What makes us fit for duty? Training.
What training are we referring to? Tasks used to perform our job. Whether it be a technical rescue, hazmat knowledge, ARFF, district familiarization or countless other avenues, as firefighters we are called upon to know an extremely wide range of skills to perform our duties and go home at the end of our shifts.
While this knowledge is part of the necessary tools needed to perform, almost half of our brothers and sisters who pay the ultimate price do so because of overexertion. When called upon to fight fires, it takes an enormous amount of physical exertion to do our job, yet we aren’t physically training for the arduous tasks we will probably encounter.
That’s where Firefit Firefighter Fitness Trainer comes in. This machine mimics the most strenuous of fireground activities in a compact unit that will fit in the corner of most fire station truck rooms. In some cases, departments are replacing the cumbersome entrance exam equipment with Firefit. It’s turn key, requires virtually no set up and is modeled after the CPAT, with a couple of exceptions of course. Just drag the machine from the truck room to the station apron, or use it inside if you have the space for it.
Firefit was created and tested by Randy Johnson, a 14 yr firefighter in the Texas Panhandle, 13 of those as a career firefighter. His personal results while doing a six-week testing program were nothing short of phenomenal. Starting with his heart rate, Day 1 resting heart rate was 66, working HR in the 180’s and recovery time to resting was 14 minutes. His body fat was 22%. Weight was 202. After six weeks using Firefit as his only training, and only on duty for a total usage of 15 times, his HR was in the 150’s during the workout; recovery time dropped to 4.5 minutes! Randy lost 7 lbs, gained back 2 (probably muscle), and lost 4% bodyfat.
While these results are amazing in themselves, the reason for the creation of Firefit, according to Randy, is to reduce the number of names we put on the wall in Colorado Springs and Emmitsburg every September and October, respectively. After all, isn’t that the goal and why we train to be the best at what we do?
You know, the small boy in my heart has always wanted to be a fireman, and I’ve always been a little envious of the guys that get to wear the big names on their coats i.e. Dallas, Ft Worth, Houston, New York, Boston…even Amarillo, Lubbock and so on…..
But my coat says Vernon, and you know what, we do the same job with 10% of the personnel, but 10x the heart…I couldn’t be prouder of MY dept.
We don’t need the big name, and we obviously will do this job with much less than the big city paycheck because we vowed to protect our community and our community’s belongings.
Take ownership in YOUR trucks, YOUR department, YOUR crew, YOUR name on your coat. Take pride in making those things shine like a diamond through cleaning, preparing, and training. Push through the shitty days and relish in the days that are call-free or full of the “fun stuff.” That kind of investment in YOUR department will only drive you to continue to grow and “leave it better than you found it.”
You know, this started out as a Facebook status, but I…I had to keep writing and adding to it.
You see, today (Monday 9/12/16 – the day after the 15 year anniversary of the twin tower attacks) I’m in the weight room. I’m cracked out on pre-workout, doing chest day. Slamming weight in silence; no headphones, no TV. Nothing. Just the weight.
Today, I have a lot on my mind. And I mean a lot.
This weekend I met firefighters from around the globe, I met rookies and chiefs. I met FDNY firemen. I met pipers and drummers.
Let me back up, Saturday the 10th was my 31st birthday. I also did the 911 Memorial Stair Climb in Dallas that day. That’s when my mind started this post.
On Sunday, I met Jeff Cool, FDNY “Black Sunday” survivor. I met John Walters, FDNY 9/11/01 survivor. I scaled another 110 floor stair climb in Ft Worth that was open to firefighters and anybody wanting to climb for a fallen military member or first responder.
Today, before I came to the gym, I learned of a fireman from my department that was a career fireman, and currently a volunteer, is in grave condition due to cancer.
This is where my mind is at; if you’re still here reading this, then thank you. I’m getting to the point soon, I promise.
There are millions of motivational fitness and fire service training quotes, articles, and pictures out there, but for firemen, there are two that I can think of.
One: Get fit and train for the people you serve.
Two: Get fit and train for the people that would do ANYTHING to be able to walk in your shoes again.
We owe it to the men and women in and out of the fire service to be as selfless as possible.
The fire service has never been about self, nor should it be, in my opinion. People asked, “Why are you doing two climbs? You’re crazy!”
I didn’t do it for me. I did it for those who can’t. I took names to the top of those towers that are deceased FDNY firefighters. I took names and memories of friends and family that are deceased or not physically able to climb.
A good friend’s father passed away awhile back, I wore his name on my helmet. I brought up memories of his pride in his son and his friendliness towards me in my heart. There’s many others that where in my heart as well. My grandfathers, grandmothers and so on…
The team from my dept took OUR (ownership…different article for another day) department name to the top in Dallas, while our department, short staffed, took a beating from 911 calls at home.
Sometimes we have to beat the hell out of our own bodies while we have the ability to do-so. We should do it for the people that’d love to be healthy enough to do it too.
At 0846 Tuesday September 11th, the United States took a hit on the north tower of the World Trade Center. At 0903 a second passenger airliner slammed into the south tower.
The Battalion Chief assigned to Battalion 1 witnessed the impact of the plane from the corner of Church and Lispenard Streets. He immediately signaled a second alarm and proceeded to the World Trade Center. En route, B1 requested additional resources by transmitting a third alarm at 8:48 a.m.
I was driving to school for the first time, the attacks happened the day after my 16th birthday. Anybody that has followed me personally on Station Pride knows I’m 4th generation. I was born into this. I’m bred to help people. Even as early as 1995 when I was 9 years old, I could feel the urge to help the victims of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. I’ve had the desire to serve my entire life it feels like.
My story isn’t much different than many firefighters around the world. Almost all firefighters know when that switch flipped, they remember when they made that decision to pursue what I personally believe is the greatest career there is.
We watched TV the whole day at school on 9/11. I witnessed on national TV as the second plane turned and slammed into the building. It wasn’t until 2005 that my fire service career started, and when it started I was in the generation of firefighters that were labeled the “post 9/11 firefighters”. That label has driven me for years, to prove throughout my career thus far that I am in this for more than the firefighter title. I did not start this career to get the attention we all saw the FDNY receive after they lost so many brothers in one single incident. It has driven and motivated me for 10 years now.
In 2013 I found and decided to attempt the Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. 110 floors, full gear and SCBA. Climbing with 343 firefighters, 70 police officers. It’s a humbling experience too because no matter how prepared you think are, it’s not enough. The stair climb starts early in the morning. Participants get to the staging area early, get signed in and then get unto their groups. It’s eerie quiet at first, at the base of the 55 floor building we’ll be climbing. As the crowd grows we all begin to either relax or our nerves make us start to get “loose” meeting fellow brother and sisters. A little closer to start time we dress in our gear, just like we do day in and day out but this time it’s different. This time it’s for a cause and it’s emotional. When it’s time we walk out of the staging area. We gather in the street at the base of the building and we listen to speakers, we pray, we say the pledge. We wave and take pictures. Then it starts.
The goosebumps hit, the nerves in your gut get a little worse and your eyes get a little wet. The group piles into a line, we circle in front of the stage the speakers were just on, make a left and then we have an opportunity to lay a hand on a piece of red iron from one of the towers. That water in your eyes get a little thicker, there’s a ball in your throat fighting for space with your heart in the same place, the pipes and drums still playing, right next to you. You can feel the drums in your chest.
As you pass the red iron from the tower you enter the building. That’s the last time most of the people there to support “their firefighter” will see them until the end. That’s when it hits you that you aren’t doing this for you, your climbing because they climbed. FDNY firefighters climbed and climbed, floor after floor helping people out of those towers. Climbing further to reach the floors in which they had no idea if there were survivors or not. Without hesitation and unselfishly they climbed. Knowing full well the dangers, knowing the structural integrity has been greatly reduced. They climbed to help people they have never met before, and may never see again after a few moments in a stairwell. They climbed to their death, doing a job that is in the heart of every firefighter.
“We climb because they climbed.”
“Late one night, when we were all in bed,
Mrs. O’Leary lit a lantern in the shed.
Her cow kicked it over,
Then winked her eye and said,
“There’ll be a hot time in the
old town tonight!”
On October 8th 1871 in Chicago, in a barn on the west side, a cow was made famous. “Daisy” (the milk cow) caught the blame for knocking over a lantern and starting “The Great Chicago Fire.” History has been proven to have holes in the story, so to know whether ole’ daisy was at fault or not is indeterminable. What we do know is, the fire department at the time was exhausted from an approximate four-block fire earlier in the day, add to that errors in judging, delaying in signaling the alarm, resulted in a much-delayed fire department response, poor “Daisy”.
At the end of the 3-day fire, 2000 acres, 17000 homes had been destroyed and 300 people were dead.
At the same time, just a day before, in a place a couple hundred miles north of Chicago named Peshtigo, Wisconsin was another, less-known fire. Not just a fire, but it labeled in many literary information locations as a “Firestorm”.
Peshtigo was a saw mill town. A town very vulnerable to fire due to its heavy timber structural members in most buildings. Once considered on of the largest wood products factories in the United States (sounds like the inside of a match box to me), the town was comfortable, the residents were comfortable, even with a layer of dust on everything, the roads were covered in saw dust too.
On October 7th, 1871 a blaze started in an unknown exact location in a very dense wooded location around a smaller area known as “Sugar Bush”. As the fire grew and eventually spread through “Sugar Bush”, every resident was killed by the blaze. The natural living conditions of a saw mill town in that time, combined with a weather condition at the time that not only presented with high winds but swirling, inconsistent high winds. Flames were reported to have been 1000 feet tall, miles wide and temperatures reaching 2000 degrees with stories of trees literally exploding into flames.
On October 8th 1871 the fire, reported to have been, unexpectedly, spread to the town of Peshtigo without warning. approximately 200 folks died in a single tavern. residents died from drowning as they fled into local rivers, some said to have even boiled to death in water tanks. the burnt result of the blaze made it necessary to have at least one grave of 300+ people due to families not being able to recognize their family members.
Peshtigo firestorm would be labeled as the “Deadliest Fire in U.S. History”.
The result of these 2 fires was more strict building codes, and code enforcement. along with better, more efficient fire alerting systems. Water pumping abilities.
These fires were essential in the growth of the American fire service to adapt and overcome. it posed the forever question of “How can we serve our people better?”
Ok, so when I started writing with Station-Pride, I made it very clear that I wasn’t going to write any kind of operational, tactical, strategic article, ever. Because I will admit it, I don’t know it all. Shocker to some guys I work with…you boys hush.
But today I watched a video of a respectable department in a medium-large city that were defensively fighting a very obvious total-attic fire in a 2-story brick/wood-frame residence. None of the pics I attached are related to the video mentioned. There was no visible fire involvement on the first floor and minimal smoke on the second, but they had a tower ladder or 2, flowing “big water” into this attic, as more firefighters than on my whole department were walking around the front yard.
Obviously, this was a tactical decision made by incident command, who most likely had a lot more information than I did from the video, but it brought up a big question.
I am in NO WAY “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” this event. I just use it as an example.
When we were young, and we tried to get into the fire service, most of us were asked, “Why do you want to be a fireman?” Many of us probably said something along the lines of, “I just want to help people.” I believe this is what we would say because that’s all we knew to say.
Pretty basic stuff. Simple…… and perfect. At what point in the growth of your career did you decide that if there weren’t a life to be saved, you would sit back and watch a building (somebody’s home, mind you) burn to the ground as you attempt to turn it into a swimming pool?
We are taught about salvage in the academy. According to the IFSTA manual, salvage is an “after-fire event.” But why?
When my great-grandfather was a fireman, they salvaged personal/important belongings DURING firefighting activities. The video I saw showed an entire first floor of someone’s home being ignored and flooded because two floors above was on fire. Again, I obviously don’t know the whole story from just a video, its just an example.
Most fire departments have a motto or a mission statement and in that paragraph, it talks about saving or protecting more than just lives. It’s re- assuring to the citizens in our response districts that we will take the risk to treat their home and its’ contents almost as important as their lives. That includes salvage during the fire event. If we filled a whole house full of water damage when the fire was through the roof, what have we done? Created a “total loss” for the insurance company, and forced the residents to lose more property than necessary. Not just property, but memories and sentimental objects that may not be readily replaceable.
Are departments short-staffed and behind the ball from the time the tones drop? You’re damn right. Across the nation, we’re fighting a short staff issue but that does not mean we don’t have a job we have promised our citizens we would do. If some departments wrote their mission statements based on past factual practices, I’m afraid some of the public would lose confidence in their local fire departments.
The decision to use a couple of members as a salvage team during the fire may not seem glorious, but it falls on the IC to make that call. Train with your crews with the explanation of; “try to save what you can. Clothing for the kids, picture albums, veterans flags… If you see vehicle keys hanging on the wall, maybe even a laptop or computer tower.” Trust your men/women to accomplish the very best they can when you make that assignment.
If your home had a fully involved room and contents fire, what would you want to save from another room in the home?
I live in a relatively small home. If we have a room on fire, I want some dedicated men and women to save, to the best if their ability, things that my kids will need to live out of a hotel room with while we recover.
Holy cow, where do I begin???
BlastMask is a product made for firefighters by firefighters right here in the USA. Through the physical demands of their passion of firefighting, the creators were driven to produce a product that would make firefighter-oriented workouts more effective towards functional operational ability.
BlastMask has become a staple piece of equipment in MY training regimen.
I wasn’t fully prepared for how much it added to a workout. The day I found out I was going to get one to review, I went on eBay and bought a used Scott mask and waited.
The device arrived in a small box which included some advertisement material and a pamphlet about the scientific benefits; we’ll get to those later. The Blast Mask is an SCBA regulator-looking piece of plastic with a diaphragm inside that gives the wearer a feeling of being “on air” during the physical demands of a workout. When you first don the mask with the BlastMask attached, you at first question the benefits of it. At rest during normal breathing, it is rather difficult to realize just what potential this thing holds. Then you begin your workout.
My first workout with the BlastMask was paired with a sandbag system. The routine included weighed squats, pushups, burpees, tire flips and sledgehammer work with the tire. Just like when wearing an SCBA, as your heart rate increases, so does your bodies demands for oxygen, causing you almost to draw or suck air from your bottle. With the BlastMask, your mask will suck tight to your face as you work for each deep breath. You fight through it, continue to work, and when you finish your workout, you welcome the “outside air” when you doff the mask/BlastMask.
To say the BlastMask is a work-out accessory is an understatement.
There has been some questioning of firefighters working out in “gear” and whether they provide a functional advantage. While I’m sure most of it is personal preference, I can say that, scientifically, it has been proven. “When the BlastMask is worn in conjunction with an SCBA and bottle, your VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption) is reduced by 14.9% primarily due to the regulator. Also, the firefighters peak power output and SPO2 (oxyhemoglobin saturation) are decreased by the regulator alone. TRAINING IN A FACE PIECE AND PACK ALONE DOES NOT REDUCE VO2 MAX, PEAK POWER OUTPUT AND SPO2.”
To add a quote directly from the company website, “BlaskMask makes a positive impact on your budget and resources. Fire service fitness initiatives have shown a decrease in lost workdays by 28%. What’s more, every dollar spent on uniformed personnel wellness returns over two dollars in occupational injury and illness costs.”
“BlastMask also saves the manpower and time it takes to refill SCBA bottles, keeping resources ready for real emergencies. Not to mention it decreases wear and tear on expensive SCBA regulators.”
Training with the BlastMask increases the firefighters’ ability to work under the physical stresses of a fire scene by building confidence through functional training and helps prevent firefighter injuries that are due to lack of fitness. It will also help prevent LODDs that result from stress and overexertion.
While conducting drills at the firehouse, a firefighter can train in a clean atmosphere, and still use the muscle memory of being on an SCBA. After the drill, your SCBA is immediately in service, full of air and “combat ready” on the apparatus. I also decided I wanted to my mask to simulate poor visibility. After a little ingenuity and some searching, I found something that would work. I decided what better way to simulate poor visibility, than to tint my lens? I usually use Glad Press’n Seal to give me a light smoke look, but limo tint is proving to be working great.
The BlastMask is most definitely an asset to any physical fitness routine.
Healthy, physically fit, trained firefighters are the most confident, mentally and physically strongest firefighters in the brotherhood, period.
Want one? Check out the contact info below for more information.
I am going to start this article off with a minor disclaimer before we get into the meat of the post.
First, yes, I said meat…and this is not going to be anything about fire department-related decals. For all you Ricky Rescue whacker-babies, I apologize.
Memorial stickers, roadside crosses adorned with flowers, wreaths, bears and any other sort of roadside memorial markers are seen all over the place by passers-by. Literally coast to coast, city streets, major highways and winding dirt roads have something that people use to get a little closer, and there is nothing wrong with it.
What people outside emergency services don’t know or consider is what that scene looked like before it was cleaned up enough to open the roadway back up. What the cars looked like just after the wreck. What the scene was like when we were inside the cars, trying to save a life.
What that scene looks like inside our minds every time we pass one of those roadside reminders.
In and around the city I currently work for, there are three different memorial decals that the locals have for three separate incidents that I just so have happened to have been called to. These three wrecks stand out to me because of the nature of each call. All three scenes involved a fatality or multiple fatalities and all have permanently scarred my mind. I literally see those stickers daily. Is it wrong of the owner to have them? Of course not. Do they, would they or should they understand why I cringe when I look up and read a name or see a date? Again, of course not. It’s my job. I signed up for this.
As I mentioned in my article “Ghosts,” I had made a decision on one of those fatality calls that could have jeopardized my career, and not only that, the quality of life of a patient that lived in the same passenger compartment. I have since handled that ghost. It comes back every time I drive down that street or see one of the window decals. Another decal I regularly see is usually in the morning when I drop my son off at school. The people ahead of me don’t know me from Adam, and in fact, I don’t know them. But I do know the names on their back window. I go back to that cold, muddy morning. A splintered telephone pole, air bags deployed, crushed metal and that smell…
We ALL know about it. I can smell it every time I see those names.
The crosses I see along the two most highly-traveled highways around have multiple crosses/memorials laid out at locations that I can remember the scene. I can remember the rubble and devastation that had occurred just moments before our arrival.
There are 2-3 along the highway while traveling one direction and a few more while coming back. One location the patient was not from here, and it’s obvious by the condition of the cross as it was placed some six years ago. That guy was ejected, pinned under the vehicle and had a limb entrapped between a passenger door and the “B” post. The entire scene was on top of an ant bed.
Another set, yes “set”, of crosses sit at a railroad intersection in the response area of my first volunteer department. I make it a point to go by there once a year or so.
I can picture all those faces like it happened yesterday, and that wreck was nearly ten years ago. I get a vacant look on my face; I can almost feel it. My mind races back to the incident that memorial was dedicated for. I relive it for a few seconds, and I drag my brain back to whatever it was I was doing.
Am I any different than any of the firefighters reading this right now?
NOT AT ALL!!!
My ghosts do not affect my day to day. Generally speaking, I have pretty good control. My situation is more of a traumatic scene observation more than a direct traumatic experience towards me. I speak a little more openly about it than most firefighters I know, and that scares me. I’m scared for them.
We all have ghosts, skeletons, and demons. We all have scenes in our minds of calls that we cannot ever forget. You know what? It is completely OK to handle your mental health however you see fit within healthy and legal limitations, of course.
I have handled my ghosts, and I handle them every day. One call specifically, I have not gone a day without seeing that kid’s face, and I have dealt with it in my own way. I have reached out to a mentor. I have stress outlets in my life, and I know for a fact that I have a support team if I ever need one. A few days after the incident, I was speaking with a mentor about it on duty. I had to get it off my chest. Right in the middle of the conversation the bells rang for an ambulance call. I had fallen, and I had gotten back on my horse.
Just like you do!
We are here for each other.
First responder mental heath and suicide is something I refuse to take lightly. I’ve known people that have taken their lives because of the things they couldn’t get out of their heads.
They didn’t ask for help.
Below is a link for two of our already published articles. Also, below is the website and a suicide prevention phone number directed specifically for first responders.
I’ve heard it more times than I have ever cared to hear it. It all started when I was new and sounded like, “yea, great kid, but shut up and know your role.” Nowadays it sounds like, “he/she needs to shut up and know his/her role!”
Are you seriously that insecure about your ability or inability to do your job that you are threatened by a rookie who knows more about what’s in a book than you do? Or just because he’s opened it more recently than you?
Get the freaking chip off your shoulder, “Bro”. They will work circles around some guys/gals, and you’re going to bad-mouth him/her in front of other members in your own department because he/she “doesn’t know his role”?
Screw that man. Be better than that. Build somebody up instead of knock people down, just because you’re scared.
There is literally years and years of experience between your ears that you could teach this guy/gal, but you’d rather make them feel bad for speaking up because your lack of book knowledge is embarrassing. Get off your self-built pedestal because nobody owes you a damn thing! Get your hands dirty training on things that you may think are below you, when in fact, they are still your job too! If you’d shut your mouth and watch this rookie work, you might be a little impressed. Instead, you would rather point out how much you got screwed when you were new, so by God, he/she needs to, “Shut up!”, and “Know his role around here!”
Educating younger members of the fire service starts with older experienced mentors. Period. It’s the front line fire officers that theoretically have the experience and knowledge to pass on to the younger members. Not the book knowledge. Trust me, the new guys just pulled their heads out of their Probationary book while yours is holding a desk fan up, so it’s quieter while you nap.
Physical, “hands-on” tool training teaches new and old firefighters more than anything out there. It creates bonds, builds trust, and strengthens confidence while mentoring a young, moldable mind. Better morale can be found on a firefighter, shift, and department level just by training more frequently.
Repetitive, hands-on, purposeful education is satisfying to the type of personality that makes a firefighter what they have always wanted to be. Not to mention, it makes “Little Jeffery”, the rookie, happy to know he has a new “tool in the toolbox”.
Take your helmet off. Leave the speaking horns on your shirt in your locker and go outside. Get your hands dirty with YOUR BROTHERS/SISTERS and stop having so much animosity towards anybody younger and newer than you.
You have the potential to make your department great! You’re not hurting anybody but yourself when you treat people like trash.
Tomorrow morning, January 5th 2016, a born and raised Texan Paramedic will retire from EMS. Becoming a part-time or speciality paramedic might be in his future, but for now, he will be retired.
This guy has worked his shift and covered other shifts. He took the ambulmace home and parked it in his driveway as that was the way it was done back then. He awoke in the middle of the night, multiple times a night, to respond to 911 calls. He’s laid in ditches with your family members. He’s laid in the summer heated streets on his belly to comfort a child hit by a car. He’s been there when a child was rescued from a storm drain. He’s helped your family member after they’ve had a seizure. He has driven millions of miles in the front seat of an ambulance. He’s crawled into ditches after a tornado to rescue men covered by debris. He’s hugged family members of victims that didn’t survive. He’s carried and “worked” kids that he knew didn’t stand a chance. It’s impossible to count how many people he has touched in his career. A career that spanned for 37 years.
He has created an educational program from scratch as an advanced coordinator and instructor. He taught many EMT-Basic, Intermediate, and Paramedic classes in his years.
Has he done anything that thousands and thousands of other paramedics, emts and firemen do day-in and day-out around the world? No.
He is a Paramedic. A street medic. In my eyes, he is the best Paramedic I have ever seen work the field, (no discredit at all to any of the other EMTs and Paramedics I’ve worked with). You see…this guy I’m talking about is my dad. He’s 63 years old, and he began a career of helping people in 1979.
Tomorrow he will retire. He will hang up his stethoscope (that he never wore because he believes that everything he needs is in the ambulance and doesn’t need it around his neck haha).
Good luck dad. The service of EMS needs more guys that can do this job and see these things for 30+ years.
P.s. I’m proud of you pops.