Firefighter health issues tackled at EMS Expo

Firefighter-Paramedic Dave Williams, of the Austin Fire Department, covered a range of issues responders face


By Jamie Thompson
EMS1 Senior Editor

Firefighter health and wellness came under the microscope at EMS Expo on Thursday.

During his presentation called "Fireground Medical Considerations," Firefighter-Paramedic Dave Williams, of the Austin Fire Department, covered a range of issues responders face, including the need for annual fitness testing.

Photo Jamie ThompsonDave Williams discusses responder health and wellness during the session at EMS Expo.
Photo Jamie ThompsonDave Williams discusses responder health and wellness during the session at EMS Expo.

"Why do we need to do annual testing? Things change, our fitness levels change all the time," he said.

The session was told age-related changes that can impact the performance include:

  • Aerobic capacity
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Bone density
  • Hearing and vision

Williams said while firefighters can be seen as athletes, the big difference lies in the fact athletes always know when their next event is taking place.

"Unlike an athlete, we don't know if I'm going to have a box alarm after having sausage, egg and cheese for breakfast."

Williams stressed the importance for responders to take better care of their diet and, in turn, health.

"It's typical for us to have three meals a day," he said. "But we know that if you have several small meals throughout the day — five to six versus three big meals — it stabilizes blood glucose levels during the day.

"When blood glucose is at a low level, you're not as sharp, not thinking as fast — you might not make good patient care decisions, if you're on the fireground you might not make as good tactical decisions. "

Among the "dietary dilemmas and pitfalls" responders face, according to Williams, are:

  • Big breakfast
  • Never cooking short
  • Unusual hours
  • Opportunistic feeding
  • Individual habits
  • Boredom
  • Depression

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