Firefighter Health Week: Day Four

Just like taking on a working fire, you need a game plan before taking on exercise.

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

Firefighters utilize riding assignments, SOPs, SOGs and other information to create a initial plan for fireground operations. Today’s National Firefighter Health Week information from the National Volunteer Fire Council gives you and your department all you need to plan your health and wellness programs.

As you review the information below consider what policies should be in place, who will be involved and what additional resources your department will need. Once you combine your earlier assessments and support with this game plane, your department will have built a strong foundation for health and wellness.

  • Read the Critical Health and Safety Issues in the Volunteer Fire Service to understand the issues that put you and your members at risk, and learn how to make them priorities in your department’s initiatives.
  • Adopt NFPA 1500: Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program in your department.
  • Implement the B.E.S.T. Practices for behavior in the fire and emergency services:
    • Support the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of all personnel.
    • Operate all emergency apparatus and privately owned vehicles to conform to the highest road safety standards and enforce the use of seatbelts.
    • Develop, practice, and enforce recommended health and safety standards for all personnel.
    • Monitor and ensure that all active emergency scenes maintain the utmost level of safety and fireground accountability.
  • When developing your health and fitness programs make sure you’re implementing safe and effective training. Listen to this webinar featuring Michelle Detwiler, the Wellness Coordinator at L&T Health and Fitness.
  • Learn how to establish an effective and successful health and fitness program in your department with the NVFC’s free Health and Wellness Advocate Workshop.
  • When planning your personal and department health initiatives and programs, refer to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) publication on Preventing Firefighter Fatalities Due to Heart Attacks and Other Sudden Cardiovascular Events.
  • Use the American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Guidelines to start thinking about adopting a department health and fitness policy.
  • Prepare to be met with resistance when attempting to create a more health conscious culture in the department. This is common, and possible to counter. Consult the Health and Wellness Guide for ways to deal with resistance.
  • Ask for members to volunteer to be the department’s Health and Fitness Committee who will plan, organize, and conduct programs to help the department successfully reach your objectives.
  • Develop a Heart-Healthy Firefighter Contract to have your members write down their health goals for the year, sign it as proof of their commitment, and document their progress. As they document their progress they’ll see how much they have actually made. This sense of accomplishment will keep them motivated.
  • Encourage teamwork through play! By creating sports teams and fitness clubs for department members you’ll not only boost morale for your health initiatives but you’ll also improve teamwork skills. Contact neighboring departments to encourage them to create sports teams of their own and have friendly competitions with each other.
  • Ask a heart attack or stroke survivor to come to your department, share his or her story, and explain the importance of heart-health.
  • Get a registered dietician, a nutrition student from a local college, or a local chef to donate time to help make your station heart-healthy. Ask them to host a session with department members on which foods in the station’s kitchen are not nutritious and what a tasty, healthier substitute might be.
  • Have your members log in to a meal-tracking site, such as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Menu Planner or These sites allow you to enter what you eat and see what your total calories and fat are for the day. Use the Fired Up For Fitness activity tracking tool on the Heart-Healthy web site to log progress toward fitness goals and receive incentive items for each benchmark reached.

Go here for more resources

Photo courtesy of Marc Bashoor.

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