Start a Program

Setting up a department health and wellness program may seem like a challenging task, but the following resources can make it easier. From securing funding to motivating department members, these resources can help you implement a successful department-wide program.

Resource Guide

The second edition of the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Resource Guide contains all the information needed to start on the path to a heart-healthy lifestyle. The guide begins with essential heart health information explaining the risks firefighters face and covering topics including coronary heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Part two highlights steps you can take to reduce your risks and get heart smart, including smoking cessation, fitness, and nutrition. The final section offers additional resources for getting the help you need to start and stay on the path towards good health.

Securing Sponsors for Department Health and Wellness Programs

This toolkit takes you through the steps needed to identify, reach out to, and follow up with potential sponsors and donors of a department health and wellness program. The toolkit contains sample letters and customizable templates to make reaching out to and following up with sponsors even easier. It also includes tips, talking points, and ideas to help departments through the process. The NVFC developed the toolkit to make securing sponsorship for a department health initiative as undaunting and straight-forward as possible.

Health and Wellness Guide for the Volunteer Emergency Services

The prevalence of cardiovascular illness and deaths and work-inhibiting strains and sprains among firefighters illustrates the need for a comprehensive health and wellness program in every department. Yet department leaders often struggle to implement a program due to a variety of reasons, including resistance or lack of motivation from members, the costs associated with implementing a program, and the lack of well-defined requirements. This Guide demonstrates ways to overcome these obstacles, provides direction for developing and implementing a department program, and highlights several existing health and wellness programs and how they have maintained their success over time.

Understanding and Implementing NFPA Standards: 1500, 1720, 1851

The NVFC partnered with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to develop a guide to help departments understand and implement three key standards for firefighter health and safety. The standards covered in this document are NFPA 1500: Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program; NFPA 1720: Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Volunteer Fire Departments; and NFPA 1851: Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Firefighting. In addition to the guide, the NVFC also provides an online resource center to further help departments in the implementation of these standards.  

Addressing the Epidemic of Obesity in the United States Fire Service

The NVFC, thanks to support from the U.S. Fire Administration, partnered with the HOPE Health Research Institute to conduct a study on obesity in the fire service. With the growing epidemic of obesity throughout the country and in the fire service itself, this study is an important resource for firefighters and EMS personnel to learn more about the causes of the problem and what they can do to reverse this potentially life-threatening trend. The report looks at the impact of obesity, the scope of obesity in the fire service, and why obesity has become an epidemic, and then highlights innovative trends in nutrition and fitness that firefighters can utilize and presents recommendations for the fire service for combating obesity and increasing fitness. 

Health and Wellness Advocate Workshop

This free, two-day workshop provided by the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program is designed to train health and wellness advocates in the emergency services. Participants learn the principles behind starting and implementing a successful department health and fitness program and how to encourage and motivate department members to adopt heart-healthy behaviors. A series of webinars based on the workshop are now available.

The First Twenty
The First Twenty is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of the American firefighter and decreasing line-of-duty deaths due to heart attack. Their program is a fitness and wellness system that reaches, educates, trains, and motivates firefighters. Focusing on physical fitness, mental fitness, and nutrition, the program is designed to be easily managed, maintained, and implemented by the average firefighter.  

Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Health

The Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Health provide best practices to protect your health and stay at your best. Hang this poster up at your station to remind all personnel to follow these potentially life-saving rules.

Steps to Getting Healthy

Whether you are getting healthy on your own or implementing a department health and wellness program, the steps and resources in this section can help you get on the path towards good health so you can be at your best both on and off the job. There are also suggested activity ideas to help get you started.  There t

Health and Wellness Webinar Series

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has developed a series of webinars as part of its continuing effort to educate first responders about health and wellness. These webinars focus on a variety of health and wellness topics targeted to the fire and emergency services, including functional exercise, nutrition, program design, heart health, heat stress, smoking cessation, obesity, insulin, behavioral health, carbon monoxide, and more. Find all the health and wellness training on the NVFC web site.

Department Pledge

Encourage your entire department to adopt the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program by signing the Department Pledge to get and stay healthy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle at the station will be even easier if all members of your department are committed to their own health and wellness as well as the health and wellness of their fellow members. Work together to lessen the risk factors of heart-related illnesses and possible heart attack. Once 100% of your members sign the pledge to adopt the program, send a copy to the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program and each member will receive a special pin to recognize your department's commitment to heart-health .

Fitness and Nutrition Videos

Check out these videos demonstrating some exercises and recipes you can try at the station. 

Monthly Challenges

You can boost morale for a health program and motivate department members by issuing a health and wellness challenge each month. Consider focusing on a different health or wellness issue each month and making it a competition between members as to who can complete the challenge. The Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program has posted a series of challenge ideas to get you started.

Health and Wellness Tips Sheets

Find tips and information on a variety of health and wellness topics. Distribute to department members to help them stay focused and learn how they can improve their health and wellness. If your department health and wellness program participates in monthly challenges or health focus topics, you can utilize the tips sheets to provide additional information to department members about that month's topic. 

Success Stories

Read stories about first responders who have accepted the challenge to get heart healthy. Use these stories to motivate your own health initiatives as well as to inspire department members participating in a department health and wellness program.

Medical History Form

Family and personal history can impact risk factors for heart disease and other illness. It is important to provide your doctor or healthcare provider with accurate information of your medical history. The Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program has created a general Medical History Form your department members can fill out and bring to their doctors to start the discussion on what risk factors they may be prone to or need to watch out for.

For Your Refrigerator

Download these helpful hints and tips for getting healthy and post them on the refrigerator at the station or at home as a reminder of the small things that you can do to get and stay healthy.