Health management for firefighters has become increasingly important in departments across America as these professionals perform grueling tasks each day and are required to be in prime physical shape. Unfortunately, many firefighters fall victim to poor health each year, both physically and mentally. While the focus to improve firefighter health is still in its infancy, it is widely regarded as necessary, regardless of research, leadership and funding. With this in mind, encouraging firefighters and emergency responders to make small changes in their daily habits can make the difference in both company morale and overall performance. Here are a few simple recommendations to share with your clients.
Water is the center of all metabolic processes, so hydration level directly impacts performance. Dehydration will impair performance, mental capacity and perception of effort, and if severe enough, it can be life-threatening. It is recommended to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day. However, depending on the exertion level of the firefighter, more water might be necessary. A simple way to promote health management within the station is to ensure there is always a water bottle handy so they remain hydrated, or provide water bottles to keep on hand during calls and during their down time.
Firefighters must fuel their bodies very consciously. It is best to intake only whole foods, avoiding artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Firefighters should create healthier habits and strive to consume lean proteins like fish, chicken and leafy vegetables.
Staying away from sugar and preparing healthy meals that aren’t full of processed ingredients can promote healthier bodies and prevent fatigue. It’s wise to have plenty of healthy snacks to curb sugary cravings and prevent them from stopping at a fast food spot before returning to the station. For example, bananas and nuts help keep firefighters from indulging in other temptations while staying fueled through the shifts. The right food will help maintain proper energy levels to tackle whatever challenges may come, which is a key component of health management.
Firefighters already know just how physically demanding the job is. A well-rounded and consistent fitness plan can help them meet these demands. It is important that workouts incorporate mobility, core strength and cardio to help prevent injury and maintain a healthy weight. Plus, the endorphins released can rid the body of toxins and help manage stress.
It’s advised that firefighters work out at least three to four times per week and create a realistic schedule they can stick to. They can also consider improving their mobility with yoga.
Firefighting is one of the most stressful occupations, and when the stress is left untreated, it can be detrimental to his or her health. It is crucial to identify triggers and find ways to cope with them in a positive manner.
Depending on their preference, meditation and yoga are a healthy positive way to manage stress levels, as these are proven methods with a long list of benefits to help the body both physically and mentally.
Firefighters and emergency responders should make sure they are getting a quality night’s rest whenever possible. So, it’s advised that they avoid caffeine and other stimulants before bed, if at all possible. A cool, calm and dark room is the ideal environment for promoting restful sleep.
Clean Gear Regularly & Wear SCBA
Contaminated turnout gear gives off toxic gas and cancer-causing elements that may be easily inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Due to this, it’s critical that firefighters keep clothing clean and properly maintained to extend the life of their gear, themselves and their crew.
Firefighters should follow the NFPA and manufacturer’s instructions for gear care and complete regular cleanings after any emergency response where soiling has occurred.
A self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA, should be worn during any and all calls where smoke is visible, including overhaul and dumpster and automobile fires. The SCBA offers the highest level of protection out of all the wear, so regular use is critical.
Change the Culture
Everyone plays a role in changing the culture of health management. Small actions can go a long way to make positive changes.
Firefighters are part of a team, and in essence, part of a family. When one starts a positive change, it’s easier for him or her to challenge others to participate. To start, they can create workouts for themselves and their crew and include healthy nutritional options around the firehouse. Those in a position of rank should certainly set the example and hold others accountable. Finally, everyone should devote time and resources to educating each other about health-related issues. It might be a taboo topic in such a male-dominated space. However, the more support there is, the more everyone benefits.
About Provident Insurance Programs
With roots dating back to 1902, Provident Insurance Programs is a program administrator that serves paid and volunteer firefighters in addition to emergency medical responders with numerous custom-tailored insurance programs. We’ve also extended our expertise and experience to offer benefit plans and coverages to participant groups as well as Transportation Benefits. We are committed to continuing to provide superior customer service, and would be happy to speak with you to provide further information. Give us a call today at (855) 201-8880 to speak with one of our representatives.