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Fit for Life: Are you prepared?

Are you prepared?

December 14, 2007 
By Aaron Brouwer

aaronbrouwerYou arrive at a four-car motor vehicle accident.  You look in the car and see your neighbour’s only child in the driver seat, pinched between two other cars.  The memory of last night, at her 18th birthday when she told you that she just got her license flashes through your mind.   Your Platoon Captain tells you to grab the Jaws of Life.

Are you prepared for at least an hour’s work with the Jaws of Life?
As you look up at the beating sun, you think to yourself it is way too hot to be digging a fireguard.  Looking at your watch you see it is 13:00, realizing that you have been out here for at least three hours.  You start praying that the forestry crew shows up soon to relieve you.  You turn your attention to the voice on the radio. It’s your lookout and he says, “Looks like the fire is heading towards the subdivision.” Then Forestry calls and informs you their ETA will be about two hours.

Are your prepared to endure the heat to keep the fire away from the houses?
It’s been just over an hour since you started fighting this fire.  It was a hidden void in the bedroom on the second floor of a four-storey apartment building.  You have just finished your rotation in rehab after using up your second 30-minute SCBA bottle and are ready to go back in.  The Chief comes over the radio and states that there is a child trapped on the fourth floor and is sending you and your partner in to get the child.

Are you ready to climb four flights of stairs and battle the heat to save this child?
As you arrive on scene to a three-alarm warehouse fire, you can already see the parking lot is filled with several fire apparatus.  You are assigned to RIT (Rapid Intervention Team) for the B/C side of the building.  You have all your equipment out and have done a good size-up of your area.  You and your partner stand there watching the fire and listening to the radio, trying to get an idea of where everyone is.  Three hours into the fire, the sound no firefighter ever wants to hear, a PASS (Personal Alarm Safety System),  is blaring.  And you hear the painful words of a “Mayday” over the radio.  You gear up to go in to save the downed firefighter.


Are you prepared to go in and do what you need to do to save one of your own?
Whether you are a full-time firefighter or a paid on-call firefighter, the call may come at any time. Are you prepared? Keeping yourself in top physical form is so essential.  We all understand no call is the same; there is no standard for how long each task will take on the fireground.  You are called upon to use the Jaws of Life, it could be an easy extrication and the door is off in five minutes or no matter what you do the metal keeps twisting and you work with the Jaws for 45 minutes. 

It is so important that we take care of our most important tool on the fireground: us, the firefighters. 

It doesn’t take long to maintain your fitness level – 30 minutes a day is all you need. Alternate between cardio workouts and weight lifting to maintain a balanced body.  As firefighters we need to be able to do physically demanding tasks for extended periods of time.  It is essential not to focus on just building big muscles. You also need to develop a strong aerobic level with a quick recovery system to allow you to get back on the job sooner.

Set realistic goals for yourself.  Look at your daily routines and schedule in the appropriate amount of time that you know you will be able to commit to on a regular and continued basis.

We all lead busy lives and if you can only really commit 15 minutes a day, then do that.  It is better to be consistent for 15 minutes a day than to over-commit and quit after a week. 

Think of where you want to be in a year from now and set some short-term goals to help get you there.  Write your goals down and post them somewhere you will see them on a regular basis.  Don’t just think about your goals, you will forget them.  Write them down and every time you see them they will be a little reminder of what you are working toward.

Remember that it is your duty to your community to maintain excellent physical fitness levels. Not only are their lives depending on it, so is yours.

Next issue will be the final part of “Keeping a Balanced Body: Cardio.” 
Aaron Brouwer has 17 years of combined experience in structural and wildland fires. A graduate of Trinity Western University with a Bachelors of Human Kinetics, he is an instructor with Canwest Fire.

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