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Frederick Fire Department reflects on the progress of the health and wellness program

FREDERICK, Md. (DC News Now) — A program that works on the physical and mental health of firefighters is seeing drastic improvements. It’s making sure firefighters can stay on the job.

“Sleep plays a role in how well you perform on the job. Your nutrition plays a role in how well you perform on the job. If one area is lacking, it’s going to affect other areas, and eventually, it can be very detrimental in the long term,” said Kayla Stoneback, human performance specialist for O2X.

4 years after starting a health and wellness program, the Frederick Fire Department says they are now seeing the real-life benefits.

“Firefighters are public safety, industrial athletes. There are never two days at the office that are the same. One minute they can be at the fire station training or preparing a meal, the next minute that could be climbing a 100-foot ladder, or climbing down a smoky hallway, or carrying a patient down the staircase,” said Fire Chief Tom Coe.

The department notices positive impacts on its recruits and senior members. They say the program is helping reduce on-the-job injuries and makes sure Frederick firefighters remain fit and healthy, in mind and body. Now, the program has also saved the department thousands of dollars, so it’s money they’ve used to reinvest back into health and wellness initiatives.

“Some recruits we trained four days a week, so that includes doing some strength training, some conditioning, training, a lot of mobility, flexibility, kind of working on total body movements to make sure that they are fully capable of doing the job and also meeting the demands of the job,” said Stoneback.

Chief Coe says firefighters are prone to injuries like neck, back, and knee injuries. He also says –this program has seen a two-fold advantage, fewer injuries, and fewer bills.

“Injury costs include the backfill for that position, which is usually played in an overtime rate and includes the medical bills to bring that person back to duty. Anytime that we can reduce injury occurrence and lessen the severity of any given injury through the wellness of that employee, that’s cost savings to the fire service and savings of taxpayer dollars,” said Chief Coe.

They currently have a team of 600 and plan to hire 75 new employees in the spring.