Health & Safety

Reducing Firefighter Health Risks Before, During, and After Incidents

Issue 12 and Volume 171.

By CRAIG A. HAIGH, DENISE L. SMITH, and ANDREA F. WILKINSON Firefighters like processes that give step-by-step algorithms to follow. Whether engaging an apparatus pump, setting up the truck for aerial operations, donning self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), or mixing a medication and titrating the dosage, we operate best when we have a step-by-step procedure to follow. These steps, when practiced repeatedly, create muscle memory, which allows us to perform a procedure without focusing on the individual aspects of the process. Actually, the term “muscle memory” is not entirely accurate in that your muscles do not remember the steps but rather your brain connects the specific dots needed to perform a skill through repeated practice. Composer and pianist Malcolm Kogut writes, “Practice is not measured in minutes or hours, but in the number of high-quality repetitions you make—basically, how many new connections you form in your brain.”1 Firefighter health is at…

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