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House Fire FR Wellness analogy

30 June 2020
House Fire FR Wellness analogy

Imagine the analogy of your physical health being a house fire, and the surrounding exposures as various aspects of your health that never get much attention.  If the alarm is sounded soon enough and resources arrive in time, the situation is less likely to get out of control. Particularly if the alarm is sounded by the homeowner.  If other people witness that house fire and call 911, then the fire has likely been raging for some time and additional resources may be required to address the situation.

Sticking with this scenario, we will consider the pumper and the truck as two aspects of your physical maintenance.  Let’s say the engine is cardio and the truck is resistance training.  Most small fires can be handled with these two well known and familiar components. If deployed early and often, there is a little chance of the fire getting out of control and doing extensive damage.  Most of time, we can get the job done with just these first two apparatus on scene, but as we all know, things can change rather quickly and we had better be prepared to handle what is coming next. The wellness of our members is rooted in conditioning the body to handle stress. Cardio and resistance training can insure resistance to the stressors of the job and life in general.

We have all known members who refuse to admit their own house is burning when it is obvious to others that this is the case.  If left untended, these fires may spread to surrounding exposures such as relationships, substance abuse and financial stability, leading to a collapse in one or more areas of that person’s physical or emotional health and support network. What do we do in these cases where one person can no longer handle the situation?  We call for the appropriate resources or specialist who are best equipped to handle the situation at hand. We reach out, or refer the person to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or otherwise require him/her to seek help. Not to do so would be a disservice to the employee, the organization and the community they serve.

 We do not shame or blame the first arriving units who could not handle the situation, we make the proper command decision and move forward directing resources to the best of our ability however, we must do what we can do! Perhaps there were external factors out of our control, such as a divorce, issues with children, or loss of a loved one etc. A review of tactics may be appropriate at some point, but the main objective at this point is to get the fire under control. This means we need to get the help for our brother/sister and get them back to being a healthy, safe contributor to the organizations mission.

I hope this analogy is relatable and may be used assist you in taking control of your health issues as well as helping a co-worker address issues they may be having.  In future installments I may put some flesh on the bones of this analogy as we address issues pertinent to our safety forces.  

bio photo

Lieutenant Michael "Sporty" Kilbane

Michael Kilbane is a retired officer from the Cleveland Fire Department having served for over 35 years.

In that time, he has spearheaded many efforts to advance the betterment of the division through wellness initiatives and grants. He has also authored a pamphlet on maintaining back strength and health for firefighters.  Mr. Kilbane’s education includes an undergraduate degree in both Philosophy and Natural Health, along with master’s level coursework in both Physiology and Philosophy.  He is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is recognized through that organization as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. As a trained massotherapist, Mr. Kilbane has also witnessed literally first hand the damage done to first responders by over straining in some of the most hostile work environments. His most recent focus is utilizing kettle bells for functional training and is the author of The Athletes Ultimate Guide to Kettlebell Training.

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