Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Health

Wednesday, 07 March 2012

As part of the 2012 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week, the National Volunteer Fire Council’s (NVFC) Health and Safety Work Group has developed the Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Health. You can download a poster with these rules as well as find additional resources and tools to promote firefighter health and safety in your department on the Safety and Health Week web site at

Safety and Health Week focuses on the Rules You Can Live By on and off the fireground. The IAFC provides the Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Survival and the Incident Commander’s Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety to provide best practice model procedures when responding to an incident. The NVFC’s Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Health provides guidelines for what you should do when off of the incident scene to protect your health and stay at your best.

Share these Rules with your department to encourage focusing on health all year long:

  1. Approach the issue of firefighter health with the B.E.S.T. Practices:
    • Look at what BEHAVIORS may need to change.
    • Does your department have, or can you or your department purchase, EQUIPMENT that will not only help with training but also with fitness?
    • Can you or your department take steps towards meeting consensus STANDARDS AND CODES such as NFPA 1500? You may not be able to be fully compliant but every bit helps.
    • Heart attacks have consistently been the #1 killer of firefighters – what types of TRAINING can you put in place in your organization to decrease the risk?
  2. Practice health prevention – just like fire prevention, there is no glory in dealing with a health emergency that could have been avoided.
  3. Perform a personal “Size-Up” of your health. Look at all sides – diet, exercise, stress management, lifestyle.
  4. Choose a strategy – Offensive, where you will make positive changes to improve your overall health, or Defensive, where you will take steps to maintain your current health.
  5. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals for your Action Plan – goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Have both short-term and long-term goals.
  6. Define clear tactics to achieve your health goals. Remember to utilize the resources offered through your department, such as physicals, workout center, immunizations, tobacco cessation assistance, etc.
  7. Maintain situational awareness of your health – know your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting blood sugar, waist size, and weight), know your limits, and follow up on information that merits attention. Also be aware of sudden changes in the body, which may be a sign of cancer or other health condition.
  8. Don’t be afraid to call in mutual aid – family for support, friends for moral support, and your physician for tactical expertise.
  9. Rehab after all physical activity – stay hydrated.
  10. Conduct “hot washes” after each phase of your health program to evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and what can be done better – Don’t give up!!! Be resilient!!!

Media Room