1. #1
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    Default We need more focus on the #1 killer of FF's

    I wish firefighters and the fire service looked more into and what is really killing our firefighters and that is heart attack or heart related problems, and the overall fitness of most firefighters in this profession both career and volunteer. The 10 year study conducted by the NFPA was just released and with no big suprise 44% of all firefighter deaths were related to heart problems, the next was death due to asphyxiation and the 3rd was due to some type of trauma accident. My question is what is your fire department doing to promote awarness to the true #1 killer of firefighters? I think everyone has or is hoping on the RIT band wagon, developed IC systems, better accountability systems, much better and light weight equipment such as better SCBA's and turnout gear, NFPA 1710/1720 standards, 2 in 2 out laws, save our own training, Safety Officers...the list goes on and on.
    First of all dont get me wrong...these are all excellent programs for our overall safety, I'm for each and every one of them, but it seems to me that nothing or nobody wants to really work on what is really killing firefighters and thats our health and overall fitness. I know my department has finally come to some type of aggremment between our administration and union to develop some type of fitness standard for all members, this was really a sticky issue and highly debated. We had many concerns from our firefighters as to what if a members fails the fitness standard or cant get to the level the department has set, Do they lose their job? These were all legit concerns, and believe me there were much more concerns than this one. For 2003 all members will go through a personal baseline fitness evaluation where the only ones who will know the results will be the firefighter and the fitness evaluator, all records will be kept confidential at our health plan office. After 1 year after the baseline evaluation all members will go through it again to see if there was any improvement, after that I'm not sure what will take place, I'm just happy we finally has something in place. We have plenty of time and work out equipment in the station to help try and get to the level we need to be at. I'm also a member of a small volunteer department and as far as the issue of fitness goes, its never been a concern or even looked at, and I'm sure it never will.
    We all know firefighting is one of the most stressfull and physically demanding professions in all the world, why is it that we can put so much energy in implementing RIT teams and procedures but cant do more to lower this 44% issue. I know improving our overall fitness and health is not that easy, it takes a big personal commitment and change of life style, but I feel if you are going to do this line of work we owe it to ourselves, our families, and our fellow firefighters.
    We can go from 0 to 60 at the drop of a tone, thats alot of stress on our body's before we even get to the fire scene to perform all the strenuous duties that need to take place.

    I wish firefighters and the fire service looks at this 44% stat a little more seriously and put just as much energy in this as we are inventing all these other standards and practices. I very rarely read any articles on overall health and fitness in all the fire service magazines, and for sure hardly anything on this important issue in any of these threads. We need to work on whatever it takes to lower that 44% stat our job is dangerous enough.

    Good Luck...and stay safe !!

    Happy new year to everyone
    Last edited by WTFDChief730; 01-02-2003 at 02:06 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default

    I agree. In my dept., only those that want to be interior ff's have medical physicals done every year -- that's about 44 people out of 85 or so. So, those that could really benefit from the "free" exam, such as our fire police (pretty much all over 65), generally don't get them done. And as of the middle of December, 17 members out of the 44 active for 2002 had the physicals which meant come 2003, 17 people would be allowed to enter a burning building. We've had since Sept. to get these physicals done -- it's like this every year. Well, the chiefs extended the deadline to 1-31-03. Instead of keeping their word that those who didn't get them wouldn't be allowed in a burning structure. Whatever works. It just frustrates me because I made an effort to get mine done in November; and due to work and other volunteer obligations, I'm not even around a lot. It's not taken seriously enough.

    We have a decent number of smokers, drinkers, and over-eaters (some are guilty of all three). They're not helping the situation if the get hurt at a "scene".

    That's my 2 cents.....
    "When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for my having been there."
    -- Jim Henson (1936 - 1990)

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    Post You can lead a horse to water-----

    Chief, I agree with you 100%.The matter of fitness of our ff should be a top priority.However, motivating people to make healthy life choices is a very difficult thing to do.As you stated,we develop better accountability, FAST ,state of the art SCBA's and communication but we're falling over from other factors.If 44% died of heart attacks, the statistics don't include how many are placed on permanent or partial disability.

    The media bombards us constantly with information on health, excercise and diet.There is no excuse of "I didn't know about that."It's a matter of choice. Most of the new folks I see coming into the fire/ems services seem to be in better shape than in the past, but I wonder how they will fare in 10-12 yrs. My own dept secured the use of the local high school's weight and training facility for use by zone fd's. It started with only 6-8 of a possible 120 or so and has dwidled to none in the past year. We encourage people to use the facility and it's FREE.

    Just look at the ff forums health and fitness category,2 posts and 1 reply in 30 days. Put something on about how many light bars you can run, which strobes are the brightest, or do you run mauve trucks and you'll have 80 posts on each subject in 2 hours.

    We have met hte enemy AND HE IS US!

  4. #4
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    Thanks for your reply Flathead...U hit the nail right on the head with your last comment, oh how true that is...its almost sad in a way.

  5. #5
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    ...and it's amazing that when NFPA had a standard up for adoption which would have made fitness a standard, the New York Volunteer Firemen's Association got up en masse and created a floor fight in order to get it sent back to committee as a "recommended practice", which has a lot less bite than a standard. Because as we all know, volunteer firefighters don't suffer from the same heart attacks that career firefighters do (tongue planted firmly in cheek here) so therefore they shouldn't be held to the same standard.

    And for God's sake, don't get me wrong here- I'm certainly not saying the career firefighters around the country are in stellar shape either. I'm just saying that fire (and the stress involved) doesn't differentiate between career and volunteer. There's something pretty embarrassing about all of the "tool sheds" you get to see at the FireExpo or your own state convention, etc.

    There's a lot of good reasons for getting in shape (even when you're older like me); it's easier to move around, it's more attractive to your spouse (or whomever you're trying to impress), it's more professional, but the best case is that it is important in prolonging your own life.

  6. #6
    iceman4442
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    Some very good points here in the "boonies," as in a thread that doesn't get looked at too often!

    My department also has the free use of our high school weight room and gym (which is about 200 yards from our station) anytime except when there's an event going on in it. There are exactly three (out of 30) of us who take advantage of it.

    Motivating someone who doesn't really want to work out to do so is virtually impossible without some kind of standard that has to be met, and even with one, it would be very difficult.

    To expand on solrebel's commemt on the benefits of being in better shape, it's not just for whomever is in good shape, but also for the people who may depend on him/her in a tough situation.

    If you come across any effective way to make the situation better, PLEASE let me know!

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    In our department the members are entitled to a free membership at our local gym. The township just last week aproved that they would pay the starting costs and the monthly fee. We are requried to be active in the department which means we will have to run probabaly about 30-35% of the calls and we must go 3 times a week. The township and our department addressed the topic being that heart attacks and health related deaths were the number one leading casue of LODD and something should be done about it. Its been about 2 weeks since they have this program going and its been a great sucess so far.

  8. #8
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    I look at this issue as the firefighters dirty little secret....we all know it but dont want to do anything about it.

    I guess I'll go visit that post on what light bar is the brightest.

  9. #9
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    Heart disease is an important subject. I hope we as a united fire service will work together to prevent premature deaths. This point is hammered home in my own State where a Fire Captain DIED from a heart attack... Lets do something about it.

  10. #10
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    The biggest hurdle to improved FF fitness is discipline. Chiefs can put all the rules and regs they want in place, the bottom line is the individual has to find the motivation to work out, and the discipline to do it regularly and effectively.
    "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in New York City."

    IACOJ

  11. #11
    iceman4442
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    Well said!

    Unfortunately, 12 ounce curls are the only exercise the majority of FF's around here get! (NOT while on duty or responding to calls - I don't want to open up that can again, entertaining though it was!)

    I proposed some simple fitness standards to meet within our department, but was flamed. The same personnel who say they'd quit if there weren't free beer at the station say they're volunteers, and shouldn't have to do anything like that! (Again, I'll stop here and not get going on that line!)

    Strange - fire (or Haz-Mat, or rescue, etc.) appears to be an equal-opportunity killer. It does not know or care if you're volunteer or paid!

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    Talking

    This is a great post finally we bring up this subject. We got the city to pay for our gym memberships and let us go an hour a day on duty. I love powerlifting and love going to the gym and being healthy,but I'm in the minority here. alot of people say well it's not manditory so i'm not going. If these people would only go on duty they have no idea how much better they would feel.But it seems that's the way everything is now if it involves work alot of people don't wanna do it..
    Live everyday like it's your last!!
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    Excellent topic. We have a debate going on currently on our forum board at www.delawarefirefighter.com regarding this very issue.
    The biggest cry is that we are a mostly volunteer system, and the mentality seems to be that because we are volunteer, nothing can be imposed upon them such as physical fitness, physical testing, etc.

    My question is, for those of you who have posted on this topic up to this point: How many of you are vollie dept's and what was your biggest selling points?
    Don't get me wrong, career / vollie, we all do the same rigorous work, and like fire - heart attacks don't discriminate.

  14. #14
    iceman4442
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    En6ine: We're a volunteer department, which is the main point brought up (by some personnel, anyway) any time any kind of standards are brought up or proposed. The "I'm a volunteer, so I don't have to do anything like that" mentality. I'm able to keep up and add to my training, knowlege, and certifications, and still work my regular job, keep the wife and kids happy (if momma ain't happy, nooooobody's happy!), and still have a little fun, too. I guess it's a matter of motivation - some have more than others.

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    I agree with most post on this subject. Here in the East our departments are not big into the fitness as the west coast guy's are. For instance , my departments average age is around 48 years old. The department had a fitness program only after 10 guy's died of heart attacks during a SINGLE YEAR, two on duty. Well, we are having a little trouble with money this year, so to save a few thousand dollars they cut the program, but for the same cost as the fitness program we are pleased to announce we are getting all new badges.

    I read firehouse everyday for the most part, I see alot of older firefighters passing away. I mean guy's in there late 60 and even 70's, what are these people even doing on the fire ground? If we take these people off the fire ground and out of the fire service the numbers will drop.

    As for getting a check up, I agree. Everyone should get a check up every year, regardless of what your capacity is within the department. Too bad this will never happen, retirement boards will take a beating. My union went as far as to tell the dept dr that checking a members BP was wrong. They felt that if the Dr found extreme HTN in the pt he could end the person carreer. Then you also have the cost to the city or towns for these check ups. It's too bad, they rather take the gamble that we die off duty then pay 500.00 for a check up every year or so.

    It all boils down to money

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    Good to see this being discussed.

    Fitness is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, even for those departments doing something about it, total fitness isn't something that comes about overnight. Despite this fact, and despite that we know there's nothing we can do to help that, MANY DEPARTMENTS STILL DON'T CARRY AEDs ON EVERY COMPANY.

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