When It Rains...

It's just another day at work. More things to do than time in the day. I'm at the fire station, making my way up the stairs to fit in what I can. Up the stairs, I make my way down the walk way and take the second left. I open the office door just to drop off my coffee cup. Training is about to happen and I don’t want to be late. I don’t turn on the light, at first. But what is that sound? It reminds me of running water? That doesn’t make sense. There is no water in the office.

I turn on the light and oh my, what a sight!One of the ceiling tiles looks more like a cloud instead of a part of the ceiling. It was full of water and beginning to rain down on the entire office. The air condition system is located in the ceiling, just above the office. I have heard stories of how it leaked before. I now have my own story.

As a new officer, I'm still working through the gut reaction to be in the thick of the problem. To get directly involved on fixing the problem hands-on. On this day, however, I activate a skill that have cultivated for years.A skill perfect for this situation. That skill?Ignorance.I understand what to do with a busted hose line. I understand what to do for a spill for muriatic acid. I know nothing about what to do for a leaky ceiling. I knew enough to know, however, that there was a problem. Even officers know water is not supposed to come from the ceiling. Sizing up the situation, I knew I need more resources. Downstairsare 2-3 firefighters who would know exactly what to do. I went downstairs and hustled back with a strike team of people to handle with the problem.

What did I do? I took two steps back and supported the plumbing strike team while they worked. I handed them a wrench when asked. I held the ladder when needed. I called the maintenance person for the long-term fix. As things are windingdown, the Battalion Chief stopped by. Chief’s seem to either have a 6th sense or hidden camera that tell them when to stop by the station."Where's the guy in charge?"All fingers point to me in the corner coordinating with the HAVAC vendor on when they can fix the problem.

Sometimes being in charge means letting the right people use their skill. Especially when you don't have that skill. I have learned something long ago that I have just managed to put into words. I don't have to be the smartest person in the room in order to lead the room. Let the ordinary people have the extraordinary impact.

 About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance. 

Truck Company Operations: LOVERS__U

The fire service loves acronyms and we have a lot of them. For this discussion we are going to talk about the old acronym for all you truckies out there – LOVERS_U. Before we get into the acronym and details of it, let’s first talk simply about truck company ops.

Truck operations involve a variety of tasks; forcible entry, search, rescue, ventilation, ladder operations (ground/aerial), overhaul, etc. Nowadays with the lack of manpower, squad and engine companies may be needed to perform these operations at any time on the fire ground and are equipped with the tools to do so. Some engine companies may need to perform both truck and engine operations due to lack of manpower or the absence of a truck on scene and vice versa for companies who run quints.

Well here we are, a truck company; what do we do?

Let’s being here with LOVERS_U:

1. Size-up (Yes, truck has its own size up to do). Everything we do on the fire ground calls for a scene size up (and a continual one) to better help us make smart tactical decisions to effectively complete our tasks especially with ventilation. Can this start the LOVERS_U? Hmm….

2. Forcible Entry, if needed (for searching and fire suppression). Sometimes the doors may be unlocked so like they say, “trybefore you pry”. This action should be determined quickly upon arrival in the case of victim removals. Please remember to keep this simple. Remembering your basic tools such as the irons, a hook and/or saw along with variations or combinations of each, can save time and get the job done. The key here is to know your tools and how to use them efficiently.

3. Search (Rescue, if needed). This is very important because we are not only searching for victims but searching for fire both of which may or may not be identifiable from the outside which is why searching is critical on the fire ground. Let’s remember searching for fire can also be done by the suppression team as well. Don’t forget your TIC.

4. a. Ventilation for search team (Vent for life). By venting for life, it is allowing a lot of the thick, black smoke remove itself from the structure giving search teams inside better visibility and time for locating victims.

b. Ventilation for fire suppression (Vent for fire). By venting for fire, this assists the fire suppression team in making an easier push to the fire and much easier extinguishment. This is done with very precise communication between your crew, the suppression team inside and the IC. If done haphazardly, this can be catastrophic.

5. Ladder the building (ingress, egress, vertical/horizontal vent). Every window accessible should have a ladder on it for emergency egress and also for access to the roof and 2nd floor windows for vertical vent. Why not throw a ladder up while heading with your crew to your assignment? Kill 2 birds with 1 stone.

6. Overhaul/Salvage. Once the fire is determined to be out, now it’s time to get inside and open the place up. This is to look for any hotspots and perform another search should any victims have not been found. During this operation, SCBA is still required along with a TIC and hand tools. Using tarps are also considered to help salvage as much property as possible and avoid any smoke and/or water damage.

7. Utilities. This is also known as shutting  down the utilities. Depending on where the utilities are located, this is done by either an interior crew or an exterior crew. Having control of gas, electric and water will help increase the safety of all fire service personnel on the scene.

Now that we discussed primary responsibilities of the truck company, we can now collectively say we have described and discussed LOVERS_U. For all those on truck companies or working with truck company responsibilities keep this acronym in your toolbox when pulling up to a scene, during your pre plans and in your training. It’s a valuable guide to helping you get the job done efficiently, effectively and most importantly safely. 

Until next time; work hard, stay safe & live inspired.

 About the Author

 NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 16 years in the fire service in Piscataway, NJ as well as NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and currently a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. A martial arts practitioner in Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai as well as a former collegiate athlete in baseball, Nick is also a National Exercise & Sports Trainer Association Battle Ropes Instructor and studying for the Functional Fitness Instructor certification.  He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.

Improve Your Cholesterol, Improve Your Career

Heart Disease is the leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States. It’s also one the leading causes of death in firefighters and for more than 1 reason. However, in this article we are discussing it with its link to cholesterol. So what is cholesterol and what does it due to our bodies?

For starters, cholesterol is a fat found in your blood that is developed in the liver but your body can also receive it from meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, and whole or low-fat milk. Everyone needs some cholesterol in their bodies in order to function properly such as your brain, skin and bodily organs. What cholesterol is doing for your body is acting a building block for your cells as well as helping repair damaged cells especially ones found in the blood vessels and the dietary tract.

If cholesterol is helping your body, why is it bad?

Well, foodhigh in additives, preservatives and other toxic processes will cause cells to become damaged and are most likely found in refined and processed carbohydrates. This will cause the cholesterol to flow around the blood and eventually cling onto the walls of your blood vessels, thus causing the vessels to become narrower as time goes on eventually clogging the vessels. A clogged vessel does not allow for proper blood flow through the vessel potentially causing a heart attack (lack of oxygen-rich blood)or stroke (decreased blood flow to thebrain) to name a few.

To be on top of our game and have long lasting career and life, we can as firefighters help ourselves and families to help improve our cholesterol levels.

1. Eat heart-healthy foods

a. Healthier Fats

i. Saturated fats, founds in red meat and dairy will raise your total cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) also known as “bad” cholesterol. Rule of thumb: 7% or less of your daily caloric intake should be from saturated fats.

ii. Leaner cuts of meat such as London broil, top sirloin, chicken breast, 96% lean ground beef and pork tenderloin are other healthier options along with low-fat dairy and monounsaturated fats which is found in olive and canola oils.

b. Eliminate Trans Fats

i. Trans fats affect cholesterol levels by increasing LDL levels (“bad”) and lowering the (“good”) HDL levels. Trans fats can be found in fried foods and many processed foods such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. In the U.S., food containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving is consider “trans fat-free”.

c. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

i. Omega-3’s don’t have an effect on LDL cholesterol (“bad”) however it does have heart benefits. Some benefits omega-3 has are helping to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”), reducing triglycerides (type of fat in blood) and reduces blood pressure.

ii. Types of fish rich in omega-3 are salmon, mackerel and herring. Other good sources include krill oil, walnuts and almonds.

d. Soluble Fiber

i. There are 2 types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Although both have heart-health benefits, soluble fiber also helps to lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and all you’ll need to do is all a little more fiber to your diet.

ii. High in fiber foods are oats, fruits, beans, lentils and vegetables.

e. Whey Protein

i. Whey protein given as a supplement according to studies has shown to lower both LDL and total cholesterol. So if you’re in the gym, at home or in the firehouse working out and GETTING AFTER IT, don’t forget to include whey protein in your diet.

2. Exercise

i. Exercise has been known to improve cholesterol especially help raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Before engaging in any physical activities, please consult with your physician beforehand.

If you want a long, healthy and prosperous career and a long life with your family your health comes first. Protecting the front lines and take care of our own comes above all else. Please remember to consult with your physician before looking into any of these recommendations as this is for informational purposes.

Until next time; work hard, stay safe & live inspired.

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 16 years in the fire service in Piscataway, NJ, a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. A martial arts practitioner in Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai as well as a former collegiate athlete in baseball, Nick is a National Exercise & Sports Trainer Association Battle Ropes Instructor and studying for the Functional Fitness Instructor certification.  He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.  

The Unexpected Church Lesson

My kid, Baby Girl, is a church baby. If you're not familiar with what that is, allow me to explain. A church baby is a kid that,from birth, has been raised and mentored in all things church. And I mean ALL things. He or she in the church children's choir, even if the "gift" of singing isn't theirs. He or she is apart of the children's ministry, even though they never ask to be. He or she is expected to go to children's bible study to learn all the rules that grown folk break. He or she gets dressed in the latest clothes for the latest church holiday. The duty of church baby lastsfar longer than being an infant.Baby Girl is 6 but will always be a part of the church baby alumni.

Church babies do get a stipend. This is normally paid out in candy and one-dollar bills. More so candy, than money. Still, not a bad weekly haul. The people who fund these payments are the elders of the church family, Pastor, Church Mothers, and Church Uncles and Aunts. Ever since she was born, Baby Girl has gotten candy and money from these elders. Except for one person. One Church Mother, small in stature, with big glasses and an even bigger smile. She makes payments in the form of books. Ever since Baby Girl was born, this wise Church Mother regularly, and unassumingly, gives her one or two books every few weeks. From church stories to Dr. Seuss.From classics Church Mother read as a kid, to new storiesfor the new ages. Baby Girl loves the books! She looks forward to the books. And when she gets new books from Church Mother, we absolutely have to read them right away.

I love the books too! Beyond the colorful characters and simple adventures, there is always a wise nugget to learn. A bit if knowledge to be bestowed. Something that when I want Baby Girl to understand life, I can refer to one of the many books we read. Question for you: What books of wisdom and knowledge are you giving people? We all make our way through life collecting books; wisdom and knowledge. Have you shared your books with anyone? Younger members of your organization? Of your group? Of your family?

Passing on wisdom and knowledge should come from wise elders and thought leaders, right? When I sometimes feel I have nothing to offer anyone, I remember this statement that was told to me: “To the third grader, the fifth grader is an expert.”You don’t have to know all the answers to life to enrich some else’s life. Give what you have. You have no idea how much someone would enjoy your story. That seeming ordinary story, that can have an extraordinary impact.

 About the Author  

 NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

 

A Perfect TIN

My choice of title may have you question my high school diploma. It may also have you question if I understand the difference between self-confidence and being self-absorbed.  Rest assured, my diploma is valid, and many of life's lessonshave kept me humble.After spending just over a year on an ambulance as a probationary supervisor, I learned a number of things. Three of those things that come to mind can be put together in the acronym TIN:

Theory

• This is the starting place, not the ending place. When I left home after high school, I thought to myself "Now I get to show my mom I know what I'm talking about!" like so many folks leaving home, I knew the answers that I came up with would carry me though life. Most of those answers didn't last the first year. Life as a new supervisor was no different. I already had 10 years of supervisory experience from the military. Yet, this first year I found myself tweaking and adjusting how I thought things would go. As the military saying goes, "No plan survives contact with the enemy." What theories do you have that are awaiting contact with real life situations?

Information

• When I prepared for the promotional process, there was an exercise where I interactedwith role players to show my interpersonal skills. I knew that the role player may have info that I needed. If I didn't ask for it, however, Iwasn’t going to get it. So, when it was brought to me that there was a difference between what I thought was happening my first year, and what was actually happening, I realized I didn't have all the info I needed. After talking it over with my boss, I completed a 360-degree survey at my station. I gotfeedback from my boss, other supervisors, and the firefighters there. I found where my Theory was working, and I found where it wasn't. I didn't make all the changes recommended, but I did change my approach on a number of things. Sometimes, you won't get information unless you ask for information. When is the last time you asked for more info?

Network

• Having a network is huge! You've used your Theory. You've gotten Information you didn't have before. Still coming up short on leadership answers? No problem. Phone a friend from your Network. Your Network is a grouping of people you respect and depend on to be the best version of yourself. Getting the insight and perspective of another person can be just what you need to get on the right track. Who gets to be in your network? Your mentors to start with. Getting advice from someone who cleared the path of wilderness before you can help greatly. Respected peers are some others. I was lucky enough to be at a station with 6 other supervisors that I interacted with. Each person was able to provide me with an angle I may not have considered. Don't have 6 supervisors where you work? Connect with others in your organization. Join professional groups. Attend local conferences and trainings to network with people. Finally, don't forget about the people you know, that know nothing about your job. One of the best relationships I've had thus far, is the older gentleman I used to ride with to the men's prayer breakfast. As we rode, I would just soak in all the life wisdom he was nice enough to bestow on me. Who are you calling in your Network to be a million-dollar supervisor?

Are there more lessons that I learned I that year? You bet! I’m still digesting some of them. Luckily, being a good supervisor is a process. One that I hope to get better at every day. All with the hope that one day, I’ll be an ordinary person, who had an extraordinary impact.

About the Author

 NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

Unexpected Wisdom

 "Ah, nothing like the smell of propane to wake you up in the morning!" That's what I tell myself riding on the back of the hazardous material unit. We are off to a propane gas leak at a home. Some of you may only be familiar with propane containers used for home grills. Trust me, that is not what we are going to. Imagine a container the size of 4 of those entire grills put together. If that not's big enough of a problem, have that container buried underground. Grab a Snickers bar, we are going to be here awhile.

As expected, we ride down the road with red lights turning and the siren yelling. Once there, we make sure we have on all our fire department gear. Our hand-held meter for detecting propane is turned on and working. Someone has laid out and charged a hose line just in case the gas finds a spark and goes boom just like the YouTube videos. With some specialized training, and some not so specialized items found at the local hardware store, we stop the leak. So now we wait for the expert to come fix the problem: the guy from the gas company.

A white van moseys on up to the scene. The side has the gas company's logo on it. One guy steps out with the usual attire for an event like this: jeans, t-shirt, and work boots. To make sure he meets the right level of safety, he puts on a helmet and some gloves. Don't worry, I am pretty sure these come from the same local hardware store we got our hazmat stuff. We sit there, with structural firefighting gear on, ready to save anyone in a 50 ft radius. Meanwhile, the gas company expert is dressed the same way I dress when I mow my lawn, minus the helmet.

I then hear a voice say "This is what an expert looks like?" That voice, was just me thinking really loud. Have you ever done that? Looked a person and said, "Where is the REAL expert? You can't be it." If you have, then you now know what it is to be bias. When we talk about it in regards to ethnicity, or gender, or religion, people get real nervous or defensive about being called bias. Truth is, we are all bias about something. Bias works the same way no matter what yours happens to be. The question is, what are you doing with yours?

I decided to go talk to this so-called expert. I asked questions. And I listened, and listened, and listened. I learned a lot about underground propane tanks worked. The gas guy really was an expert. And I really was self-righteous for thinking otherwise based on a look. It's really a pretty simple concept: Asking questions gets you information. Not just about propane, but about people as well. You never know when an ordinary question will have an extraordinary answer.   

About the Author

 NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.

The 10 Minute Workout

One of our biggest excuses for lack of exercise is simple, it’s lack of time. Most of our time is spent working, sleeping, family obligations and friends. Very rarely do people say they have or make time for exercise, which in our profession is very unfortunate since as we’ve said in numerous posts thus far, we are “functional athletes” and need to behave, think and train like one; mentality and physically. 

In order to enjoy our life, our family, friends, combat the stress of the job and continue to feel healthy for the long haul, exercise is essential to this and what I am sharing with you all today is the 10 min work out you can do at home, in the gym, on the go and even in the firehouse alone or with your crew.

Why am I saying all of this?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, it is recommended to have at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic pace exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Depending on how hard you work out that will equate to 21 minutes per day of moderate aerobic pace exercise or 11 minutes per day of vigorous exercise.

So here are a few options of the 10 minute workout:

1.    Jogging: This is great for cardiovascular health, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol and is known to decrease the risk of osteoporosis. The American Council on Exercise states that an individual weighing 180lbs can burn up to 170 calories by taking a 10min jog.
2.    High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): This is my personal favorite and although it burns calories and fat quickly, it is not recommended for beginners. HIIT is a form of interval training and cardiovascular exercise training alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. This type of workout will challenge your cardiovascular system more than jogging along with added benefits such as increasing your metabolism, improves cholesterol profile and increases insulin sensitivity. A bodyweight HIIT Workout would look something like this: 50 sit-ups, 40 jump squats (or body squats), 30 pushups, 20 split jumps, 10 triceps dips, as many burpees as possible in 30 seconds. You will take a 30 second rest between each exercise in order to perform each exercise with 100% effort. 
3.    Circuit Training: This a great strength training workout due to strength training .Generally strength training requires rest periods between sets for muscle recovery however with circuit training uses antagonistic muscles (when one muscle contracts, the other relaxes, i.e. biceps and triceps) allowing for shorter rest periods An example of this would be as follows: 3 sets of 10 reps.
a.    Pushups
b.    Hollow body hold
c.    Squats
d.    Glute bridges
e.    Bench dips
f.    Plank hold (30-60 sec holds)
4.    Jump Rope: Jumping rope can burn more than 10 calories in a minute and a great way for overall body toning. Here is a quick jump rope workout you can do anywhere. 60 seconds regular jump, 60 seconds rope side to side, 60 seconds single leg (left), 60 seconds single leg (right). The goal is to do this routine non-stop for 2 rounds. If you are new to this, do regular jumps for 60 seconds for 4 rounds with 30 second rests. For the single leg jumps, start with the weaker or less dominant side first. 

So, there you have it. Four different workouts we can do any time, any where for overall health. Incorporate these into your daily life will have you feeling healthier, stronger and battle ready to perform when the alarm goes off.  

Please note: Always consult with your physician before getting into physical activities while recovering from any injury or surgery. It may not be the best treatment option after an injury or surgery or may be limited to particular modalities.

Until next time: work hard, stay safe & live inspired.

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 16 years in the fire service in Piscataway, NJ as well as NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and currently a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. He has also been elected as a township elected District Fire Commissioner for 1 term (3 years) in Piscataway, NJ from 2008-2011. A blue belt in taekwondo and former collegiate athlete, Nick is currently studying to complete his certification as a TRX Instructor and a Battle Ropes Instructor. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.

 

Sleep and Firefighters

One thing firefighters have been known to lack, is lack of sleep. Generally, not something that is talked about or brought up in conversation, but lack of sleep has links to firefighter injury and death. Think about it, emergency service personnel live off shift work and interrupted sleep patterns which are out of their control since alarms can happen any time of any day.

According to The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sleep or interrupted sleep patterns could be a major factor in more than 60 percent of firefighter deaths. The majority of these are caused by heart attacks and traffic accidents. Research has shown that approximately 7,000 firefighters have reported to suffer from numerous sleep disorders such as obstructed sleep apnea, insomnia and shift-work disorder which was reported by the New York Times.

They also reported firefighters are also more likely to develop serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety because of sleep disorders. In addition to these health problems, firefighters are also likely to report an increase in kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity.

NYTHEALTH RESEARCH

Firefighter Deaths Could be Linked to Poor Sleep

Helen Regan Nov. 14, 2014

Sleep plays an integral role in physical health and especially of one of a functional athlete.

The human body is built with an internal clock and changing to our sleep patterns at any time can disrupt or alter the internal clock which is built on routine – something we don’t have much of as firefighters. While sleeping our bodies are healing and repairing our heart, blood vessels, muscles and allowing our bodies to heal. In addition, sleep with repair and consolidate memory. 

So what could we do to ensure we get a sufficient amount of sleep off duty so we are recharged and energized for our next shift?

Here are a few tips to try while off duty:

1. Routine. This is important. Stick to a sleep schedule while home.

2. Power Down. Turn off or avoid all electronic devices 30-60 minutes prior to bed.

3. Keep Cool. Try to keep the bedroom cooler than other areas of the house. Majority of people sleep more soundly in a cooler bedroom.

4. No alcohol or caffeine. Both are known to disrupt sleep patterns either by unexpected wake ups or restless sleep.

5. Comfort. Invest in a pillow and/or mattress that’s comforting to you. This also helps eliminate muscle, nerve and joint pains especially headaches.

6. FAST. Try hard to avoid large meals close to bedtime as much as possible.

Proper training, proper nutrition and proper recovery (along with sleep) are all vital to our success as firefighters on the job and off. 

Until next time; work hard, stay safe & life inspired.

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 16 years in the fire service all within departments in Piscataway, NJ. Nick has held the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain as well as being a township elected District Fire Commissioner for 1 term (3 years) in Piscataway, NJ. He is also a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and currently a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University working in Corporate Taxation and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.

Embrace the Burpee

As we know and as we said in numerous blogs thus far, we are functional athletes and because of this, we place a significant emphasis on core stability and strength. This is one of the main purposes of functional fitness.

So where am I going with this? Well, what do elite athletes and military forces have i common?? They EMBRACE THE BURPEE!!

So what exactly is a burpee? A burpee is a calorie-torching, strength-building, full body exercise that can also be done anytime anywhere. The best part, it’s all about speed.

Tip: don’t start off fast, start slow and gradually build up a good pace.

Now why should us as firefighters embrace the burpee? Here are a number of reasons to embrace the burpee.

1. Total body fat torching exercise that burn up to 50% more body fat than moderate exercise.

2. Speeds up your metabolism. This will help burn calories even after the workout is finished.

3. It is the ultimate example of functional fitness and a total body workout. Burpees will hit your chest, back, biceps, triceps, gluteus, quads, hamstrings and abs.

4. This is a great way to condition your body for overall health. Conditioning and endurance training is key for all firefighters to keep your body healthy and ready. Also, this will get your heart rate up quickly for conditioning and endurance.

We spoke about why burpees are a good addition to firefighter fitness so now here are a few burpee exercises we can do:

1. 21-15-9-6-3
burpees, body squats, plyo-pushups.
This is a 5set workout starting with 21 reps (in order) with a min rest then 15 reps and so forth and so on until all 5 sets are complete.

2. Burpee-pull-up
Do a burpee in front of a pull up bar, then do a (jumping) pull up. As many as you can for time (time limit: 3min).

3. Burpee-push-up
Do a burpee and upon completion of the burpee do 1 push-up. Continue that sequence for 2min.

4. 100 burpee challenge. Aim for 100 burpees in 15min. Do as many as possible before taking a break then continue.

5. Burpee-sprint
Do 1 burpee then sprint 50yds and do another burpee. That’s one set. Do this for 5 sets. Rest 1 min between sets.

Take these workouts to your firehouse, your home, anywhere and have fun with them. These workouts can also be a great team building exercise as well with multiple benefits all in one. 

Please note: Always consult with your physician before getting into physical activities while recovering from any injury or surgery. It may not be the best treatment option after an injury or surgery or may be limited to particular modalities. 

Until next time; work hard, stay safe & live inspired.

 About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 15 years in the fire service all within departments in Piscataway, NJ. Nick has held the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain as well as being a township elected District Fire Commissioner for 1 term (3 years) in Piscataway, NJ. He is also a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and currently a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University working in Corporate Taxation and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website. 

 

Benefits of Yoga in the Fire Service

As humans, regularly or daily exercise is important to our overall health. Studies have shown, it helps your improve the immune system, decreases stress levels and helps reduce the risk of developing several diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Overall, physical activity and exercise can have and improve immediate and long-term health benefits but most importantly, it can improve your quality of life.

With all that said, I would like to talk about yoga and it's benefits on us as firefighters and how it could improve our performance on the job, our health and general wellness.

According to the NFPA's "U.S. Firefighter Injuries - 2015", there were 68,085 reported injuries in the fire service in 2015. I would have used 2016 statistics but the report hasn't been released yet. So what does our health, exercise and NFPA injuries report have to do with yoga in the fire service?

Well the majority of the injuries in the report both fire ground and training were strains, sprains and muscle pains. Granted some injuries cannot be prevented, however we do have a chance at keeping our bodies healthy and fit for when it's time to do the job because let's face it, we are athletes. Function athletes at that. Our bodies could take a beating during training and on runs. It's up to you how well you prepare yourself. No one said 50lbs of gear including carrying tools would be easy to wear and operate in and  all in a functional manner.

With that being said, I would like to discuss the benefits of yoga and how incorporating this into your fitness regime could help benefit you as a firefighter also known as a function athlete. Mind you, I am not an expert and do not claim to be. I am only sharing my experiences with the exercise and how it can help us as firefighters on the job and off.

For thousands of centuries, people throughout the world have practiced yoga poses and techniques for health and well-being. Yoga brings together the mind and body in a combination of physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation. These have been shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, relieve anxiety and depression, and improve chronic low-back pain. All of these have been found in firefighters at a high rate due to the stressors and physical and mental nature of the job while on duty or off.

Yoga itself is a form of healing exercise that can be very beneficial for improving function and flexibility. As mentioned throughout this article, we are functional athletes. Benefits of yoga for us as functional athletes can provide the following:

Raises heart rate - making it both a great cardio and fat burning workout

Works the muscles fully, but in a low impact way that doesn’t stress the joints as much as weight training

Increases cognitive function, coordination, and balance

Greater flexibility, reduced tension, and stress

With that said, this can improve our duration to work under tension as well as how we maneuver in our PPE and SCBA for long durations in and out of IDLH environments.

The intense styles of yoga, could also strengthen muscles throughout the body through various poses. By practicing yoga it is also a chance for you to give back to yourself with time spent in relaxation, contemplation, and reflection to energize your mind and soul. Mentality this is a great way to relief the stressors of the job and have a long, healthy career for yourself, your family and your crew.

Practicing yoga is generally safe for healthy individuals. However, if you have a health condition that can be exacerbated by heat or deep stretching it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider before starting yoga or trying more intense styles. It is also important to find an instructor who will be mindful of your limitations and restrictions.

Here are a few poses you could try at home, on duty with your crew or at the gym:

Whether you're a beginner or a well-practiced yogi, these poses will stretch your body, open your mind, and bring you back to your center. Hold each pose for three - five breaths, or combine the postures into a routine, moving from one pose to another and repeating several times.

Balasana aka Child's pose

A restorative, forward bend pose. Aligning at the spine and stretching the hips, low back, and middle back, balasana is used as a resting position between more difficult poses.

1.Start on your hands and knees.

2.Sit back so that your hips are over the top of your ankles.

3.Allow your body to completely relax with your head on the floor.

4.Your arms can be lying back by your feet or outstretched above your head. Your knees can either be close together or spread apart.

5.Find what is most comfortable for you.

Bhujangasana aka Cobra pose

This position used to strengthen the vertebral column and to stretch the abdominal and shoulder muscles.

1.Start in a high plank (top of push-up).

2.Lower your body to the floor before pressing your upper body back up.

3.Straighten arms and arch your back while keeping your knees on the floor and squeezing your glutes.

4.Be mindful of any tension in your lower back and stop if you feel discomfort.

Adho Mukh Svanasana aka Downward Dog pose

A forward bend pose strengthening arms and legs, while stretching shoulders, hands, hamstrings, calves and arches of your feet.

1.Start in high plank (top of push-up).

2.Lift your hips to the ceiling, drop your heels to the floor, and push your chest back toward your knees.

Ardha Matsyendrasana aka Half Lord of Fishes pose

This is a seated, twisting, hip-opener that realigns and lengthens the spine. It also stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck.

1.In a seated position, bend your left knee and pull your left foot up to the outside of your right hip.

2.At the same time, cross your right foot over your left knee with the right knee pointing up.

3.Twist gently to your right by placing your left elbow outside your right knee and your right hand behind you on the floor.

4.Make sure to maintain a tall, straight spine.

5.Inhale and exhale as you twist as far as you are able without discomfort.

6.Repeat on the other side.

Virabhadrasana I aka Warrior One pose

A hip-opener as well as chest-opener pose, strengthening legs while stretching arms and legs.

1.Start in a high plank (top of push-up).

2.Step your right foot forward into a deep lunge.

3.Lifting your upper body straight up, continue lunging forward onto your right knee while tilting your upper body further back.

4.Raise arms above your head and sink your hips low, striving to maintain a straight back leg.

5.Repeat on the other side.

References:

NFPA - National Fire Protection Association 

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

National Institute of Health

CDC National Health Statistics Report

Yoga Journal

 About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 16 years in the fire service all within departments in Piscataway, NJ. Nick has held the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain as well as being a township elected District Fire Commissioner for 1 term (3 years) in Piscataway, NJ. He is also a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and currently a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University working in Corporate Taxation and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website. 

Benefits of Massage Therapy for Firefighters

As we are already aware, firefighting is inherently dangerous. It is a profession that requires us to put our bodies on the line at any given moment. According to the NFPA, in 2015 alone, 68,085 firefighters injuries were reported in the United States. Out of the total reporter number of firefighter injuries, 29,130 (43%) were fire ground related and 7,560 (11%) were training related.

Sometimes we walk away unscathed, while other times we come back with a few bumps and bruises to say the least. But let's be honest, are we always working at 100% health? Maybe, maybe not.

Everything from the weight of our PPE, to the addition of our SCBA, to the tools and other accessories we may carry with us add weight which also weighs us down and causes our bodies extra physical stress as well as mental stress than our bodies are already under while performing our tasks.

Everything from physical fitness training, hands on fire ground training and any other type of training we may take part in adds loads of stress on us and let's not forget the daily routines of family and outside activities we are all apart of in our personal lives.

With that, one way we as emergency service personnel can reduce these stressors is through massage therapy. This can be done 1-2 times a month and based on your activity level, goals, lifestyle and general health, the frequency could change.

On a personal level and without getting into details, being in the fire service and an athlete of various levels I've had my share of injuries and a few surgeries and found massage therapy to be a beneficial way to reduce soreness and recover from minor injuries I've incurred along the way.

Here are a list of reasons (broken into 2 categories) why massage therapy is beneficial for us to add to our toolbox of physical and mental gains on and off the fire ground.

Overall Health & Wellness

• It aligns the spine and reduces pressure on nerves
• It relaxes your muscles and helps you to maintain good posture
• It relieves stress
• It improves your circulation
• It stimulates the body's secretion of endorphins
•Calming the central nervous system
•Elongating tight muscles
•Loosening toxins from the tissues for elimination

Injury & Surgery Recovery

•Reduce pain, minimizing the need for pain medication
•Inhibit swelling by moving lymph
•Break up scar tissue
•Hasten the healing process by increasing the flow of blood and oxygen

**Please note: Always consult with your physician before getting a massage while recovering from any injury or surgery. It may not be the best treatment option after an injury or surgery or may be limited to particular modalities.

Until next time; work hard, stay safe & live inspired.

About the Author  

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 15 years in the fire service all within departments in Piscataway, NJ. Nick has held the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain as well as being a township elected District Fire Commissioner for 1 term (3 years) in Piscataway, NJ. He is also a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University working in Corporate Taxation and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website. 

Playground Lessons

Today I got to do something I don't normally get to do: Sleep beyond the sound of my alarm clock. Really, I could do that on any other day. To do so, however, would mean missingclass or work. Neither are good options. Even without an alarm clock, I still wake up at 6 am.

Like most people in public safety, that IS what sleeping in looks like. The morning is a bright summer day. Yet, it’s not hot and sticky yet. A perfect day for taking my 5-year-old daughter, Baby Girl, to the playground. The playgrounds I went to as a kid hadscorching, metal slides that could cook an egg in the summer time. The swing sets normally had 4swings, with 3 missing or broken. These days, my kid gets to enjoy playgrounds that really are an amusement parks without the admission price.

At the playground we go to today, it’s amazing. It’s really 4 – 5 large playgrounds within 20 feet of each other. They have themes like pirate ships and dinosaurs. Never mind slides. One of them actually has a zip line that allows my kid to travel between the monkey bars and some other contraption I can’t describe. Most importantly, there are swings. A whole row of them. They are on the outer edge of the playground. And they all work!

Swings are one of Baby Girl’s favorite parts of the playground. Still, using swings is a new concept. She says, “Can you just push me?” and I explain “Big Girl, I want you to do it all by yourself. You’ll have more fun that way.” I talk her through the motions. Feet forward, then back. Lean in and back. We spend about 10 mins of swinging sideways and turning in circles. After some good laughs,I finally get in the swing next to her and show her how it's done. Watching me, she mimics what I'm doing and starts to get the hang of it. She's not necessarily on her way to the Olympic trials in playground swings. But she should be able to have fun at the playground. 

How often are you the example of how to do something? The reason the phrase “Actions speak louder than words” is so true, is because people don’t think in words. They think in pictures and movies. Getting a mental picture or mental movie into a person’s mind is key to getting understanding. At times, this can be done with words. Other times, you just have to get on the swings. Make being an example apart of your ordinary day, and watch it have an extraordinary impact.

 About the Author

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance. 

Things Have Changed

 "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but…"There are few ways to get a group of firefighters to be quiet. This one works pretty well. I was doing some training with a group of firefighters recently. In the mist of training, one of our department’s retirees stops by. He’s a well-respected firefighter. He retired as an officer and is known to be a great on the fire ground. When this guy spoke of how to handle an incident, knowledge just oozed out of his words. The way he started out this story made it even easier to listen. He goes on to say, "Back when we got acquired structures to burn in, we would use a live victim for rescue. That probably would not go over too well these days."Boy is he right! Anyone who knows current safety standards, or has read Line of Duty Death (LODD) reports in recent history realizes the danger those people were put in.   

As I soaked in the words he said, it made me think. The retired guy realized that even though what was done in that era was commonplace, it is now known to be extremely dangerous. Learning has occurred for him, and hopefully, for the entire fire service. For those of you that can’t fathom how anyone would have ever done this practice, consider this question: What common place things have you done that you later you found out could be the worst thing to do?

I am just beginning to teach my youngest kid, baby girl, to ride a bike.She has a helmet, and knee pads, and elbow pads. All of which matches her bike, by the way. What did I have when I learned to ride a bike? An afro. That's what protected me. My afro.My mom wasn't a bad parent for it. That was acceptable. Just like the retired firefighter, I realize that times have changed for the better. It may take more effort and resources to accomplish training in the fire service or training on the playground, but it's worth it.Change for the best often requires more work. But before change can happen, one must realize the need for change. If you don't see something wrong with what you are doing, why do something different?That retired firefighter understood the need for the change in training. What changes do you see a need to make?In yourself?Your organization?Your profession?Change is inventible, why not make it a change for the good. It takes ordinary people to make a change to have an extraordinary impact.

About the Author 

NICK BASKERVILLE has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 16 years of fire service time, with 13 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and in the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as a chapter president, a Health and Wellness committee member, and one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance.