Health and safety policies
Physical fitness and wellness play significant factors in firefighter safety. Fitness is a key part of operational readiness, ensuring firefighters are physically capable of the tasks they may need to perform.
But health is a long-term concern, as well. Studies have shown that those in the fire service have a higher risk of chronic diseases such as heart attacks and cancer and also behavioral health problems such as PTSD and depression.
As mentioned before, firefighter policy should include specific fitness standards. But policies should also include resources, tools, and recommendations to help members stay healthy in all aspects of their lives.
The firefighter safety organization Everyone Goes Home recommends implementing regular physical examinations, taking steps to create healthy working conditions, and providing physical fitness facilities.
However, health policies should address mental and emotional health as well.
As a report from FEMA points out:
“If left unaddressed, behavioral health issues can have tragic consequences on a firefighter’s personal and professional life. Relationships can be damaged or destroyed, dangerous habits or addictions could form, and the person may act recklessly, which also endangers their fellow responders.”
Part of fostering a culture of safety in the fire service is making sure that firefighters know where to turn for help if they are struggling with any of these issues. Policies can help reduce the stigma around these issues by including resources and information.
Make policies a priority
Again, policies won’t do much for firefighter safety if firefighters never see them. If a policy manual is simply a binder on a shelf that is only used to study for promotional exams, firefighters will see little value in knowing and following SOPs in daily operations.
However, if policies are regularly updated, trained on, and discussed in the department, firefighters will be more likely to see the value of the procedures contained within.
To truly improve firefighter safety, policies and procedures need to be regularly updated. They need to line up with current best practices, new technology, and the changing needs of the department.
A policy management software like PowerDMS makes it easy to collaborate on policy updates and track changes in accreditation standards.
PowerDMS can also help department leaders ensure that firefighters read and understand policies. Commanders can collect signatures on new and updated policies, link policies and training content, and even issue simple tests to make sure firefighters understand SOPs.
Up-to-date, accessible, understandable policies help firefighters know what's expected of them, improving firefighter safety and bringing excellence to all parts of department operations.