Physical Assessments Uncover Health Problems

Golder Ranch Fire District

TUCSON, Ariz. -- In 2001, the Golder Ranch Fire District received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant to establish its first wellness and fitness program. The grant enabled Golder Ranch to develop and implement a comprehensive wellness and fitness program for the benefit of its 72 paid staff members and 17 volunteers, who are cross-trained to provide both firefighting and emergency medical services.

Their program includes mandatory exercise periods, annual physical assessments, peer fitness trainers, peer support counseling, and a critical incident stress management team. The District also pays for health insurance for its members, whose ages range from 21 to 58, with the average age being 35.

One component of the wellness and fitness program, the annual physical assessment, has proven to be very valuable to individual members and the District as a whole. Physical assessments have uncovered a number of medical problems among the staff, including the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes (Two firefighters were discovered to have the disease. Both received aggressive medical and fitness interventions to stabilize the disease.)
  • Hearing impairments
  • Minor heart problems
  • High cholesterol

Members with heart problems were referred to a cardiologist for further testing and treatment, and some department members now wear hearing aids. Those with high cholesterol levels received nutritional counseling. Several firefighters had aerobic fitness levels below what is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safe use of respirators. Those staff members were reassigned temporarily to modified-duty status until they could bring their aerobic fitness levels up to the required standard. "The key to a successful wellness and fitness program is to have a duty policy," said Health and Safety Officer John Sullivan. Golder Ranch paramedics also administer EKGs and other tests to staff members and send the results to a physician for review. If the physician finds something unusual or that needs more attention, the staff member is directed to see a physician for a complete workup.

For the weight training side of their wellness and fitness program, the District purchased and installed at each of its four fire stations, two pieces of aerobic equipment and a universal gym. Each staff member is required to participate in one hour of physical exercise during his or her shift. In addition, they are recommended to perform 30 minutes of aerobic exercise during every shift. At one central station, an assortment of aerobic and rehabilitation equipment can be used, such as a stationary bicycle, treadmill, and elliptical trainer. At this location, a fitness trainer is available 24-7 to help members during their mandatory exercise sessions and monitor their progress toward fitness goals.

What They Bought With The Grant:

  • Physical assessments of firefighters
  • Weight training and physical fitness equipment
Last updated February 11, 2021