I learned about the rehabilitation of firefighters this morning over coffee. I am always impressed with the level and the quality of the training that is required by volunteer firefighters, particularly the leadership.
Narrowsburg Assistant Chief and husband Stephen related how the course covered how to take care of firefighters—for their well-being—at an active fire and at the firehouse.
He talked about the importance of keeping hydrated, cooling down or warming up depending on the weather condition when working an active fire. How sometimes coffee is helpful to warm the core, when cold. How Gatorade was helpful in the heat, and that soda with high fructose corn syrup is totally a no-no.
The course covered the foods that are helpful at an active scene, as well.
Pizza is a loss leader, he said. (The amount of energy it gives you equals the amount of energy needed in digestion.) And peanut butter and jelly is a real winner.
He recalled how once when he was in charge of snacks during a prolonged storm event, he served peanut butter and jelly on organic bread and fruit. The crew, he smiled and shook his head, was not happy with him. Even so, Luiz Alvarez, Sullivan County’s Legislative Chair and long-time member of the Sheriff’s Department who stopped by, learned that he liked peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Fruit is good and firefighters are willing to eat them, he said.
Soda is not good. He mused that getting soda out of the firehouse would be very difficult. He celebrated that Coke has a version that uses pure cane sugar. (Ironically, it’s their product from Mexico. It is available at Party Fruit Planet, a family-owned Mexican restaurant at 15 Liberty Street in Monticello.)
I suggested a very nice seltzer water. You can’t just take away someone’s soda and think they will be happy with a glass of water, I said. But a really nice seltzer—that the department was drinking to improve their health—I would think it’s possible to get people not to drink so much soda. Yes?
I went further to muse on what fun it would be to bring in all different kinds of healthier drink choices and have the department taste test them. Involve the community, I said. (I actually would love to facilitate it. Maybe I’ll volunteer and see if they’ll have me!)
Along with being more mindful about the ways to rehabilitate firefighters with food and drink, the course touched on general well-being.
Every year firefighters are required to have a physical (an evening at the firehouse where a doctor comes in!). Even so, some firefighters, Stephen said, are not in good shape. Fifty-four percent of firefighter deaths are attributed to heart attacks.
We have to figure out how we help people get into better shape, he concluded.
As I said, the training that volunteer firefighters (and other emergency service organizations) receive is very impressive, and essential.
Our community safety depends on the health and well being of our emergency service providers.
And it’s comforting and assuring to know that the volunteers, who are rushing to an emergency when we are rushing away, have strategic protocols and good leadership training. Not only do they have the training to deal with the physical aspects, they have the tools and training to take care of each other. They have the knowledge to make sure their firefighter's strength, clearness of mind, and reflexes are working as best they can.
As the intensity and frequency of our emergencies increase, I am thankful that our volunteer firefighters are being taken good care of through the county and the state. My hope is that they will take good care of themselves as well. I wish them the best as they attempt as a department to improve each individual's state of health.in their individual and department endeavors.
Speaking of taking good care, remember that the backbone of our community safety rests on our volunteer emergency services and that these departments would be most grateful for any end-of-year giving that you can afford.