It has been a difficult several weeks here in South Florida and across the country. The terrible tragedy of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building has, to date, cost 100 lives, with others still missing. As tragic as the situation was/is, words cannot express the dedication, devotion, compassion, professionalism and determination of every single USAR Task Force Team that worked the pile. That applies to our several Florida Task Force Teams, plus colleagues from Virginia, Indiana and Pennsylvania, as well as those who came from Israel and Mexico. A more dedicated group has not been seen.
Beyond that incident, we have seen a spike in LODDs in this same period. A couple were Covid-19 related, a few were health issues, another was a firefighting aircraft crash. What bothers me is that I am concerned (and I'm guilty myself of doing this) that we are putting so much effort into our Firefighters' Cancer and Behavioral Initiatives, that we have dropped the proverbial "ball" (today, maybe I should say, "dropped the mic) in emphasizing the basic necessity of firefighters attaining a health level that would classify them as "fit-for-duty."
The above is becoming more difficult to see work. Yet, we also get to see those brave and stalwart men and women, reach into their own pockets to assure that everyone on the teams gets to eat a decent meal, at least twice a day, even when the largest chain of fast-food restaurants, tells a group of firefighters/Hotshots that they'd be unable to assist the firefighters.
Whether you are in a rural area with a small volunteer department, or you are in a big, metropolitan city, in a huge career department, to perform our work, our duty; to live by the words of our Oath, "...To save lives and property," means that we must first take care of ourselves so that we can physically take care of the people in our response district. So, if you are unable to correct your "'yaw and pitch," of life, or you disagree with your parents, your friends and your colleagues assessments that you are not meeting the standards of "fit-for-duty," what do you think is going to happen?
Since many social media platforms have been able to post pictures along with a message, one of the strongest reasons why I even decided to produce a podcast was, seeing in the monthly trades, the obituaries of our Brothers and/or Sisters who lost their lives in the Line of Duty. And I realized, that in career, combo, volunteer and Hotshot departments, we had far too many LODDs attributable to treatable health issues. And by "treatable," I mean by a licensed and accredited MD, PA, PM, RN, etc., not via self-medicating!
Recently, I saw the photos of several Brothers who had lost their lives, some were LODD and others were not. Nevertheless, there were at least two photos I saw where our Brothers were morbidly obese (unless a more recent photo might have reflected a firefighter who won the "Battle of the Bulge!" Moreover, having worked hard to lose nearly thirty pounds in 2017-2018, I know it is no easy task. However, if this is a true goal we set for ourselves, we can and, will persevere and reach some level of success. And each pound of body fat you lose with proper exercise and a balanced diet that is right for you, brings you that much closer to being fit-for-duty.
Better yet, there are firefighters across this great country, who teach via Zoom, recordings or in-person, how to eat and exercise properly; no, not for a competition, but to help you be fit-for-duty!
And remember, while no shade of Kryptonite will affect you, you don't wear a cape and you are not invulnerable or invincible.
PLEASE....take care of yourself so that you can indeed, take care of others!
Stay Safe & Stay Well!
Founder & President of 5-Alarm Task Force Corp. and Creator & Host of the "5-Alarm Task Force" podcast.