A habit I have made each day is to check the website and see if we lost anyone overnight, we keep a running tab of Firefighters killed in the line of duty on our duty board. There has been a lot of talk about why members of the Fire service are dying but not a lot being done about it. According to the NFPA heart attacks are the leading cause of LODD’s across the country. Heart attacks are not the only issue when it comes to health, in a day of cancer running rapidly through the service and mental health taking a huge toll on first responders we are finding out how much our health and wellness can play into our overall physical and mental health. Now let’s talk about that a little.
We check off our rigs each day, check our SCBA’s and tools and make sure all the equipment is onboard and ready to go, but why? Well its because that’s what we have been trained to do and without those things, we can’t perform our duties. So where in the mix did we forget to check ourselves? Without the individual, those tools and trucks will do no good. Citizens we swore to protect are counting on us to respond to their worst day, but what if we are not physically capable of doing that? There tends to be a war in the fire service between those who take pride in fitness and those who do not. Society labels us as occupational athletes but what do we know about athletes?
The career of a professional athlete is limited by their ability to physically perform to the standards their fans demand. And yes, there are the chosen few who defy all odds and make it past their chosen years, but those numbers are a very small %. Those athletes that make it a long and healthy career and can retire and have a quality life with their families all have one thing in common; they train harder than the young guys. That is because they have to earn and keep that spot. So in the fire service are we working each day to keep our spot or are we getting complacent and banking on luck carrying us to the end zone. Now I do not expect everyone to be an Olympic athlete but we can all put in some effort. Whether it’s walking on the treadmill, lifting weights or making a workout plan that uses functional movements which mirror fire-ground movements and tasks we owe it to our brothers and sisters but more importantly those we swore to protect. In a day of short-staffed departments, we need to be upping our game. We all know how working while on air can and will greatly speed up fatigue, so why are we not doing more training on air? Studies show that the more cardio you do while on air it will train your lungs to work under the extreme pressure which in return will drastically drop energy used to breathe on air. Air management is a vital factor when it comes to overall job performance. It does no good to keep coming out with longer lasting cylinders when a majority of the fire service will either blow through that cylinder in record time or be physically drained before running out of air. These issues are nothing that cannot be fixed, but the only way to tackle them is by putting in the work. It’s time to lay the excuses and denial aside. It’s time to stop the hating and bashing and come together and push each other. If you are the weak link in the chain then do something about it, there is no room for self-pity in the fire service.
Cancer seems to be running rapidly through the fire service these days with a record number of younger firefighters diagnosed. We as a service are dropping record numbers of money into cancer prevention and decon but are failing to see there are others things at play here. According to The World Cancer research fund, 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the US are linked to body fatness, physical inactivity, poor diet, and excessive alcohol consumption. Now let’s not kid ourselves working out is not the end all be all to these issues, but it does play a major factor. It is also proven that after returning from a fire and showering if you get your heart rate up and sweat you can actually release some of the toxins trapped in your pores which allows a second shower to get in and clean out the toxins that could be linked to these cancers. There is a lot out there we do not know but why not take advantage of the information we do have and try to make a change?
Getting in a healthy mind and body will not just lower LODD’s but will enhance your life as a whole. The healthier you are, the less sick days you’ll use, fewer injuries will occur and when it is your time to hang up the boots and helmet you will be able to give your family many years of quality time. We have all seen the new statistics out showing a drastic increase in first responder suicides. Mental health is also linked to overall physical wellbeing. The more we get up and move, the more active and proactive we are the better our mind seems to be. Its shown that poor diet, lack of physical activity, poor attitudes can lead to depression issues which can then lead to bigger mental health issues. I know a lot of PTSD is from one particular event that happens and no matter how healthy we are it can’t stop the emotions from happening but when we take our health serious it does allow us to handle more than others. We need to do a better job of exercising our mental health. Start talking to one another, be there for one another. Let’s stop the bitterness and show the true meaning of the word Family.
You would run into a fire to pull out your brother or sister so why not pull them out of that slump and get them moving? We are only as strong as our weakest link, so let’s make all those links strong! Let’ss stop the bashing and hating and show the true meaning of “ Brotherhood. “
Nicholasville KY Fire Department