The topic of this year's Safety Stand Down is “The First Five Minutes! Stretching the Initial Hose Line—Water on the Fire.”
This is a tremendous topic and one we often take for granted. However, as we all know, getting water on the fire can be a dynamic process that requires decision making on multiple levels, the ability to properly use the equipment at hand and the physical and mental capacity to carry out the mission at hand for a successful outcome.
Every member of the organization has a role in an incident’s outcome, including the fire chief, incident commander, company officer and firefighter. However, if we consider arriving on scene as the start of the First Five Minutes, what are we doing to even arrive at the starting line from a health-and-wellness perspective?
The ability to operate both strategically and tactically on scene is our overall mission, but as we all know, this encompasses a multitude of factors before we even arrive. Developing a comprehensive health-and-wellness program ensures members are physically and mentally capable of the First Five Minutes, but more importantly, it ensures they’re prepared for every minute of their retirement, something we all work very hard for and deserve to enjoy.
So what’s your department doing to ensure you arrive ready to perform? It starts with NFPA 1582 physicals. Many departments have these in place as a hiring requirement, but they often go by the wayside for incumbents due to a variety of factors, including funding, a lack of prioritization and even culture.
All of the groups mentioned earlier should demand these physicals on an annual basis. If they’re not already happening in your organization, work together to achieve the most important factor in awareness and recognition: annual physicals for every member of your organization—fire chief to firefighter.
The next factors are pretty easy: allotting time for working out and ensuring our personnel have access to the equipment they need to work out. We’re all busy and allotting time for daily workouts can be difficult, but with proper time management and accountability, this can be easily achieved.
Do you have members who don’t want to work out today or are too sick or they’re in pain, preventing them from working out while on duty? Why are they on duty?
The logic is simple; if they’re unable to work out, how are they able to perform their duties on the fire scene during the First Five Minutes?
Having the equipment is seemingly easy, as many departments have treadmills and weights, and with functional fitness programs like the one offered by The First Twenty, the cost of equipping a gym for our firefighters is becoming even cheaper. We work very hard budgeting for other priorities; we should do the same for our fitness equipment so our members have what they need while on duty.
Having the ability to perform an annual health assessment is simple because it’s a baseline examination measuring the five components of fitness:
- Body composition
- Muscular strength
- Muscular endurance
- Aerobic capacity
This assessment provides our members with ongoing measurements that can be used to track long-term health and fitness levels.
Using department PEER trainers for individual exercise prescriptions can serve as a great tool for the overall health of members and can identify trends in your organization that need to be addressed.
Providing individual prescriptions allows for personalization and attention on every level of fitness, because no two members are the same and they shouldn’t be treated that way when it comes to their health-and-wellness goals.
Educational information on the latest trends, nutrition and other heath topics should be incorporated into training plans and delivered to all members on a regular basis. Providing the tools and knowledge in educational formats through subject-matter experts provides members information they may not have been aware of previously. This is an opportunity to look at the latest factors affecting the fire service in order to overcome the superman or invincibility mindset. There are plenty of informative topics available today.
The final component is the physical-agility test (PAT). This is often a contentious topic if it isn’t used or implemented correctly.
Having all members—fire chief to firefighter—perform a PAT annually to assess the skills performed on the fireground, also known as the essential job functions, is critical in preparing for the First Five Minutes.all members—fire chief to firefighter—perform a PAT annually to assess the skills performed on the fireground, also known as the essential job functions, is critical in preparing for the First Five Minutes.
Having the PAT validated for your specific organization is a necessary buy-in as well as a liability standpoint, but it’s well worth it. Many members are afraid of this component and many fire chiefs are afraid of going down this avenue, but with an open dialogue and constant communication, you can also solve these issues before they arise.
Many other elements of a comprehensive program should be maintained in your organization, such as return-to-work physicals including functional capacity examinations and mental and behavioral health programs.
As we all know, the First Five Minutes is our mission and what we’re known for. However, the First Five Minutes starts long before you ever arrive on scene, and each and every one of us has a stake in organizational success. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary for our success and the success of the First Five Minutes.