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Promoting Health and Wellness in Your Department

Firefighter Functional Training - Promoting Health and Wellness in Your Department

In North Carolina the Office of the State Fire Marshal is the certifying body for the fire service.  As in most locales I am sure, it has been quite some time since our firefighter certification program received a major makeover.  Our latest makeover took effect January 1, 2015 and included the addition of three modules to the certification program.  The modules were designed to ensure the NC FF certification program meets NFPA 1001 Standard for Firefighter Professional Qualifications.  One of the three modules added to the program is a Health and Wellness module.  The state of North Carolina, I am very proud to say, is one of the first states to include this module as part of their firefighter certification program. 

This module meets several components of the NFPA 1001 standard all aimed at reducing firefighter injuries, illnesses, and line of duty deaths as a direct result of the physical condition of the firefighter.  The program lesson plan draws from many resources:

                  -J&B Fundamentals of FF Skills, 3rd Edition

                  -IFSTA 6th Edition Essentials of Firefighting

                  -NVFC: Heart Healthy Firefighter Program

                  -NCFV’s Addressing the Epidemic of Obesity in the Fire Service

                  -NFPA 1582 Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments

                  -NFPA 1583 Standard on Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Department Members

                  -USFA: Firefighter Health and Safety resources.

The module is an 8 hour program, with no practical component, that includes four areas of study: Injury and death review: causes, types, statistics; physical fitness; nutrition; and behavioral and mental health.  Feel free to check out the lesson plan and utilize it to introduce your department to Health & Wellness.  Additionally, the NC OSFM has some great resources on their pocket tools website on firefighter health and wellness to include functional fitness and nutrition tips.

When I prepared my lesson plan to begin teaching the Health and Wellness module, I expanded on the state’s curriculum to include a practical component for the fitness area of study, as I felt it to be a very important component.  With past deliveries of the module I have introduced attendees to some stretching exercises aimed at reducing injuries.  I am continually expanding and tweaking the lesson plan with each class I teach to be sure I am exposing attendees to the diverse amount of resources they have at their fingertips in relation to firefighter health and wellness.  In addition to the NC OSFM resources, my next delivery of the module will include some pieces garnered from The First Twenty that focus on functional fitness to improve fireground performance.

The state of NC is taking great strides towards ensuring our firefighters are able to perform at their optimum.  I encourage you to keep the conversation going.  Share some ideas on what your organization or state is doing to promote healthy firefighters!

This article was written by The First Twenty Firefighter Functional Training Panel member Fire Chief Susanna Schmitt Williams of the Town of Carrboro Fire Department, North Carolina.

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