By Derek Rosenfeld
The second day of the world’s best firefighting education continued inside and outside of the Indianapolis Convention Center at FDIC International 2019. Among the most interactive of all the workshops and classroom sessions during the week took place in room 134-5 as East Whiteland (PA) Fire Department Chief Fire Marshal/Health and Fitness Coordinator Dan Kerrigan and his guest speaker Jim Moss presented, “No Gym? No Problem: The Big 8 of Firefighter Functional Fitness.”
Kerrigan and Moss, co-authors of the book “Firefighter Functional Fitness,” used their vast expertise as fitness trainers and firefighters to cover a wide variety of ways firefighters can stay fit without the use of gyms and fancy equipment, instead relying on items within every fire station to become fit and ready to hit the fireground.
Here, Kerrigan goes over the categories functional strength training; the “Four R’s” of strength training; and the importance of muscular strength, endurance, and power:
“My passion for improving the health and wellness of firefighters began many years ago. It was a combination of the startling results of some research I had been conducting relative to firefighter fitness and wellness—in particular, the number of health-related on duty deaths—a personal realization that I was not as fit as I should be for the job we do, and some health-related issues some personnel at my own department were having that were impacting not only their own health but also our operational effectiveness,” said Kerrigan
Kerrigan continued, “The fire service has many ‘wicked’ problems but, to be blunt, our feeling is that the number-one way to drastically reduce the number of annual on-duty deaths is by controlling the risk factors we can control, and the vast majority of those controllable risks are health-related.
“We must do more than simply agree that our health and fitness is important; we must act to improve it. Again, the message is clear: Our fitness for duty is a requirement of the job.”
Here, Kerrigan elaborates on muscular strength, endurance, and power; some running tips; and how best to use your firehouse equipment to work out in lieu of having actual weights and barbells:
“The most important aspect of firefighter health is the attitude that our fitness for duty is a requirement of the job, not an option. Our status as career, volunteer, or paid-on-call has nothing to do with it. It is an integral part of the oath we swore and cannot be ignored.
“Regardless of where we present, the impact is the same. We present a lot of eye-opening facts and statistics that cannot be ignored or refuted. I would have to say that for the most part, the response is one of agreement, a ‘coming to terms with my own health’ realization, and inspiration to start leading by example in terms of personal health and wellness. It’s an honor to share this important message across the country and the world with my partner, Jim Moss.”
Here, Kerrigan continues his talk on using common firehouse equipment (as well as your own body weight) in your workouts and which movements are best to use and best to avoid when working out:
“This is not a hobby; firefighters must take personal responsibility for their own health and fitness because it impacts so many other people aside from ourselves—our co-workers; our communities; and, most importantly, our families that support us and want us to come home. We’re here to help, and we will do everything we can to create a healthier fire service, one firefighter at a time.”
On his FDIC International journey, Kerrigan concluded, “I started attending FDIC in the late 1990s, off and on. This will be my fourth year in a row that I have been lucky enough to be selected to present. Aside from sharing our message and connecting with my colleagues from across the country, I truly enjoy attending some of the newer classes and seeing what messages are being shared outside of the more popular, mainstream sessions. There are a lot of talented instructors out there that deserve a chance to be heard, so I always try to spend some time expanding my horizons in that respect.”
Derek Rosenfeld is an associate editor for Fire Engineering. He has a BA in communications: writing from Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey.