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Redmond Firefighters Hit the Road to Wellness

Redmond in FocusRedmond Spokesman

In 1997 the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) recognized the need for a higher level of fitness for firefighters. The two groups met and developed a program, "The Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness/Fitness Initiative." The mission statement of the initiative was to create an overall wellness/fitness system to maintain uniformed personnel's physical and mental capabilities.

In a joint effort, the Redmond Professional Firefighters and the City of Redmond agreed to institute a wellness program based on the national initiative. The major components of the program include: medical evaluation, fitness, rehabilitation and behavioral health. With assistance from the City's Personnel Department, the Redmond Firefighters contracted with Doug Booster of Professional Health Network Inc., an education service and consulting business specializing in Worksite Health Promotion. Booster is also a Central Oregon Community College professor of Exercise Science and Health.

Booster reviewed the IAFF/IAFC wellness program and developed a program dealing with the areas of stress management, nutrition, physical fitness and behavior modification, specifically designed for the Redmond professional firefighters. He met with each member of the team individually to find out what they enjoy doing for fitness activities, and to discover any questions or concerns related to their health or the program. At the same time, the services of Cascade Medical Clinic were retained to perform annual medical physicals on each firefighter.

According to Booster, "The firefighters were concerned about what to do with the results from their physicals. I help them interpret results from blood tests, flexibility, VO2 Max, and strength tests and decide if they are at risk for certain health problems. Then we set individual programs to improve their overall health."

To date, along with the testing, the program has included lectures by Booster about physical fitness, nutrition, stress management and behavioral health. An essential component of the program is a deaily one-hour block dedicated to physical training.

To support this daily training hour, the City of Redmond partnered with the firefighters to purchase fitness equipment for use by the firefighters. Other training activities include mountain biking, swimming, and running. Three of the firefighters, Dave Pickhardt, Tim Moor and Straton Poindexter, will compete with Booster in an off-road triathlon this summer in Hood River.

"I think everyone's attitude and commitment to the wellness program and their workout has increased, " said Matt Linker, Firefighter III/Paramedic. "Doug coming in and giving us information on lifestyle, diet, and stress put all the pieces of the puzzle together and let us know that you need to do more than just work out to be really fit. You have to make changes in your diet and lifestyle, too."

In the first year, there has been a decrease in the use of sick leave and a reduction in workers' compensation claims by the fire department. The goal of the program is to develop an attitude of adherence to physical fitness. With this attitude and the ongoing wellness program, the Redmond Fire Department will provide the community with the best possible service.

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