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Step One: Understand the Risk

Step One: Understand the Risk

As a firefighter or emergency responder, you have more risk factors than the general public to keep in mind when it comes to your immediate and long-term health. You need to be aware of the risks that come along with your lifestyle, your family history, and your professional duties. By knowing where you stand, you can take steps to lower your risk factors and prevent serious health consequences.  

Tools to Help You Understand Your Risk Factors

Risk Assessment Tool for Estimating Your 10-Year Risk of Having a Heart Attack
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Heart Attack/Coronary Heart Disease Risk Calculator
American Heart Association

My Family Health Portrait (Family History)
Department of Health and Human Services

Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Lower Heart Disease Risk (Women)
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Diabetes Risk Test
American Diabetes Association
Cardiometabolic (CVD/Diabetes) Risk Diagram
American Diabetes Association

Determine Your Health Status with Screenings

When it comes to your health, what you don’t know can hurt you. Regular health screenings can mean the difference between identifying a threat to your health in time or not. Browse the resources below, check with your department health officer, and consult with your doctor about setting up a regular health screening schedule.

Heart-Health Screenings
The American Heart Association recommends this screening schedule relating to heart health.

Health Screening Podcast
In this five minute podcast, Gail Fast of L&T Health and Fitness discusses the importance of regular health screenings and the types of screenings recommended for different age groups. L&T Health and Fitness has provided the health screenings at the NVFC’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter trade show booth.

Selected Preventative Screening Recommendations
This resource provides the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and other organizations for selected health screenings. The list was prepared as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthier Worksite Initiative.

NFPA 1582 Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments
This National Fire Protection Association standard outlines firefighter medical evaluation requirements.

Additional Risk Factors for First Responders

Working as a first responder, not only are you at immediate risk during emergency calls but you’re also faced with additional risk factors to your long term health. It is important to understand these additional risks and take actions to minimize them, such as insuring the proper use of breathing apparatus throughout a call and conditioning yourself both physically and mentally to safely perform the tasks of your job.

Critical Health and Safety Issues in the Volunteer Fire Service
This 2010 study by the National Volunteer Fire Council highlights health issues affecting first responders, including obesity, heart attack, stress, sleep deprivation, behavioral health, and substance abuse.

Emergency Duties and Deaths from Heart Disease among Firefighters in the United States
This 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that firefighters are at a greater risk of dying from a heart attack while responding to emergencies.

The Silent Killer Campaign
Sponsored by Masimo and supported by organization’s including the NVFC, this campaign is designed to raise awareness among first responders about the occupational dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and how to best protect themselves. The site features “The Silent Killer” video, a CO fact sheet, and other resources.

Asbestos Network: Firefighters Risk Exposure to Asbestos
This article discusses the risk firefighters face of asbestos exposure, the diseases asbestos exposure can cause (including asbestosis, lung cancer, and a cancer called mesothelioma), and how proper use of SCBA can protect against asbestos exposure.

Firefighter Cancer Support Network
Find assistance in dealing with cancer for the individual, department, and family through this network. View testimonials, talk with survivors, review the research, learn about the importance of screenings, and much more.

Firehouse.com: Cyanide Poisoning Can Mimic Other Firefighter Health Issues
This article looks at how poisoning from breathing in cyanide at the fireground can mimic other illnesses such as heart disease and have fatal results.

ABC News: Is a Firefighter's Health Up in Smoke?
This article looks at the health effects of wildfire smoke inhalation on firefighters.

International Association of Fire Fighters: Lung Disease in Firefighters
The IAFF looks at the increased risk firefighters face to harmful inhalants, the effect this exposure may have, and how firefighters can protect themselves.