Fitness/(Preparedness?) for Duty: Routine
vs. Disaster response
by Eric Peace
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Fitness/(Preparedness?) for Duty: Routine
vs. Disaster response
Generate understanding of respondents
experience and perceptions of physical
demands of the job
Account for personal biases of fitness levels.
May not get accurate data in an interview
because people won't admit they cannot perform
Is there a correlation between personal firefighting experience,
personal levels of fitness and perceived level of self-efficacy to
respond to or be prepared for disasters (extreme work times at
How do respondents rank the importance of
physical fitness in firefighting/emergency
response/disaster response duties?
Is there a correlation between perceived importance of physical
fitness in FF vs. perceptions regarding the augmented endurance
requirements that could be used to better prepare FF's for
How important is fitness to the success of FF
operations? to the safety of individual FF's? to
the safety of the public?
In general, are Fire Departments physically
prepared to respond to disasters? Why or why
What would prevent FF's from being prepared for disaster
response? (ex. Departmental fitness standards; personal
Should Fire Departments be
prepared for disaster
What is the likelihood of disaster?
What is the likelihood that your
department would respond to a
What is the likelihood that your department will exhaust it's manpower (ex. have every
individual either working simultaneously, or having all individuals work long hours with
inadequate rest time between shifts) during a multi-day disaster event (earthquake,
wildfire, hurricane, explosion in Mackay camp at CNRL, etc - think
extraordinary/catastrophe that could exhaust the resources within the given region of the
respondent - it's all relative)
Define "Routine firefighting duties": Alpha/Bravo priority - minor
medical calls, fender benders; Charlie/Delta priority - major
medical calls, multi-patient medical calls; multi vehicle MVA's;
residential/ commercial/high rise fires, Haz Mat calls, High risk
Governed by fitness evaluations
No standard, Different timeframes, Pre-employment, Annual, Deterioration of physical fitness over time
thus FF's needs to be tested more
frequently., Different testing methods, Functional Capacity fitness tests, CPAT, Intuitive fitness tests, NFPA
Physiological effects from:
Extreme physical workload
(victim rescue; high rise
Heat (Environment; PPE)
Decreased respiratory capacity
by 15-20% from SCBA
Psychological stressors that
impair physical abilities
What skills/abilities/levels of fitness are required
to be successful/safe performing routine
Ability to resist injury, Cardiovascular and muscoloskeletal
Ability to perform job successfully, Perform job tasks effectively
(ie. Firefighting, rescue)
Ability to perform job safely, Protect self, teammates and public, Resist/cope with physiological
Define disaster: Extreme/extended work times at
fixed intensity separates disaster from routine
emergency (Disaster Response Principals, p.37).
Echo priority - anything that overwhelms the
capacity of an FD's on-duty resources [ie.
earthquake causing 100's of partial/full building
Do disasters present with different
challenges/requirements than regular firefighting
If so, what are they?
Do disasters impose greater physical
demands on firefighters than regular
If so, what are they?
What skills/abilities/levels of fitness are
required to be successful/safe responding to
In considering the impacts of a disaster on the response
demands of firefighters, to what extent can current fitness
evaluations adequately measure the physical demands of
responding to disasters?
Functional capacity vs. Intuitive testing, Is one more applicable than the other?
What tools should be used to measure
physical fitness for duty in responding to
What should be added/subtracted to the current
fitness evaluation procedures to ensure
firefighters are fit for disaster response duty?
Firefighters respond to all emergencies, from alpha priority
(Broken ankle) to echo priority (mass casualty disaster).
Routine calls are usually lower priority but some regions are
at risk for great disaster (ie. Major urban centres)
Do these departments perceive risk
differently than departments where lower
risks are found?
Do these departments prepare differently for the
physical demands that are associated with disaster?
Do the guys who fight fires consistently stay in better
Risk perception is an important concept because if
respondents don't perceive the risks from disaster, they're
less likely to perceive their inability to respond to a disaster
people in California may respond to
this study differently than Albertans.
Focus on Wildfire activity for AB;
seismic for BC
How can anything accurately
measure firefighting duties if they are
What should the fitness benchmark be? Should it be to meet the
demands of regular firefighting duties, or should firefighters hold
themselves to a higher standard and implement fitness requirements that
ensure physical preparation for worst case scenario (ie. large scale
-Possible Question #2: What differences exist between the
perceived levels of firefighter fitness required to
successfully/safely respond to routine vs. disaster
-Possible Question #3: To what extent do active, full-time firefighters feel that current fitness
testing strategies adequately measure fitness for disaster response duty? (Stick with NFPA
test or have respondents comment about their own fire departments testing
strategies/fitness requirements to identify if there are any trends?. ie. 75% of respondents
who are tested by test "A" feel its worthy, while 25% of respondents tested by test "B" feel
its worthy. Also, looking at differences in call volumes/risks in the area to see if this plays a
role in perception.
Why: See Purpose
Who (Sample size/population): Urban and/or rural? municipal
and/or industrial? Full time and/or volunteer? Forest FF's
excluded because they wear different PPE and perform
Who is this intended for?: All emergency
services because the potential for disaster is
Where: Only AB firefighters involved?
Methods will determine travel/location of data
When: Timeframe to complete
What: Objectives to be met
and questions to be asked.
Qualitative or quantitative?
Surveys or interviews/focus
groups? if interviews, how to record
Why this is important for the field
- Lots of research dedicated to improving fitness of
FF's in routine emergencies, but nothing that focuses
on the unique time element that presents in a disaster
- 2 primary elements that separate emergency
from disaster are scale/magnitude and time
(Disaster Response Principals, p.33, 37)
- 45% of FF deaths are from cardiac arrest
- Public safety relies on response
success, and response success relies on
Find case studies involving failed disaster response or disasters that
involved extended work loads (ex.Christchurch earthquake) of
physical intensity equal to a routine emergency to show that
improved physical endurance could have resulted in a more
How long must the physical intensity associated with regular
firefighting duties be sustained to be considered adequate? In
other words, what levels of endurance must be achieved at a
given intensity to perform FF duties?
What endurance requirements exist to
adequately respond to emergencies vs.
What do FF's need to respond to disasters? Ex. Fitness
programs? Frequent testing strategies? Preparation for
events that pose extraordinary physical endurance
How can endurance be
improved at a fixed intensity?
Eliminated the fitness assessment focus and put more emphasis on finding out if fitness
demands/requirements are different for everyday emergency response vs. disaster response. I figure the
most important variable between the two is time. Everyday emergencies end after a reasonably short
period of time, while disasters tie up resources and require them to work for extended periods of time. So
at a given level of work intensity, does disaster response require a greater level of endurance seeing as it
could last for several hours or even days. And, do our current standards prepare FF's for these
"The job of the firefighter is high intensity bursts of activity followed by
either lower intensity periods or rest periods. This means that you need
good aerobic capacity, good strength and good muscular endurance." -
Lance Walker, What's your best workout?
Need to define fitness - aerobic capacity,
strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, balance
(see balance article)???
Do current fitness standards prepare FFs for disaster response?