Health and wellness
Written by Elias Markou
Call it what you want–pot, dope, weed, hash, joint or marijuana–the Canadian federal government has decided to legalize cannabis in 2018. In recent media releases and interviews, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said legalization is still on track.
Written by Fire Chief Dave Cockle and Sara Wegwitz, Registered Nurse
You have established a health and wellness program in your department. Now what? How do you ensure its viability over the long term? How do you continue to support your firefighters in maintaining their overall health and wellbeing? These important questions shift focus towards the long-term vision, goals, and sustainability of the program, including budget considerations.
Written by Sara Wegwitz and Dave Cockle
Editor’s Note: This feature is the fourth installment in a five-part series exploring Oak Bay Fire Department’s holistic health and wellness program. 
Written by Len Garis
A new Canadian study is calling for the creation of a national firefighter wellness surveillance system to help address soaring cancer rates and other key firefighter health risks.
Written by Compiled by Sara Wegwit
Editor’s Note: This feature is the third installment in a five-part series exploring Oak Bay Fire Department’s holistic health and wellness program.
Written by Dave Cockle and Sara Wegwitz
We were recently tasked within our fire department to put our health and wellness program to the test. Our department was involved in what firefighters refer to as a ‘once in a career’ traumatic event that profoundly impacted our first responders, families, and our community.
Written by Nick Halmasy
Stress. Take a minute to write down what you think it is. Words such as anxiety, pressure, tension and overwhelming may spill onto your page. You’re not wrong. Indeed, these things are the very reason stress leads folks to talking to clinicians like me. Current research indicates that vigorous exercise is a top way to mitigate the cumulative effects of stress. Let’s review the stress response, and why getting your heart pumping is fundamental to stress management.
Written by Elias Markou
The other day I was sitting with a firefighter patient who had come to see me for a number of health concerns. I was putting together the best possible vitamin regime for this patient when it occurred to me that I tell every firefighter to ensure they have a steady source of magnesium.
Written by Sara Wegwitz and Dave Cockle
Editor’s note: Oak Bay Fire Department’s holistic wellness plan was introduced in the November edition of Fire Fighting in Canada. The February article represents the first in a five-part series that takes an in-depth look at the program and how the facets can be successfully implemented.
Written by Nick Halmasy
I remember my first significant call. We all do. Or, well, pieces of it. It’s like rummaging through an old pile of photos out of sequence. I don’t remember which month it was, but I remember that the air was cold. The call came into the station; someone was hit by a train. As we raced to the scene, my mind raced through those same thoughts that many first responders have. I wondered what I was about to see. Will there be blood and gore? Am I cut out for this?
Written by Elias Markou
Poor sleep is bad news for firefighters. After combing through the latest research on sleep deprivation, poor sleep and insomnia, I decided to write this column on sleep and review some sleep-improving strategies for firefighters.
Written by Dave Cockle, Sara Wegwitz, and Ken Gill
The employer plays a significant role in supporting the health and well-being of our most important asset – our firefighters. Fire chiefs manage the fire department assets through business plans, strategic and operational plans, as directed by the municipal council or regional district.
Written by Gord Schreiner
I recently attended a conference at which someone asked me what I thought was the most important part of my job. I quickly responsed that the most critical function of a fire chief is to keep firefighters safe. Everything I do is related to firefighter safety, whether it is attending a budget meeting, developing operational guidelines, scheduling training, mentoring, pre-planning, or responding.
Written by Elias Markou
I am about to embark on a sensitive topic: obesity and weight loss. Quite often firefighters ask about their weight concerns, and express a desire to lose weight. However, there are firefighters who are in complete denial about their weight. In my opinion, they are walking the fine line between life and death.
Written by David Gillis and Ruth Lamb
Firefighter David Gillis never knows when a response to a call will trigger the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But through a program called Strategic Resilience for First Responders, Gillis is able to manage the mental and physical reactions that used to stop him in his tracks.
Written by David Moseley
The neigbouring fire department calls you about a multi-casualty collision to which it responded. Among the dead are well-known community members, some related to responders.
Written by Laura King
Editor Laura King interviewed Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn in April, a year after the Supporting First Responders Act made PTSD a presumptive illness, and in the lead up to PTSD Awareness Month in June.
Written by Keith Stecko
Making a conscious effort to build your personal resilience is one of the most important things you can do for yourself as a firefighter. Being a firefighter is physically and emotionally demanding. Having a tailored personal resilience program can produce positive results and help to maintain work-life balance.
Written by Wayne Jasper
Mental-health programs teach us that the effects of trauma can be cumulative. As a chief officer, do you know how much exposure your crews have had to traumatic incidents such as fatalities or calls involving children?
Written by David Moseley
Not all critical incident stress management (CISM) programs are equal. Having had the privilege to work on four CISM teams, it is clear that certain practices and protocols enhance the program for both facilitators and participants. If your department is looking to adopt a CISM program, here are some considerations.
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