At The NFPA 2019 conference we attended an information session regarding firefighter health and wellness presented by Todd LeDuc. Assistant Chief, Broward County. This session focused on the importance of preventative health screenings.
With cancer being one of the leading causes of firefighter deaths more work has to be done to determine the predispositions a firefighter may have for developing a certain type of cancer. Regular screenings also need to be done to detect any developing cancers in early stages.
Sudden cardiac event is also leading cause of firefighter deaths and screenings can be done to protect against this as well.
The typical screenings a fire department may perform depending on a candidates age and years active in the fire service:
- Colonoscopy cancer screening
- prostate and cervical cancer
- Cardiovascular screenings determining cholesterol levels
- A simple ultrasound can reveal clogged arteries
Best practices when off the clock are also strongly encouraged. Some of these behaviors are:
- Understanding sleep deprivation and reducing it by creating the best conditions to have a successful nights rest
- refraining from smoking to lower the chances of developing a respiratory disease
- Eating better quality food more often
- Staying hydrated because not only does dehydration thick in the blood thereby raising the chances for a blood clot it is a strong predictor of cardiac event.
In the fire service, much of the focus is on those who make the ultimate sacrifice, however while at this session we learned some other very troubling news: for every LODD an estimated 17 non-fatal cardiac events occur each year. All of the information available suggest more needs to be done to permanently improve the average health of the American firefighter.