Training grounds are a place where new skills can be learned and old skills reinforced. During the planning phase of any training, provisions must be made for the unexpected. For example, EMS care should be easily accessed at all physically demanding training exercises.
This week’s featured report is one of 16 reports on firefighternearmiss.com that discuss the impact that health and wellness play in every aspect of emergency service work. Reports such as these reinforce the value of being physically fit for a demanding job. The featured report also emphasizes the instructor’s role in monitoring students. Whenever possible, a separate safety officer should be assigned to physically demanding training in order to monitor students and training practices.
Brackets  denote reviewer de-identification. “While completing the “hands on” portion of a vehicle rescue program, a [deleted] firefighter collapsed while operating a power tool. The weather conditions were clear, 60 degrees with approximately 68% humidity…The student had very poor vital signs and was originally being treated for a heat emergency…It was determined that the firefighter had a significant…”
The attention focused on firefighter wellness is met with resistance in many areas of the fire service. The cost of wellness is frequently cited, but there can be underlying motives as well. Prospective and tenured firefighters who mask potentially debilitating conditions or who do not follow sound medical advice for controlling medical conditions place everyone around them in jeopardy. “Toughing out” an illness or keeping a condition secret creates a dangerous situation for yourself and all those you serve. During physically demanding training, instructors need to constantly assess the physical appearance and performance of their students. Early interventions can prevent catastrophic tragedies. Even students in relatively good health can experience acute events. Once you have reviewed the entire account (CLICK HERE) and the related reports, consider the following:
1. Does your department offer entrance and periodic physicals?
2. When was your last physical?
3. If your department does not have a health and wellness program in place, does your personal health plan include a periodic physical?
4. If the answer to #3 is yes, do you take advantage of the periodic physical? Why or why not?
5. Would you pull yourself from active duty if you discovered you were no longer fit to perform the job of a firefighter? Why or why not?
Had a near miss due to a health issue? Physical exam discover a significant medical problem? Submit your report to www.firefighternearmiss.com. Do it today to contribute to survival tomorrow.
Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.