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

Heart Disease Risk Calculator
Mayo Clinic

Heart Attack 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

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test
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.

NVFC Position on Firefighter Medical Assessments 
The NVFC advocates annual medical assessments for all firefighters and emergency responders. This resource outlines the types of physicals available.

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.

This resource provides the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and other organizations for selected health screenings.

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 2016 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.

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.

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.

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