The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has always been dedicated to keeping first responders healthy and safe, and is constantly working to address key issues affecting the volunteer fire and emergency services. A new NVFC report titled Critical Health and Safety Issues in the Volunteer Fire Service identifies and evaluates pressing health concerns in the fire service and resources available to help departments reduce preventable firefighter death and injury.
Firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other emergency responders face danger every day from exposure to smoke and toxins, deadly tem¬peratures, and stress as well as issues surrounding personal protective equipment, vehicle safety, and personal health. Heart disease, including heart at¬tack and stroke, accounts for the over half of line-of-duty firefighter fatalities each year. Many more firefighters suffer from disease and injury caused by firefighting duties.
For the report, which is an update of a previous study, the NVFC developed an online survey to determine personal health, well-being, and safety practices and perceptions among volun¬teer first responders. Over 1,200 firefighters and EMTs responded. Key findings include:
- Most respondents (74.1 percent) saw themselves as overweight. Less than a quarter of respondents saw themselves as about the right weight.
- Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) felt their sleep was inadequate and less than a quarter of respondents (23.3 percent) reported sleeping well.
- 37.5 percent reported high blood pressure and 34.2 percent reported high cholesterol.
- Nearly a quarter of survey respondents (20.8 percent) reported having sustained a fire service related injury in the past 12 months.