Attitude, Accountability, Action: The Instructor's Role in Promoting Firefighter Fitness

Every year I look forward to attending the ISFSI Fall Instructor Development Conference. As a training officer and company officer at my department, I appreciate the jam-packed, practical content that the ISFSI conference offers. Being able to talk to and learn from some of the fire service’s foremost thought leaders in a face-to-face environment is a priceless experience. 

This year, I am even more excited because I have the honor of teaching my fellow instructors how they can be advocates of firefighter fitness at their respective organizations. Fire instructors don’t need to be fitness gurus to incorporate functional fitness into their hands-on training, but they do need the right mindset about the importance of firefighter fitness and health. 

Attendees will learn that with a mixture of firefighting tools, equipment, and PPE, the drill ground will soon become every firefighter’s “functional fitness gym.” Blending hands-on drills with functional fitness concepts will not only improve work capacity, equipment familiarization, muscle memory, and confidence, it will also instill that being fit for duty is a requirement of the job. 

Let’s be honest, we all started our fire service journey with the fundamental belief that fitness is vital (if not critical) to becoming a successful firefighter.  Being “fit for duty” is as essential to our fireground success as are didactic knowledge and hands-on skills.  Whether you are career or volunteer, male or female, young or old, firefighting requires you to be the best physical version that you can be. Additionally, optimal fitness is required to execute the duties of the job safely and effectively. 

As a fire service instructor, you know that the position carries a great amount of honor, privilege, and responsibility. You have been entrusted with the training, safety and wellbeing of those under your instruction.  Yet, as an instructor, how would you evaluate your current level of fitness?  Could it use some improvement? 

At the conference, I will share practical tips that every instructor can implement in their own lives and at their fire department. Until then, consider the following recommendations to create a “culture of fitness” at your organization: 

BE the example of fitness to other members in your department.  You don’t have be training to compete in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, but make sure that you are working out at the firehouse.  Your personal example will speak volumes to everyone around you.

Use positive peer pressure to motivate those around you.  If you cook at the firehouse, volunteer to do the shopping and cooking as much as possible.  Choose natural, healthy, whole foods as much as possible.

Fight for mandatory, daily workouts at your fire department (e.g. “every member will exercise a minimum of 30 minutes per shift”). This requirement must have the full support of the administration and then be enforced by company officers.

Create and adopt a physical agility assessment that all operational members are required to complete on an annual basis.  This can be comprised of 5-10 firefighter task-specific stations with the equipment you already have on-hand: Carrying and throwing ladders, pulling supply and attack lines, carrying hose bundles upstairs, forcible entry simulation, etc.

Read and adopt NFPA 1500, 1582, 1583, and 1584. These are extremely valuable standards that will help guide you in achieving a more fit fire department. 

Whether you are a fire instructor or you just love learning, make it a point to attend this year’s conference in Fort Collins, Colorado. The 2-day educational series (September 29 and 30th) only costs $150 for ISFSI members.


Register here.


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