Lets, for one second look at the job of a firefighter/paramedic as a sport. The reason to do this is because there are a lot of similarities in each. The physical and psychological demands placed on professional athletes can be related to that of firefighters. Then the question becomes do firefighters train and prepare as an athlete??
How are firefighters similar
1. Team- Most sports and every firehouse operates as a team. Every person has their role and usually the best person for each spot plays that role. Set each person up for success, if one is a great engineer let them drive/pump. If one is a great paramedic let them lead the calls. It is not a matter of what someone wants to do but what they are great at.
2. Physical demands- Sports require a level of physical capabilities, different ones for different sports but in general a physically capable person. Firefighting is no different in fact demands a little bit more because firefighters are not able to prepare for everything they may face. Firefighters try to and they do a great job at that but the unknown is always against them. There is also the wide array of tasks that are required by firefighters. An athlete only has to deal with one certain task all the time. While a firefighter has to be able to do so much more at a moments notice.
3. Psychological demands- Sport is just not physical but also requires mental toughness. Most people have heard “get your head in the game” well its true. Athletics is one area that one can clearly see the strong connection between mind and body. Professional athletes are very capable but sometimes when you watch on T.V. their performance is sub par. It is a mental breakdown and the impact on the physical ability is tremendousness. Firefighting has the same demands and requires that mental toughness more so than an athlete. If firefighters become emotionally ill, it can have a negative affect on how well the job gets done, just like an athlete. A firefighter also has greater risk of becoming emotionally ill because of the situations they face day in and day out. An athlete has none of that.
4. Practice- All teams and athletes always practice right. So do firefighters, however the training requires firefighters to train like their life depends on it because it truly does. Firefighting training covers many areas because they do not know the enemy they will face day in and day out. Athletes can prepare for a certain opponent on a given day. Firefighters can prepare for many opponents but will never know when they may face it. So practice all the time, perfect the skills and get better.
There are more similarities like having leaders, followers, a strategy etc… I can go on and on but the list above are a few main topics. As I continued to write the similarities I noticed that a firefighter’s job is much more challenging then a professional athlete. It requires more demands physically and psychologically. It requires much more than an athlete. The scary part……Do firefighters train and prepare like professional athletes. In general the answer is no they do not. This can change and discussing openly is just the start of something much greater.
I plan on utilizing this blog to talk more about the wellness of a firefighter openly. Areas I want to focus on are wellness, what is it and what does it look like. The emotional impact of the job and how we can better prepare for the stresses firefighters face. Make a connection between mind and body and talking about how being physically well can positively effect emotional wellbeing and visa versa. I will discuss foods and what happens to nutrients when we face stresses and how to overcome and supplement that. We all can do our part and learn that what firefighters do is hard…very hard and it is okay to say so. The challenges placed on the physical side are known and the challenges faced that no one sees or talks about is something the ILFFPS is changing right now. Firefighters suffer and it is okay, I am here to tell you we can better prepare for every aspect of our job.
The mind and body are very vulnerable yet very resilient and strong aspects of one’s being. They both require great care especially in the profession of firefighters. The demands are great and the risk for injury and death are great. There are many ways to go about taking care of firefighters and getting them ready. Train like a professional, prepare for the unknown and work towards a goal of becoming always ready for anything.