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Resolutions for the New Year: Firefighter Health and Wellness

Posted on January 9, 2012 by U.S. Fire Administrator Ernest Mitchell

One of the more common New Year’s resolutions is to improve our health and wellness through losing weight, eating better, beginning an exercise program or exercising more, stopping smoking, etc.

USFA recently released our 2011 provisional report of on-duty firefighter fatalities. While the 81 on-duty fatalities in 2011 reflect a decrease from 2010, heart attacks were responsible for the deaths of 48 firefighters (59%). This is nearly the same proportion of firefighter deaths from heart attack or stroke (60%) in 2010.

Every year, the leading cause of fatalities to firefighters is heart attack. Effective health and wellness programs can reduce this number one cause of firefighter deaths. As a whole and individually, we need to embrace health and wellness.

USFA and many other fire service organizations have developed many programs to support you and your department’s efforts to enhance firefighter health and wellness. These include the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters Fire Service Labor Management Wellness Fitness Initiative and the Heart Healthy Firefighter Program of the National Volunteer Fire Council.

While health and wellness programs are effective, they do not work unless they are implemented. USFA encourages fire departments to provide physical exams to each firefighter and responder in the department in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582 – Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments. In addition, USFA encourages fire departments to implement a comprehensive fitness program per NFPA 1583 – Standard on Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Department Members.

As a firefighter, here are some things you can do starting now:

However, as with any fitness program, there are no instant results and positive impacts in this area take time. USFA recognizes the essential role of health and wellness programs in the fire service. I encourage all responders and departments to learn more about USFA’s programs and partnerships in this area by visiting the firefighter health and wellness section of our website.

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