Book shows how to make fit­ness func­tional for fire­fight­ers

The Phoenix - - FIT FOR LIFE - By Gin­ger Rae Dun­bar gdun­bar@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @GingerDun­bar on Twit­ter

EAST WHITELAND » East Whiteland Chief Fire Mar­shal Dan Ker­ri­gan and Jim Moss, a Mis­souri fire cap­tain, co-au­thors of “Fire­fighter Func­tional Fit­ness,” share a pas­sion to cre­ate a health­ier fire ser­vice, one fire­fighter at a time.

Ker­ri­gan and Moss con­nected on so­cial me­dia af­ter notic­ing they both posted about fire­fighter health and well­ness. Soon af­ter they be­gan shar­ing that mes­sage to­gether and wrote an ar­ti­cle on the topic for Fire En­gi­neer­ing, a mag­a­zine.

Af­ter a great re­sponse from the piece and with so much re­search, they be­gan jok­ing about writ­ing a book. They dis­cussed writ­ing an eight-part series on what even­tu­ally be­came “the big-eight of fire­fighter func­tional fit­ness” in the book to ex­plain the as­pects of func­tional fit­ness ex­er­cises, such as push­ing, pulling, lift­ing, car­ry­ing and drag­ging, all move­ments that fire­fight­ers per­form on the fire ground.

They wanted to pro­duce valu­able re­sources for in­di­vid­ual fire­fight­ers and fire de­part­ments that was help­ful, use­ful and prac­ti­cal. Their main goal is to have fire­fight­ers un­der­stand that how to change their life­styles to be­come health­ier at home and im­prove their per­for­mance on the fire ground.

The book is de­signed to ed­u­cate all fire­fight­ers re­gard­less of whether they are in need of im­prove­ment or that are al­ready fit but want new ideas on how to make their fit­ness func­tional for the job, and ev­ery­one in be­tween. Moss and Ker­ri­gan are fea­tured in the photos demon­strat­ing the var­i­ous ex­er­cises.

“One of our pri­mary goals is to help fire­fight­ers get fit for duty for the jobs that we per­form, have a long and healthy ca­reer and also hope­fully in­crease the chances of a long and healthy re­tire­ment,” Ker­ri­gan said.

They want fire­fight­ers to take their health and fit­ness se­ri­ously and un­der­stand that this is some­thing they can con­trol. While fire­fight­ing in­volves a com­bi­na­tion of strength and car­dio­vas­cu­lar ca­pac­ity for an ex­tended pe­riod of time, he ex­plains that it’s not about fo­cus­ing on just build­ing mus­cle or run­ning a marathon--a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach is needed.

“The essences of what we do is work­ing at high in­ten­sity rates and hav­ing to use func­tional strength at the same time,” Ker­ri­gan said.

They also have a goal to help re­duce pre­ventable line of duty deaths by con­trol­ling health-re­lated risk fac­tors. They want fire­fight­ers to un­der­stand that per­sonal health and fit­ness af­fects oth­ers on the fire ground.

“You’re never go­ing to com­pletely con­trol the risks that we face on the fire ground,” Ker­ri­gan said. “We all know that go­ing into the job. It’s a haz­ardous oc­cu­pa­tion, whether you’re paid or not. But we can con­trol our own per­sonal health risk fac­tors and we should.”

Ker­ri­gan ex­plained that the rig­or­ous and phys­i­cal de­mands of the job put stress on all of their body sys­tems. Heart at­tacks con­tinue to be a lead­ing cause of line-of-duty-deaths. On av­er­age, 100 fire­fight­ers na­tion­wide die each year on the job, and close to half those deaths are at­trib­uted to stress and overex­er­tion.

When Ch­ester County fire­fight­ers re­sponded to the ar­son cri­sis in Coatesville on nearly nightly ba­sis in 2009, Ker­ri­gan per­son­ally no­ticed that his body was not re­cov­er­ing from the phys­i­cally de­mand­ing du­ties as well as he had in the past. He helped ini­ti­ate health and well­ness pro­grams at his depart­ment and saw a need on the fire ground for fire­fight­ers to change their life­styles to make health­ier choices and to train specif­i­cally for the phys­i­cal as­pects of the job.

“I think for ev­ery­body it’s dif­fer­ent. What­ever your rea­son­ing is for real­iz­ing that you need to maybe do a bet­ter job of tak­ing care of your­self, that’s the im­por­tant part, it’s the re­al­iza­tion and the tak­ing ac­tion,” Ker­ri­gan said. “To­day is the best day to start tak­ing bet­ter care of your­self. It’s never too late to make small changes that are go­ing to im­prove your fit­ness and health.”

In ad­di­tion to func­tional ex­er­cises, the book in­cludes guid­ance on nu­tri­tion, hy­dra­tion, rest and re­cov­ery and more.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit­fighter func­tion­al­fit­


East Whiteland Fire Chief Ker­ri­gan and Jim Moss, a Mis­souri fire cap­tain, wrote “Fire­fighter Func­tional Fit­ness” to ed­u­cate fire­fight­ers how to make their fit­ness func­tional for the job. Moss is pic­tured in full gear and an SCBA, drag­ging a dummy. They both urged that if fire­fight­ers are train­ing in their pro­tec­tive gear, that the gear must be cleaned to re­move car­cino­gens.


Jim Moss, left, a Mis­souri fire cap­tain, and East Whiteland Fire Chief Ker­ri­gan, right, wrote “Fire­fighter Func­tional Fit­ness” to ed­u­cate fire­fight­ers how to make their fit­ness func­tional for the job.

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