The Fire Service is and has been so much more than apparatus, tools and appliances. The tradition lies within the very souls of the responders both career and volunteer. Fit for Duty is a section that speaks to the person. Most of the personal tragedies and hurt for the members of the service are impacts of our society and daily lives. As a father, I am so blessed to have in my life two wonderful children who have found the spirit of servanthood and a love for the service.
Being Fit for Duty creates discussions about not only the physical and spiritual side of our day to day lives, but also the heart. Take a few minutes if you will and spend some time with Laura and Andy. Let us all pay it forward. God bless and be Safe! JS
The firefighter comes to the call with all the trials, tribulations, tears, laughter, stress, happiness, fitness issues, fears, phobias, health concerns family issues, and distractions that can be imagined. Each organization must either deal with the results of these impacts and / or proactively interface with the human condition during the shift and/or the call.
Fit for duty will seek to discuss the conditions and the positive tools and interventions to favorably influence these conditions. The health of the organization is the leading predictor of how the customer is treated and the effectiveness and efficiency of the team.
As a leader, what are your processes to enable your employees or volunteers to be fit for duty?
For encouragement, take a few moments daily to seek that support!
Stop the weight gain! (For the Volunteer Firefighter)
Foreword by Joe Starnes
The following article is from Laura Starnes. She brings a very special perspective to living a long healthy life. Laura has had a very traumatic rare injury as a young adult. She has dedicated her life to finding the very best quality of life possible with her injury.
So I asked her to write a couple of perspectives that could assist volunteer firefighters whose lives are a combination of a sedimentary work life with the demands of the volunteer firefighter duties and responsibilities.
I encourage you to spend a few minutes to digest this information to “favorably influence your quality of health”. Over the next few months you will have an opportunity to read, see and have conversations with Laura to assist you finding some tools and techniques to improve the quality of our health while carrying out the duties of a volunteer firefighter.
We will create on-line opportunities for departments or individuals to speak with Laura.
Now here is Laura:
When dealing with a out-of-condition volunteer firefighter anywhere between the age of 25 to 50+ who's life outside of the department is primarily sedentary (desk, transportation job) with a diet consisting of fast foods, and the only exercise is a pickup basketball or football game here and there... We have the perfect factors for a heart attack and/or major injury on the job equation.
Being that heart attacks are the number one killer of firefighters, we need to rethink how we approach dealing with the education of volunteer firefighters when it comes to health and fitness. The number one rule is we need to keep a healthy consistent environment within our stations, so there is at least one constant positive enforcer within the firefighter life. Stations should not be stocked only with soda, candy, chips, etc. That's like loading a gun for the kill. The stations should seek out local nutritionist and fitness expert to teach classes just as training is approached within the fire department. There should be mandatory testing just as is for first aid and tactical training. With this, the station would be able to provide easy on hand information to each firefighter about nutritional choices and small steps they can take to adapt their unhealthy habits. (Stop the weight gain)
What can you do if you are this firefighter in need of some changes? You start with movement and standing up. Simple, stand up and move. When you get off work and you are spending your off time at the station, don't sit and watch training tapes, stand and watch training tapes. Don't sit and do reports, stand and do reports. Don't grab the crackers and Coke, reach for the water and the mixed nuts, fruit with yogurt, peanut butter and fruit, veggie and hummus, and more. Little things go a long way.
It takes 15 to 30 minutes of just walking/cardio a day to improve heart health and circulation with improved organ function, brain function, joint pain, bone health, nerve function and more. That's less time than you spend watching the news, playing on your iPhone, sitting down for a meal, or even talking on the phone. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to hop on the station treadmill if you don't have an outdoor track, and knock up the incline to about 2.5% up to 5% and a speed that is comfortable for you starting out. Try using a decent speed around 2.9 to 3.5 MPH. You don't want your heart rate to hit higher than 85% at its highest. Starting out, keeping it around 50 to 70% of your max heart rate is a good range.
Basic behavior corrections for you to consider: - If job consists of not moving and sitting, you should focus on standing and moving as much as possible as soon as you are off work until you hit the bed. - Prepare and know: Prepare by having prepackaged healthy snacks in your reach. Keep water within your reach at all times to sip throughout the day. Do NOT guzzle, sip and keep steady hydration. Know the gas stations, fast food, grocery stores, and restaurants that have the healthy choices you need, so during your day you don't have to think and you can simply find what you need. This can be something that Stations participate in as well by having a list at the station of better options for their firefighters. There are several phone apps that also aide in this areas. - A simple starting point with strength training is to keep it easy and simple to start. Pick 3 to 4 exercises that you can perform easily starting out. Try 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps to build up stamina and muscle twice a week. - Know how to recover from your day. Hydrate properly an hour before bedtime and keep a glass or bottle of water next to your bed for casual sips keep the heart happy yet not enough to wake you up in the middle of the night for a bathroom run. Turn your smartphones, iPad, etc. away and rest your eyes and your mind before bed. The brain needs to decompress and focus it’s a attention on healing the body from the day. Don't occupy it too much with stressful white noise from the social media world. Make your bed as comfortable and restful as possible. - Know your temperature range. Your body will act in a stressed state under certain temperatures. This is a marker that most don't even consider until they are past the point of being uncomfortable. The temp at which you are uncomfortable, usually means you've gone past the temp that your body is safely operating at. Firefighters deal with temp changes constantly. Learning how to regulate a steady range outside of stressful conditions will help one stay more aware of unhealthy body markers/changes during stressful situations such as a fire. - Learn to breathe. Throughout the day, every 30 minutes to an hour whenever your watch beeps or you check the time remind yourself to take a slow diaphragmatic deep breath. This is one the best life saving techniques I can ever offer you. Most firefighters chest breathe, thus breathe with their chest and neck muscles causing muscles constriction around the major arteries leading to the brain and around the chest. Learning to belly breathe throughout the day can reduce stress tremendously. - Make time to work out and change your life. If you're a morning person, do it early. If you're a night owl, work out at night. Each routine can be adapted and worked into your lifestyle.
There are many additional ways to make better choices and to reach your optimal level of health for your volunteer and paid position as a firefighter which I will be discussing more in articles to come.
Hydration is at the "Heart of Firefighting"
Hydration: At the HEART of Firefighting by Laura Starnes
What do you have if you have firefighters without a hose line pumping water in a fully involved structure fire? A problem!
What do you have if you have a dehydrated firefighter fighting a structure fire? A firefighter heading to hospital during or even hours after the call!
Water is key to firefighters physically and tactically. We often only associated hydration with recovery which is not the case. If your hose line loses too much pressure while you are in the middle of an intense interior attack, the likely hood of being consumed by the heat of the fire increases dramatically.
Your body operates in a similar fashion. If there is not enough water circulating through your body it becomes consumed by heat. Your heart rate increases and your cardiac output decreases. Your body becomes "de-pressurized" so to speak. You're fighting a fire with air. Soon that becomes slim.
Our bodies are about 1% dehydrated by the time our thirst kicks in. This means we need to hydrate early. Think of the deficit your body is in once you wake up from even a few hours of sleep. Think about the other factors such other beverages such as alcohol you consumed the night before, or the diet drinks and tea you're sucking down to keep you awake. There are many different ways we dehydrate ourselves unknowingly. Being proactive and preparing before it all hits the fan is the key to protecting the greatest asset you have, You.
As you know, Firefighting is about are being prepared for the most unstable situations. Drills, gear, tools, classes, and tons of training are all at your finger tips to prepare you for the events you face daily. Hydration is a preparatory tool essential to a firefighters survival. The ability to stay hydrate should be at your finger tips at all times as well.
How do we prepare our bodies through hydration?
1.) Start early: whatever time you start your day that is when you should start loading your body up with fluids. Pace yourself throughout your day. Depending upon your personal health issues or physical status, the average need is about 4 - 6 liters of water a day for Firefighters.
2.) Monitor your hydration levels by your urine color. Yes, I said it, check your hydration status every time. Light color (like lemonade or lighter) is what you want. Darker colors of urine are giving you a heads up that your body is already behind. (Take in consideration some medications and vitamins will discolor your output as well.)
3.) Stay ahead of the game by keeping a water bottle by the bed especially. Drinking a little before bed can ease the stress on the heart. As well as, having it accessible when you wake up to take a few sips as you rush out or simply before breakfast helps your body tremendously. The key is to have access to hydrate at any moment. Think of your water bottle as your cell phone, it needs to be near you at all times.
What are your choices and sources of hydration?
• Water of course is the best source. It's easiest to find anywhere, and you can take it everywhere. • Fruits contain some amounts of water. Be aware of the amount of sugar you are consuming. If your sugar intake is already high water is your best choice. • Meats can contain up to 60% of water. Meats that are cooked well done are less likely to be a positive source of water. • Other options if water is not available: Hamburger, Chicken Breast, Soup, stew, broth, Jell-O, Grapefruit, Grapes, Watermelon, Fruit juice, Sports drinks or flavored waters, Smoothies.
How to hydrate in terms of active duty or recovery:
• Mix half Gatorade (or your choice of sports drink) with half water to allow fast absorption of water. • Post work rehydration is best completed over a period of 12-24 hours. It is not healthy to just drowned yourself in Gatorade right after a call, and call it a day. Pace your hydration over the course of hours.
Hydration is a firefighter pre-work, work, and post work life line. Note that water especially hydrates the body in a way no other substance can. It helps hydrate our muscles which aids in function and muscle recovery(healing). Your heart is a muscle. Your lungs utilizes muscles to function. Your brain obtains more blood flow thus more oxygen when the proper amount of water is circulating through your body. Clarity, strength, power, optimal functioning muscles, and protection, this is what hydration is about. It's more than recovery. It's life saving. Being that heart attacks are the number one killer of firefighters it's time to get back to the fundamentals of why and how we can prevent this kind of stress on the body.
Start today, and protect the number one piece of equipment within Fire Service = You.