Firefighter Health Week: Day Three

Developing healthy habits is hard, but you don’t have to do it alone.

FireRescue Magazine and Firefighter are sharing the National Volunteer Fire Council’s daily resources for this year’s National Firefighter Health Week 2011. Day Three gives you the tools you need to build a solid support system.

Today’s National Firefighter Health Week subject is geared toward motivation and goals, for yourself and your department. Having a solid support system means involving your coworkers, department leadership, community, family and friends.

Below are suggestions and resources from the National Volunteer Fire Council that you and your department can use to develop a solid support system:

Learn how to be the support for your department by becoming a Health and Wellness Advocate. The NVFC’s free Health and Wellness Advocate Workshop will give you the necessary tools and knowledge to support and motivate your department’s members and health initiatives.

Educate everyone in your department on how to be aware of the other members. Is one member working long hours, under a lot of stress, or drinking more heavily than usual? Be accountable for each other and don’t be afraid to ask that person if you can help.

Encourage support among your department personnel by teaching them how to motivate each other in their health and fitness initiatives, or create “teams” of two or more members who will support each other in their efforts to reach their health goals. Use the Fired Up for Fitness online challenge to track fitness progress and receive incentives for reaching goals.

Create a tagline or motto for your department’s members that states their commitment to supporting each and every member of the department in their health and fitness initiatives. For example, “Alone, our hearts beat. But with support from each other our hearts beat stronger.”

Encourage or require department members to schedule annual physicals and consult their doctor about matters concerning family history and how they can reduce their risk factors.

Ask local healthcare professionals or hospitals to donate their time and resources to conduct free health screenings for your department members. Remind them that their donation will help protect the community by making sure those who protect them are healthy enough to do their job.

Contact local businesses to see if they are interested in creating community relations or corporate philanthropy programs that can support your fire department’s health and wellness program. Use the Heart-Healthy Firefighters Program’s sponsorship guide to help you gain support.

Develop relationships with health and fitness related businesses like local gyms or grocery stores where you can ask for discounts on memberships or healthy foods. Use information and facts from to explain why a health and fitness program is so vital to firefighters and the community. As an extra incentive for the business explain that they can use the relationship as a basis for a public relations campaign.

Find someone in your department who can write well and have them learn how to compose a grant request. The NVFC has developed a Grant Writing Guide to help you master this important skill. Many businesses, foundations, or organizations offer grant opportunities that can help you fund health and wellness initiatives. The federal government’s Fire Prevention and Safety Grant is another possible funding source. Find more grant opportunities on the NVFC web site.

Establish a Fire Corps program that can aid your department in achieving its health and fitness goals in many ways. You can have your Fire Corps volunteers develop and find funding for your health programs, or have them complete other non-emergency tasks that would otherwise take up the time that your members’ could spend working on their fitness and health.

Keep in mind when you’re creating activities to incorporate into your health initiatives that they could be a desirable story for the media to cover. Every chance you have to get public attention is also a chance to grab support and funding.

Contact local gyms and ask if they would be willing to donate equipment that they no longer need to your fire department in order to ensure that your firefighters’ are strong and healthy enough to safely perform the job’s physically demanding tasks.

Encourage family members to get involved in your health initiatives. By teaching your children and spouse about your nutrition, exercise, and other health efforts and encouraging them to join you, you’ll be keeping your family healthy while developing a solid support system that extends outside of the fire department.

Join the American Heart Association’s MyStart Community where you can meet other people working towards a healthier lifestyle and be a part of the supportive community.

Check out more resources from the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Photo courtesy of Mark Brady.

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