1. #1
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    ChiefReason's Avatar
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    Feb 2001
    Illinois-where pertnear is close enough!

    Default Wanted: Unhealthy Firefighters?

    I just had to share this here. This has the makings of a fire storm, but being the eternal optimist that I am, I'll wait and see where it goes.
    From Command Post:
    From the Editor
    Unhealthy Firefighters Wanted?
    Janet Wilmoth, Editor
    Last week, I wrote about Men's Health magazine's search for "America's Fittest Firefighter" to appear on its cover. And, yes, I did suggest that women firefighters be featured in its sister publication, Women's Health, but haven't heard back on that.

    Judging from your response to the quest for the fittest firefighter, I hit a jugular. Most readers said Men's Health would do better to focus on the need for the majority of firefighters -- who are unhealthy -- to get in better physical condition and not the minority of "six-pack" models. But get real. Would you buy a health magazine with an out-of-shape person on the cover?

    A battalion chief from Michigan wrote that at first he was pleased the fire service would get good media coverage. "Then it dawned on me, this is fake," he wrote. "We, the fire service, are not the vision of health and fitness. A very small portion of firefighters nationwide are physically fit to perform the duties asked of them in fighting fire.... If we are the symbol of health, why do we keep dying of heart attacks?"

    What do you say to the families of the firefighters lost when they suffer a heart attack because they were performing duties they were not fit for, the chief asked.

    Last year, in a fairly emotional conversation with a couple of heart bypass survivors from the fire industry, I suggested that they come up with a lapel pin of a flaming heart or a heart in a Maltese cross for those in the fire service who have survived a heart attack. Their heart attacks changed their lives -- physically and mentally -- and maybe they could help others by telling their story.

    Thursday's Chicago Tribune had an interesting article reporting that a "broken heart" is in fact a very real physical ailment. Medically referred to as stress cardiomyopathy, the article says a traumatic breakup, death of a loved one or even the shock of a surprise party can "unleash a flood of stress hormones that can stun the heart, causing a sudden, life-threatening heart spasm in otherwise healthy people."

    According to Ilan Wittstein of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, whose findings appear in the New England Journal of Medicine, broken heart symptoms are similar to a classic heart attack. While test results show healthy, unclogged arteries, researchers found "levels of stress hormones in the patient's blood, such as adrenaline, were two to three times higher than in heart attack victims -- and seven to 34 times higher than normal."

    Stress hormones? What about the sudden adrenaline rush of an alarm? Fire showing? Trapped victim? Firefighter down?

    Life is stressful. But if you're already on medication for a heart or stress-related disease, how many more red flags do you need?

    The Michigan fire chief said he liked my editorial's headline: "Healthy Firefighters Wanted." "I think they are wanted in more than one way," he concluded. "Now, how do we get them?"

    Good question. From my heart to yours, Happy Valentine's Day.
    Let the discussion begin.
    Oh and Happy Valentine's Day. May I suggest a heart shaped box of broccoli for your loved one?
    Visit www.iacoj.com
    Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
    RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)

  2. #2
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    Feb 2003


    I liked what the Michigan chief wrote, but I'd like to see those panty waist SOB's that suggested doing an article on unhealthy FF's. Go and do the work FF's perform then they'd probally change their toon.
    IACOJ "Proud to be a Crusty"

  3. #3
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    martinm's Avatar
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    Oct 2001
    Northumberland, United Kingdom


    I think this article may well stun a number of fire services/firefighters to actually do somthing about the health and well being of the service/dept.

    How many times each week do we read on FH of firefighters sucumming to heart attacks, or dying of unknown causes? Too many it seems to me. Although I am a long way away from US, I can see it is incumbent on employers and individuals to ensure they are fit both physically and emotionally to under take the work we do.

    It is no good leaving things to God and good grace and assuming that people will look after themselves, poor diet, an otherwise sedentiary lifestyle (apart from when the pager goes off), lack of exercise in general and the old standard of "I just don't have the time", are all the enemies of good general health. We are not talking about all being 6ft tall, muscular, six packed Adonisis, just being fit and healthy will do. (My normal job is sitting at a desk for 10 hours per shift, 58 hours per week, but in order to maintain fitness and health I cycle the 10 miles each way to work).

    As the Chief rightly points out, there are stresses which are part and parcel of our line of work, but with proper management they can be alleviated and monitored. How many people who ARE'NT firefighters go to their doctor on a regular basis for blood pressure monitoring and associated basics like that? Many I think is the answer. How many times as a firefighter have you been?

    Better health screening for both career and volunteer firefighters is a way to start, (my UK fire service requires a medical before appointment, a medical before a driving course for appliances, and has an over 40's medical screening which is required every 3 years following that birthday). A retirement age of 55 (at the moment), also ensures that "old age" problems do not become a factor against a fully operational workforce.

    Fires kill people, thats and accepted fact, does poor health have to kill the fire service?

    Stay healthy. You owe it to your family, your co-workers and your "customers"
    United Kingdom branch, IACOJ.

  4. #4
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    AFD368's Avatar
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    Feb 2002
    Albion NY


    All of these discussions of "Healthy Firefighters" always revert to issues of heart attacks. It's true, but what are the reasons behind it? Because firefighters are older, still performing the gruelling tasks that they did ten, fifteen years ago? What about injuries sustained during the performance of their duties, like pulled muscles, broken bones, fatigue, cuts, burns etc.. It has been proven that the older a person is, the healing process is slowed, but does that stop municipalities from cutting staff, or help volunteer departments recruit younger personnel?

    Injuries are a part of our profession. As much as we try to prevent injuries, its hard not to have any. We work in some unbelievable conditions. We wear heavy gear, carry heavy equipment, work in all kinds of weather conditions (heat, snow, ice), we work in zero visability, we work in (many times) limited numbers, and, sometimes we work in dangerous situations with an inknown factor.
    Injuries are not just physical. We see things not meant for the human mind.

    All of this can result in even the healthyist of firefighters
    to break down, physically and mentally. Yes, heart attacks are a primary concern, but there are many contributing factors. Not just what kind of shape our firefighters are in when they sign on for the job or what kind of shape they try to maintain.
    "The uniform is supposed to say something about you. You get it for nothing, but it comes with a history, so do the right thing when you're in it."
    Battalion Chief Ed Schoales
    from 'Report from Ground Zero' pg 149
    I.A.C.O.J. Member

  5. #5
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    DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Aug 2000
    Somewhere between genius and insanity!


    Originally posted by Truck106
    I liked what the Michigan chief wrote, but I'd like to see those panty waist SOB's that suggested doing an article on unhealthy FF's. Go and do the work FF's perform then they'd probally change their toon.
    I think that they would probably be better at it, as they would be more fit!

    We tend to turn a blind eye to our own problems....

    Case in point... how critical are we when we watch TV and see a beautiful woman on a program? We pick her appearance apart from head to toe, yet we refuse to look at ourselves in the mirror. Some firefighters haven't seen their tallywhacker without the help of a mirror for years, yet they pass judgement on others?

    We talk about eating healthy, working out and running on the treadmill, then order a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese for lunch at eat the whole thing by ourselves... burp!

    We play the cops in a softball game, and wonder why we always lose to them. we may kid them about eating donuts, but we have our faces in the fridge all day at the fire hall.

    We consider exercise to be a round of golf with a cart... and a cooler full of frosties!

    Look at us the day we all got sworn in... yes, we were a lot younger, had more hair and were a lot thinner... Some of us have gained a few pounds (some a few dozen) and the hair is either turning gray or lost altogether...

    Can we turn back the clock? No.
    Can we slow it down a bit or a lot? Hell yeah!

    Eating right, getting some physical exercise (and changing the channel with the cliker doesn't count!)and a positive mental attitude will help tremendously!

    Mike DeStefano's Firefighters workout and Bill Phillips' "Body for Life" are two excellent guides for getting back with the program.

    I'm no Adonis, but I'm trying...a lot more than others are doing!
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 02-13-2005 at 11:15 AM.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  6. #6
    former FH.com member

    Join Date
    Dec 2003


    I thought it was interesting that during the hiring process for San Antonio one of the applicant processing personnel told my wife that I had a "100 percent chance of getting injured on the job". He added that the injury could be anything from a pulled muscle to a fatal injury/illness. He was right too, although I stay in shape and try to be careful...somtimes ***** just happens, and you can get hurt. Luckily for me nothing serious so far.

  7. #7
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    Apr 2004
    Bossier Parrish, Louisiana


    As a firefighter who suffered a heart attack at a training burn last October, I can tell you what a struggle it is to get yourself back. Though I was only out 2 months, it was a life changing event and has made me take healthier eating and exercise much more seriously. I remember when I first came back, I was laying on the ground trying to get a look under the trailer for extension. I had 4 people, including the Asst. Chief who was with me that night, come running over to me thinking I was down again. My incident has caused 1 or 2 people on the department to work out more, but in general, it has not spiked the amount of concern for physical fitness like I thought it would.
    I guess it's tough to change old habits ....

  8. #8
    Senior Member

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    Nov 2004


    I wonder are they looking at us or are they reading stats? We all know our stats don't look very good. Lots of injuries and deaths for the young the old, the fit and the not so fit.
    Rath De Ort


  9. #9
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    Mar 2004


    My department just had a lengthy discussion on this topic; while we do provide our 75 members with a fitness plan (they can use a local Gym for free) it is optional. Running 800 calls a year w/ a truck company, several engines, heavy rescue and EMS seperate; we decided that everyone wasn't in the best shape.

    So, until we can make some sort of PT program mandatory or install fitness equipment.

    We bought six new defibrillators, that decision reflected upon the fact that Pennsylvania had the highest rate of firefighter deaths. We plan on installing new resuscitation kits on all apparatus also. So just in case someone does go down, they have the best possible chance. Of course we do realize that an AED can't fix years and years of poor health and bad habits.

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