When your job carries certain inherent risks, there is a need to mitigate those dangers however feasible. The fire service has plenty of hazards (structural collapses, smoke inhalation, and occupational cancer, just to name a few) and while the possibility of injury or death can never be truly eliminated, the right tools can help fire service leaders reduce occurrences of these incidents.
One such tool, Guardian Tracking, gives leaders a way to comprehensibly track and document certain events and exposures that can negatively impact their members.
In this article, we share five ways fire departments can utilize Guardian Tracking to support the health and wellness of their firefighters and ensure they have long and fruitful careers.
As a result of evolving construction practices and the resources utilized in modern structures, firefighters are at an increased risk of developing cancer. When certain materials burn, they release carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents. In the course of their duties, firefighters are frequently exposed to these carcinogens.
In addition to the risk from fires, firefighters also face detrimental effects from regular exposure to diesel and gasoline exhaust from apparatus and other equipment, as well as responding to hazardous material incidents.
As previously stated, the danger will always be present for firefighters. However, tracking the accumulation of these incidents and flagging at-risk personnel for additional health screenings can help ensure that if a firefighter does develop a health issue, it’s caught quickly and treated appropriately. Comprehensive records of these exposures can also ensure that members receive workers’ compensation or other disability benefits should the worst occur.
“In 2018, we had a firefighter pass away from cancer. We did a manual review to find all the fire incidents he was at. However, while the narrative in our records system may give us an idea of whether he was on the scene and what he did at the call, it didn’t really give us the exposure information we needed to validate whether the cancer was caused by a line-of-duty carcinogen exposure. With Guardian Tracking, we can drill down a lot deeper and it also gives the individual firefighter more control over the details of the documentation on exposure calls.”
Conversations around firefighter health and wellness typically focus on the physical dangers associated with the job, but the mental and emotional risks can be just as debilitating.
Whether the call is fire-related or medical, firefighters are frequently faced with traumatic and disturbing situations and, like other first responders, are at greater risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the general population. Suicide and other mental health illnesses are also a major concern for firefighters.
In the past, firefighters were generally hesitant to reach out for help professionally due to the stigma associated with in. However, in recent years the implementation of behavioral health programs and peer support groups has helped to change the perception of mental health within the fire service and provide firefighters with crucial support and resources.
Guardian Tracking can help fire service leaders protect the mental health of their members by offering a process for documenting and providing follow up after traumatic incidents, identifying personnel who are at-risk, and ensuring concerning behavior doesn’t slip through the cracks.
“Just last week, I had one crew that responded to five deaths in 48 hours. [With Guardian Tracking] we’re able to see that and give them a day or two off to be with their families and get away from the stress.”
Morale plays a significant role in the health and wellness of your firefighters. Beyond reducing work-related stress, morale is also critical in an industry where your physical safety relies on your teammates. Support and trust amongst firefighters are absolutely essential.
Additionally, positive morale can also provide a buffer against the stress and risk faced by firefighters. By building resiliency through increased morale, firefighters can more easily maintain their mental health, regardless of the adversity they face.
The question is, how can fire service leaders improve the morale at their departments? A good first step is prioritizing positive recognition. By giving praise when deserved and letting your members know how valuable their contributions are, you can ensure they feel appreciated and respected by you and the rest of the team.
Fire leaders can utilize Guardian Tracking to formalize positive recognition and build a digital repository of kudos, peer-to-peer recognition, awards, and other noteworthy performance.
Staffing shortages are a major contributor to burn out, stress, and fatigue. Unfortunately, recruiting and retention has been difficult for many departments in the past few years and firefighters are feeling the strain.
A digital tool like Guardian Tracking can be utilized alongside other incentives to improve firefighting retention and recruitment efforts by building a positive workplace environment that’s attractive to new recruits.
When fire departments prioritize the health and wellness of firefighters, they can increase the likelihood of members having healthier and longer careers. Whether that’s by reducing the chance of a firefighter retiring early due to injury or burn out, or providing mental health resources and support, everyone wins when firefighters are healthy and happy.
In addition to the aforementioned benefits to firefighter health and wellness, Guardian Tracking can also help fire departments by building a digital employee file that offers a holistic view of each member. This documentation can then be used during performance reviews, to identify candidates for promotion, or find opportunities for growth.
As an early intervention and performance management solution, Guardian Tracking can help fire service leaders change procedures or bolster current programs that support the well-being of their firefighters. Best of all, it’s easy to use, quick to implement, and scales to the size of your agency.
Vector Solutions’ suite of industry-leading software solutions for fire and EMS departments includes training management systems, online training courses, live skill evaluations, operational management solutions, and an early intervention and performance management system.
To learn more about supporting firefighter health and wellness with Guardian Tracking, please request a demo today.