deaths in the fire service have been attributed to “heart attacks”. The majority of Line of Duty Deaths (LODDs) due to heart attack occurs suddenly and with few or no warning...

     Finally, the importance of prevention cannot be overstated. A coronary disease control program must be viewed as an integral part of every fire department safety plan. Exercise and physical fitness are proven beyond doubt to effectively reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death and MI and especially the risk of these events during times of stress and exertion. Similarly, cigarette smoking cessation has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiac death from twice normal to normal after 2 years. Hypertension and cholesterol management schemes also reduce the risk of heart disease in a statistically documented manner. There is no other training or management issue in the fire service that has been this well documented to reduce firefighter deaths,”
     Dr. Thomas Griggs, UNC-H Hospital, preformed this study. So what makes this doctor such an expert on what the fire service has experienced? Well I guess when you are a cardiologist you would understand these things and especially when your side line area is a firefighter / instructor.
     As I look around at attendees of conferences and seminars across the United States, review line of duty deaths and have personally felt the effects of line of duty deaths of two close friends, both from heart attacks it makes you stop and think. YES, the fire service does have a problem with fitness levels. The awareness has increased drastically from ten years ago but we have a long way to go. I bet each of you could look around your departments and point out members who need a little work to a whole lot of work to be in the physical condition they need to be. Also don’t forget to look in the mirror!  So what can we do about it? Our budgets don’t allow funding for exercise equipment. I have heard this so many times that it is a canned phrase and just an excuse. It takes little money to make an obstacle course.  To run for cardiovascular, streets, sidewalks and local school tracks are free to those who wish to run. The problem is we try to hide behind the problems of budgeting. It’s an easy scapegoat. Fact is that’s just what it is…an excuse. 
     If you have the fancy equipment, more power to you. If you don’t have the fancy equipment, go back to the basics. Here are some tips to help:
1.)    For endurance and strength for pulling hose without dragging real hose, get a large truck tire, a twelve-foot piece of hose (preferably with a male coupling for a nozzle); attach the hose to the tire with screws. Then fill the tire with something to make it heavier (concrete works well). Then you drag this new training aid from point A to point B…approximately 50 – 100 feet. I bet you will not get near as tired your next big fire while dragging hose.
2.)    Select a place that will allow you to run or power walk for added cardiovascular endurance. 
3.)    A course can be set up utilizing barrels, cones and stations to do resistance exercises. These resistance exercises replace weights in strength training.
4.)    Utilize that VCR around the station for exercising. Ty-Bo is an excellent cardiovascular workout. Just a few tapes can take you from basic to an advanced level.
5.)    Next is the hard part. How to get free money. This past year the fire service took advantage to the fire act for a variety of needs. Training was one of them. This could include training tools or props for physical conditioning. Next year take time to write that grant you should have done this year.
      Remember the key to being a physically fit firefighter is your own personal choice. The future is in your hands!