Whether your health initiatives are department wide or personal, keeping your goals in sight can be difficult without the right motivation, and there’s no better motivation than a good support system. For firefighters and EMS personnel, an effective support system includes involvement of department leadership, department members, the community, and family and friends.
Activity ideas to get you started:
- Learn how to be the support for your department by becoming a Health and Wellness Advocate. The NVFC’s free Health and Wellness Advocate Workshop will give you the necessary tools and knowledge to support and motivate your department’s members and health initiatives.
- Educate everyone in your department on how to be aware of the other members. Is one member working long hours, under a lot of stress, or drinking more heavily than usual? Be accountable for each other and don’t be afraid to ask that person if you can help.
- Encourage support among your department personnel by teaching them how to motivate each other in their health and fitness initiatives, or create “teams” of two or more members who will support each other in their efforts to reach their health goals.
- Create a tagline or motto for your department’s members that states their commitment to supporting each and every member of the department in their health and fitness initiatives. For example, “Alone, our hearts beat. But with support from each other our hearts beat stronger.”
- Encourage or require department members to schedule annual physicals and consult their doctor about matters concerning family history and how they can reduce their risk factors.
- Ask local healthcare professionals or hospitals to donate their time and resources to conduct free health screenings for your department members. Remind them that their donation will help protect the community by making sure those who protect them are healthy enough to do their job.
- Contact local businesses to see if they are interested in creating community relations or corporate philanthropy programs that can support your fire department’s health and wellness program. Use the Heart-Healthy Firefighters Program’s sponsorship guide to help you gain support.
- Develop relationships with health and fitness related businesses like local gyms or grocery stores where you can ask for discounts on memberships or healthy foods. Use information and facts from www.Healthy-Firefighter.org to explain why a health and fitness program is so vital to firefighters and the community. As an extra incentive for the business explain that they can use the relationship as a basis for a public relations campaign.
- Find someone in your department who can write well and have them learn how to compose a grant request. The NVFC has developed a Grant Writing Guide to help you master this important skill. Many businesses, foundations, or organizations offer grant opportunities that can help you fund health and wellness initiatives. The federal government’s Fire Prevention and Safety Grant is another possible funding source. Find more grant opportunities on the NVFC web site.
- Establish a Fire Corps program that can aid your department in achieving its health and fitness goals in many ways. You can have your Fire Corps volunteers develop and find funding for your health programs, or have them complete other non-emergency tasks that would otherwise take up the time that your members’ could spend working on their fitness and health.
- Keep in mind when you’re creating activities to incorporate into your health initiatives that they could be a desirable story for the media to cover. Every chance you have to get public attention is also a chance to grab support and funding.
- Contact local gyms and ask if they would be willing to donate equipment that they no longer need to your fire department in order to ensure that your firefighters’ are strong and healthy enough to safely perform the job’s physically demanding tasks.
- Encourage family members to get involved in your health initiatives. By teaching your children and spouse about your nutrition, exercise, and other health efforts and encouraging them to join you, you’ll be keeping your family healthy while developing a solid support system that extends outside of the fire department.
Tools and Resources:
Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
North American Fire Fighter Veteran Network
AfterDeployment.org: Wellness Resources for the Military Community
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
American Heart Association