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Month: March 2014

Are we regulating the right thing in the fire service?

Are we regulating the right thing in the fire service?

2014 marked my eighth year competing in Seattle with my 27th stair climb, and numerous runs across the United States and although I am far from being done, I know that the changes I have personally made have decreased the likelihood of health issues resulting in my own death. 

Over the past few months I’ve seen the articles, blogs, and social media posts pop up at random with the question of maximum ages in the fire service.  From something as simple as do you put an age cap on your members to it’s the older members that are basically giving the fire service a bad health report when it comes to fatalities.  The question that truly comes to mind as I look around the service is, are we regulating the right thing, is age what is killing us or is it poor choices that are taking the lives of our brothers and sisters.

Being involved in public service since late 1999 and having worked around a wide variety of first responders I won’t say I’ve seen it all, what I will say is I have seen plenty to base my opinion from.  I have worked with firefighters side-by-side from all walks of life, all ages, types of service, backgrounds, and body composition.  I’ve seen some of the fittest and some of the least fit out there.

In 1999 I was 21 years old, overweight, out of shape, on the verge of being a statistic health wise.  I was joining a volunteer fire department in rural Northwest Ohio and far from the model firefighter that you saw in the calendar, let alone my peers that were of similar age.  To be honest I think all we were required to take was a physical in order to get on and pass backgrounds, a selection process and interview.

Fast forward to 2004, a few more years, more bad choices, and not too many changes I was at a crucial point where I could make a change that could potentially make a difference in my life further down the road.  I was on a new department, in rural Central Ohio that I continue to serve with.  SCBA bottles still didn’t last as long as I felt they should, I tired easily, physically I just didn’t have it and I could admit it.  No one was stopping me.  There were no tests of physical power and endurance and no one saying hey you need to lose a few pounds to keep in this.  It was a cognizant decision that I personally had to make to get in better physical shape and make a change.   At the age of 26 I weighed 235 pounds and had a waist of 42 inches, the only shape I was in was round and I knew it.

My defining moment was that I wanted to get in better shape to compete in the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of my mother.  I knew I was out of shape and it took me from November of 2004 until March of 2007 when I first competed to make enough change and man was I seeing a difference.  What I also saw at these competitions and knew by the time I finished my first Seattle climb was that AGE has little to do with the first service in comparison to physical ability, endurance, health, fitness, and living right.  Firefighters in their twenties and thirties getting stomped and by men and women 15-20 years senior who could outlast and outperform them.  In 2007 I saw it and could tell you first hand, age is not the issue in the fire service it is physical fitness that are hurting the ranks and chalking up additional LODD every year in the United States.  Year after year as I compete in more firefighter-based events and attend regional and national trainings I see it everywhere.

Some of our biggest issues have to do with what goes from the fork, spoon, bowl, and glass to our mouth, not what the date of birth on our license is.  Asses in recliners until we absolutely have to answer that call, stagnant complacency to physical activity, poor choices, uneducated nutritional decisions, and unwillingness to change.  To top it all off, are departments mandating or even encouraging fitness for their members, I think we know that answer in many cases.

Why are those firefighters having a heart attacks, CVA’s, stress, and exhaustion?  Is it the fact that they are 40, 50, or 60, or is it the fact that they are not in shape and have medical conditions that could be prevented?  Would a screening catch the fact that they have hypertension and a BMI that are out of whack?  What if that 55-year-old firefighter today would have made lifestyle changes 30 years ago and perhaps underwent screenings or did something after getting their results?  Questions…questions…questions…   The answer is that in the 1970’s and 1980’s when some of the more veteran firefighters were getting their start, the push for fitness, health and wellness programs, and healthcare technology were lacking.

Today in 2014 as we look around the fire service to the new rookies filling the ranks and those with a few layers of soot on their helmet we see a younger generation of men and women that have a chance.  We are at a point where we can make a change with this generation of firefighters when it comes to yearly firefighter fatality reports down the road.  We as departments, line officers, and fellow firefighters can make a difference and it starts with us.  Simple changes and it can start in house as we plan meals, make choices for hydration after calls, and adding activity to our daily routines.  Getting up and away from the computer screen CE’s and getting a little dirty out in the apparatus bay are yet another way to make a step toward getting physical activity.  When you’re out doing that training, get your personnel in gear, why do I still see us doing certain tasks during training that we would normally be fully geared up for?  Do you see football players on the field doing full contact without a helmet?  Make your crew get a sweaty and build up some heat while they do the work, a little cardio is good for the body!

The harsh reality is that the firefighter who dies and becomes a statistic at whatever age because of a heart attack didn’t die because of their age they died because an issue that went undetected, undertreated, untreated, and because their body could no longer handle what it was being put through.  All too often when it comes to issues in life we treat the wrong thing and turn to the wrong solution.  Turn to a wrap to make us look better, a pill or shake to lose weight, and continue the other poor choices.

You can make a difference and it can start today.  It can start with the next trip to the kitchen with what you put into your body.  It can start with getting up out of the chair and doing work.

Are you signed up for your Brotherhood CE’s at FDIC?

Are you signed up for your Brotherhood CE’s at FDIC?

All signed up and ready to go, the annual FDIC show in Indianapolis is nearly upon us and I am excited to be making the trip out.  Being the eighth year I’ve been over to it I have grown accustomed of what it is, what to look for, what to do, what to avoid, and what not to miss.  As the years change some vendors come and go, as do some of the offerings, but FDIC regardless of where your involvement is in the fire service has something for you.  Yearly I get a list together of what my goals are while I’m there, I’m particular in how I go about it and it turns into a search.  The packet came in the mail last week with my badge and I’m amped to once again be taking my Brotherhood CE’s.

By now I probably have a few of you looking back through your packets, maybe even doing a Google search or two, but its something that you just had to experience.  If you missed it while you were there, Brotherhood was everywhere, every hall, every room, every aisle, and throughout downtown Indy.  While there was no line item on the FDIC registration site for “Brotherhood” that had a price and a “sign up” button, it was included in everyone’s package.  It was FREE, but a very important part of the fire service that you need pickup on wherever you can.

Regardless of what you go out to FDIC for, the Brotherhood alone is a priceless piece of the package that you need to learn, refresh, and live in order to keep the traditions and the roots of the fire service alive.   The times are changing in the fire service and while I won’t put it all on the shoulders of the youth among the ranks, not all understand the meanings.  Likewise, newer members might not know what its about and unfortunately some of the old smoke eaters have forgotten the meaning.

It is up to us as a Brotherhood to keep this feeling and traditions alive.  While some may toss it out there, are you living it?  Its not leaving a your crew, its about checking on one another, its about having each others back, honoring and respecting those that came before you, teaching, knowing when to speak, and knowing when to listen.  It’s not about acting like a schoolyard clique, but a firehouse family because this is family.  You promote values and defend the true meanings of the fire service you show outwardly that its not just about money, its not about it being a job, and being in it for the right reasons and that is helping others before yourself.

Much like firefighting needing CE’s , Brotherhood is no different, sometimes you need some continuing education to stay at the top of your game, to keep going, to keep it effective to protect not only you, but others.

Over the last few years I’ve talked with brothers that I’ve met from many states and sometimes the wrong idea about a fire convention gets out there.  In some houses the idea is so misconstrued that Boards, Chiefs, Officers, won’t let their members attend, let alone assist in paying for a portion of the trip.  The stigma of being a drunken bash where no good can come, no stone is unturned, the pillaging of the land and where quality of event is questioned runs circles.  Reluctance is out there by departments to send personnel because of what “they have heard,” or maybe their own choices that were made when they were younger or when last they attended.  Regardless of what you go out to FDIC for the Brotherhood alone is a much-needed piece that you must take in.

Is there drinking at FDIC, you bet there is, after the training and after the hard work has been completed and the job is done.   Is sitting down with 2, 20, or 200 plus of your Brother firefighters for a meal, beverage, to watch a game and share a part of continuing these traditions, you’re dammed right it is!   Safe travels to everyone traveling in for the event.

The morning after

The morning after

I meant to post this on Monday, but with all the chaos of traveling it didn’t get submitted.  Stay tuned for a review of the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb and why YOU should be there in 2015!  

Its never easy, the trip back home and the day after the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb.  So many emotions, thoughts, memories made, and people met that its hard to wrap my hands around it completely.   The entire pouring of oneself into a project, any project as big as this that logistically has a lot going on for it and is far from a whim that you’re going to compete.

Sad, happy, pleased, tired, exhausted, content, and hungry are just a few of the emotions that I am fighting back on the plane ride across this beautiful country today.  As I passed through the lobby this morning the goodbye waves, nods, congratulations, the stay safe brothers spoke as we all went our separate ways. Arriving at the airport was the last time that most of us would see each other until next year, but sadly as I follow the LODD list and I know that’s not always a reality.

As one of my friends spoke yesterday that she had her breakdown moment midway through the day surrounded by firefighters, honorees, and the emotion of the event.  Exhaustion plagued my mind yesterday, but today the reality strikes and I know that its over, while the dose of brotherhood was a huge pick-me-up when its gone you feel like a piece of you is missing.  Today is my breakdown day and I find myself immersed in music while I’m editing event photos during flight as a constant reminder of how powerful this event and our brotherhood is.   We get things done, we fight this battle for those that can’t, we continue to break fundraising goals, and we push ourselves to be better than just the average firefighter.  If you tell us that it can’t be done, “you’d better step aside because we are going to do it in a New York minute and when we’re dome say THANK YOU sir may I please have another.

Paving the road back to Seattle and the 2015 climb begins today, it begins now, and I know the changes that need to be made and the steps I need to take to best my time and continue to increase competitiveness.  Some of the pieces that came into my life over the last couple months I know are very important to me.  Upping my game and pushing myself to attain new goals is key and that is going to take work.

Continue to check back for more updates and follow along FF4CURES is far from done, in fact we’re just getting warmed up!

The playlist

The playlist

I’ve seen the question posted on many a runner forum, sports forums, and talked about it at events, what is on the playlist that’s pounding through the headphones.  I am motivated and moved by the music in many ways and break my training and events down by list to get me ready and get the head in the game.  To me, every song here has a meaning a reason and a purpose for being in the list.  The song might be on because of a life event, a cadence, a great lyric, or in some case a specific person of significance.  As haphazard as it may look, it works and is quite the variety of genre to keep me going.  While some songs change yearly, others are left on here.  From the time the alarm goes off in the morning the music is on and running pretty steady with the exception of meetings, ceremonies and some work that has to be completed before the climb.

The following are my lists for this weekend at the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb:

Warmup and Stretch

Someone Like You – Adele
Beneath Your Beautiful
Another Day – The Album Leaf
Collide – Howie Day
Lose Yourself – Eminem
Unconditionally – Katy Perry
The Dream Goes On – Mekka Don
The Man – Aloe Blacc
Happy – Pharrell Williams
Jump Around – House of Pain
Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
Jump – Kris Kross
Headstrong – Trapt
Roar – Katy Perry 

Staging area music

Seven Nation Army – TBDBITL
Its Our Time – Mekka Don
Til I Collapse – Eminem
My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark – Fall out Boy
Go Nuts – Mekka Don
Thunderstruck – AC/DC

In the Stairwell

Hall of Fame – The Script
I will Wait – Mumford and Sons
Hey Brother – Avicii
On top of the World – Imagine Dragons
The Monster – Eminem
Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
F*ck You – Cee Lo Green
No More Sorrow – Linkin Park
Sabotage – Beastie Boys
Babel – Mumford and Sons
Whistle – Flo Rida
Burn it to the Ground – Nickelback
Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z


Sunny in Seattle…

Sunny in Seattle…

I have arrived in Seattle!  Actually I arrived a few hours ago, but just had some down time to relax kick back and blog a little bit.  Unfortunately there was no wifi on the plane (Intl Flight?) so that cut into some of my plans for the way out.  What it lead to was some good disconnected time and just chilling to music and catching up on some sleep.  A 3:45am wakeup call followed by running like crazy and the time difference leaves one a little tired.

Its been an eventful day.  The first surprise that I didn’t plan for was that when traveling with certain items, expect the possibility to be questioned for search.  Being the tech saavy guy I travel with electronics and packed my bag as I normally would, not thinking otherwise when I tucked my poker chips for the event into the bag.  Now I didn’t see the screen at the TSA checkpoint, but I had a few friendly people ask questions with the most senior figuring what it was without looking.  I can only imagine what a roll of 25 chips looks like with wires and other electronics around it.

IMG_9320The second unplanned event of the day was finding the person whom I will officially be climbing for this year and adding to my helmet.  As I’ve blogged about before its nothing official for the event, but a project of mine that I choose to do every year.  Usually there is some type of sign that shows itself as to how I meet or find this person and today was no different.  It was something that I started eight years ago and kept adding to. When I switched to the custom helmet I decided to make it a little bit easier for people to see whom I was fighting for. Eight names, eight stories, eight people that are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, relatives, who have been diagnosed with a form of Leukemia or Lymphoma. Some have an “H” and some have an “M”, standing for in HONOR or in MEMORY of.

This year I ran across the person totally by accident, but I truly think there is a reason for everyone that crosses our path. I had just landed in Minneapolis, MN on the way to the Scott Firefighter Stairclimb when I saw a Facebook friend (and co-worker) change a profile pic to an orange ribbon. Wearing two orange wristbands and having a helmet with an orange ribbon I was quite sure I knew what it mean so I messaged her. This year I am climbing for Pauly who has been battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia for two years. I hope to learn more about his story over the coming days, but he will forever be a part of mine and another reason why I climb.

The third surprise caught me totally off guard when I arrived at the hotel.  As I checked in, the hotel staff told me of a gift bag that had been left for me.  In all my years of staying places and traveling I’ve never had anything like that left for me.  A gift bag from Audra and Tanya, the wonderful ladies over at the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb was awesome to get!

It has been a great first day all around in the city and I’ve spent plenty of it out walking in the almost 60 degree temperatures and stretching the legs after being cooped up in the air.  Ate lunch down on the water today and have had the opportunity to meet brothers from around Washington, Oregon, and Idaho today.  The taxis, fire department vehicles keep arriving even this evening as I am coming back from dinner.  The food as usual is awesome out here, which should be of little surprise and I can hardly wait until Saturday to spend some time around the area and meeting more people.
Its hard to believe that a year of preparation is right around the corner.  Again, best of luck to all my brothers and sisters this weekend and safe travels!


Ways to donate…

Ways to donate…

Now that the video is out there and more people are seeing the gear and website where do you find the link to my Scott Firefighter Stair Climb fundraiser you ask?  If you are coming here to donate to that particular climb, toward the top right side of this page you will see a “WAYS TO DONATE” area with the white Stair Climb logo.  Click on the logo and it will take you directly to the page where you can pledge for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and go toward reaching my goal.  Within that site there is also a brief story behind why this climb is so important to me.

Another way to donate is through the link below the Firefighter Stair Climb Logo that takes you to my Scentsy fundraiser site.  With the great help of Ann Bradford I have teamed up and running a fundraiser through Scentsy where a certain amount of each purchase will come back to FF4CURES.  Already this year a total of $235.93 has went to charity through sales!  I am hoping to use the Scentsy site as a way to keep funding entry fees, fundraising, and competitions throughout the year.  In 2014 I already have quite the schedule going on and we are only in early March!

Thank you to everyone that has taken the time to donate and make a difference in the life of someone else!

VIDEO – Leading up the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb

VIDEO – Leading up the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 8.59.37 AM
VIDEO – Click the image above to view the YouTube Video.

Good morning everyone.  What a busy week ahead of the 2014 Scott Firefighter Stair Climb.  A huge shout out to all of my friends, supporters, followers, brother and sister firefighters, and the people pushing me over the last eight years to get where I am today.  Without your support this would be nearly impossible to make happen.

Last night was quite the workout and one of three full stair climbs for the week leading up to the trip.  I spent a little bit of time, 72 floors to be exact, in the stairwell at work in gear to help build up some heat and get ready for Seattle. Attached to todays blog post is a link from the stairwell last night with a brief look into what we are all going to experience non-stop for 69 floors at the Columbia Center Tower.  Now that doesn’t seem like much to some until you do it with full firefighting gear on, on air, building heat, losing fluids, and pushing the limits of what your body and mind want to do.

Yesterday consisted of stretching and warmup, 72 floors of climbing in fire gear, some core work and more flexibility, 30 minutes of elliptical work, and a nice cooldown.

Tonight will consist of more stretching and flexibility, a 10% grade jog, and focus on upper body at the gym before heading over to my favorite high intensity interval training (HIIT) class.  HIIT is 55-60 minutes of pretty non-stop work that keeps the heartbeat moving and is a great full body workout.  To say I’m tired at the end of the night will be an understatement, but it’s a good tired where I know I have worked it and performing better.  The “runners high” this week is lasting longer and the post workout recovery time is growing shorter.

While I have no idea what my time will be this year in Seattle, one thing is for sure I have made significant changes from 2013 to this year where I should see improvement.

To my brothers and sisters that are heading out this week, safe travels and look forward to competing on Sunday with you for the L&LS!




The week of the main event!

The week of the main event!

I once was blind…

I am down to literally days before the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb at this point and I must say I am growing more excited every hour that goes by.  I don’t know how every firefighter is with this event, but even in the midst of everything else going on it is occupying my every moment.  The closest thing to it was my memory as a kid of the night before going to Cedar Point (regional theme park in Ohio) where you really can’t sleep or don’t want to slow down enough to nod off.

Today was a great day as I picked up the climb shirts from MarkT apparel in Mount Vernon and had the first opportunity to look at something other than a flat digital design.  Its always nerve racking to see the concept and waiting to actually see a final product, hoping that it will please the eye and my picky taste.  Once again they did well and the shirts and warm-ups look awesome.

The USPS delivered the mail today and one of the final things I was waiting for in the way of gear arrived this morning.  For the first time in the last several years I will be able to see while masked up in my full firefighting ensemble with the arrival of my spectacle insert kit from Scott Health and Safety.  When I switched to a new AV3000 face piece my kit from the previous mask no longer fit and for the longest time I dealt with it…until now.  It doesn’t seem like much, but when your vision for the most part is atrocious without glasses it is a welcome addition before Seattle!  Fashionable they are not, but I will go for functional and the ability to greet and not squint so much once I’m masked up!

Tonight is a full fire gear climb in the stairwell at my fulltime job.  While sounding impressive its going to take me more than a few laps this evening to equal the Columbia Center Tower.  Going from the basement to the second story (attic) is a nice stretch of the legs, but more than anything a way to build up the heat that I will experience on Sunday in the tower.

More later tonight and hopefully a brief 1 minute shoutout video from the stairwell…before I climb!