Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008-And the Winner Is…

Heart attacks – AGAIN!

First of all, the loss of a firefighter is tragic in every sense. It can shatter a fire department and shake the very soul of a community.

But, if an LODD is preventable, it is tragic, but senseless. And the data that is out there tells us that many firefighter deaths are preventable; particularly heart-related deaths.

I have been involved in the fire service since 1980 and cardiac events have led all other categories as the number one killer of firefighters.

And, we can’t seem to get annual LODDs below one hundred. The numbers of fires are going down; yet, our LODDs are basically unchanged, which means a higher incident rate.

For at least twenty-eight years, the fire service has seen an average of 45% of LODDs due to heart attacks.

Even though the science is there; even though the recommendations have been made; even though grants are available for physical fitness equipment/programs, including medical surveillance, we are seeing no signs of improving our mortality rate.

Think about it: half who die from heart attacks had a “known” heart problem, which means that the problem was ignored. One third who died had heart conditions that routine medical testing would have detected, which means that so much as an annual physical wasn’t required.

A recent study showed that firefighters are following a national trend of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other risk factors associated with heart disease. Add to that sudden, extreme exertion, toxic vapors and heat stress and firefighters with underlying heart problems are at greater risk.

The time is NOW to implement our own programs for better screening of candidates, requiring yearly physicals for everyone, creating physical fitness programs, including nutrition/diet information and to use the NFPA physical fitness standards as our rules.

In this time of national, financial crisis, it becomes paramount that we do everything that we can to protect our own. When cities and fire districts are cutting our manpower, forcing us to do more with less, causing firefighters additional physical and mental stress, WE have to stand up and stop it. We cannot allow governments to add to our number of LODDs.

We should have learned by now that firefighting is a very physical and very demanding job. Our strategies should reflect that. Otherwise, we are guilty by accountability; we become the “enablers”.

I want to go to retirements and not LODD funerals. So for me, the choices are very clear.

Make 2009 the year to remember for the RIGHT reasons.

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  1. It is true that physical fitness plays a key roll in the positive outcome of our job however, current literature developed from the NIMH and other research sources are pointing to "STRESS" and more specifically "Post Traumatic Stress" as a key finding in heart attacks amongst males. Firefighters have the "s" word running through their bodies. If you take your flabby out of shape self into and out of buildings and scenes where you need an otherwise, finally tuned, in shape warriors body then of course you will be placing an undue burden on your ticker...common sense. But what happens when you have "done all the right things" to stay in shape. The chemicals that are produced in your brain body connection when you answer the pager or the tones when they come in are literally eating your heart and arteries around it. It is like acid coursing a healthy lifestyle, manageing the stress, getting in shape, taking "mental health days off", literally, going on R&R (to borrow from the army) Rest and Relaxation...makes good sense. Additional information on the effects of chemeical changes in the brain and body affecting the heart will be published on the EveryoneGoesHome Life Safety Initiatives e newsletter under section 13 as well as on the web site in the new year. In the is up to take CHARGE of the impact Stress has on your body.
    Get connected to the hydrant of information that is avaialble. Understand what stress is doing to YOUR BODY.

  2. Recently an instructor I knew past away dew to a heart attack in the line of duty while teaching a structual burn class and thats when I realised how many fire fighters we are loosing to LODD.

    I have been trying to get myself in better physicall condition so I can reuce my chances of becoming part of these statistics and my fire fighters also want to get some gym equipment so we can start working out together and get fit as a team.

  3. additonal note on this: check out the firefighter fatality statistics from the nfa and the united states fallen firefighters foundation...reports are in and the stats show that the majority of L.O.D. deaths occur in the Volunteer Sector. Makes sense since they are the LARGEST MAJORITY out there. Additionally and pardon me for not having that stat in front of me but I believe that for every 10 L.O.D. SEVEN of the TEN are in the Volunteer Sector.
    Can we do a better job at getting that reduced in that sector? is up to us to lead follow or get out of the way but one thing is clear...getting in shape and getting the edge with the "mental fitness" to do the hardest job in the world makes good common bell ringing sense...lets all make the effort and keep it up for 2009.....
    be safe...


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