skip to Main Content

OSHS Physical Health Resources

Heart attack is consistently the number one cause of on-duty firefighter deaths. Many more first responders battle life-threatening or life-altering health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, COPD, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and obesity, among others. Firefighters and EMS personnel are quick to risk their lives to save others, but when it comes to our own health we often don’t take even the simplest steps to make positive changes that can improve our well-being.

Use these resources to start focusing on your health and what you can do to reduce your risk factors and protect yourself against preventable illnesses. Improving your health will help you be at your best as a first responder and ensure that you can be there for your department, your family, and your community.


Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Health
National Volunteer Fire Council
Use the NVFC’s Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Health to learn what you need to do to protect your health and stay at your best.

Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program
National Volunteer Fire Council
The Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program provides the resources you need to get and stay heart healthy. This includes tools to start and manage a successful department health and fitness program; functional fitness demonstration videos; an interactive fitness challenge; heart-healthy recipes; success stories from other first responders; health and wellness tips sheets; resources for fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle; and more.

Health Resources
National Volunteer Fire Council
The NVFC has compiled a list of health resources to keep first responders at their B.E.S.T.

Health and Wellness Guide for the Volunteer Emergency Services 
National Volunteer Fire Council
The prevalence of cardiovascular illness and deaths and work-inhibiting strains and sprains among firefighters illustrates the need for a comprehensive health and wellness program in every department. This guide demonstrates ways to overcome obstacles to implementing a program, provides direction for developing a department program, and highlights several existing successful health and wellness programs.

Critical Health and Safety Issues in the Volunteer Fire Service
National Volunteer Fire Council
This study report, supported by the U.S. Fire Administration, addresses key findings as well as provides information on initiatives, programs, and strategies currently available to help reduce fatalities among the nation’s first responders. Highlighted issues include obesity, heart attack, stress, sleep deprivation, behavioral health, and substance abuse.

Addressing the Epidemic of Obesity in the United States Fire Service
National Volunteer Fire Council
The NVFC, thanks to support from the U.S. Fire Administration, partnered with the HOPE Health Research Institute to conduct a study on obesity in the fire service. The report looks at the impact of obesity, the scope of obesity in the fire service, and why obesity has become an epidemic. It then highlights innovative trends in nutrition and fitness that firefighters can utilize and presents recommendations for the fire service for combating obesity and increasing fitness.

IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section
International Association of Fire Chiefs
The IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival Section was established to provide a specific component within the IAFC to concentrate on policies and issues relating to the health and safety of firefighters.

Health and Wellness Resources
International Association of Fire Chiefs
The IAFC has compiled a list of resources to help first responders focus on health and wellness.

Health, Fitness & Wellness
U.S. Fire Administration
This webpage provides links to information on a variety of firefighter health and wellness topics.

Emergency Incident Rehabilitation and Emergency Incident Rehabilitation Program
U.S. Fire Administration and International Association of Fire Firefighters
USFA worked in partnership with the IAFF to develop this manual that covers critical topics related to emergency incident rehabilitation, including: operational issues, human physiology, weather issues, and technology. The report addresses ways to better protect firefighters and other emergency responders through the use of proper protective clothing and improved tactical procedures.

NFPA Standards
National Fire Protection Association
The NFPA provides standards related to firefighter health, including 1582: Standard on Comprehensive Medical Program for Fire Departments and NFPA 1584: Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises.

2007 Wildland Firefighter Safety Report
USDA Forest Service, Missoula Technology and Development Center
This document touches on shift food and fireline nutrition. An updated version will be available shortly from iTunes.

FireFit Program
Federal Fire and Aviation Safety Team
This program was created with the intent to provide the interagency wildland fire community with a comprehensive, easy-to-follow, fitness program with the ultimate goal of improving firefighter safety and health and reducing injuries. this program provides a basic format for a well-balanced fitness program that can be augmented as local units see fit.

The First Twenty
The First Twenty is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of the American firefighter and decreasing line-of-duty deatsh due to heart attack. Their program focuses on physical fitness, mental fitness, and nutrition and works to reach, educate, train, and motivate firefighters.

The Silent Killer
This web site, sponsored by Masimo and supported by fire service organizations including the IAFC and NVFC, is designed to raise awareness among first responders and their families and friends about the unsuspected occupational dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and how to best protect themselves. The site features “The Silent Killer” video along with other resources and information.

Put It Out Campaign
National Volunteer Fire Council
Smoking has proven negative health effects and can cause or contribute to life-threatening illnesses such as heart attack, lunch cancer, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. There are also significant threats to the health of those exposed to second-hand smoke. The Put It Out campaign is designed to help first responders quit smoking and stay quit. The site contains tools and resources to help individuals in quitting smoking, departments in establishing a no-smoking policy and smoking cessation program, family members in supporting first responders who are quitting, and state associations in encouraging their members to adopt a smoke free lifestyle.

Study of Respiratory Diseases in the Fire Service
U.S. Fire Administration and International Association of Fire Fighters
USFA partnered with the IAFF in support of their study on respiratory disease and the fire service. The goal of this project was to research the long-term effects and post-exposure mitigation of occupational respiratory exposure to firefighters. The study report will help firefighters and other emergency responders to understand diseases of the respiratory system, identify respiratory disease causing agents, and assist in recognizing and quantifying the impact of, and developing mitigation strategies and programs for, occupational respiratory disease for firefighters, their families, and fire departments.

Study of Cancer among Firefighters

U.S. Fire Administration/FEMA

A U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research project to clarify the relationship between firefighter occupational exposures and cancer.



NVFC Health and Wellness Training
The NVFC offers online training on a variety of health and wellness topics, including:

  • Health and Wellness Advocate Training
  • Overcoming Wellness and Fitness Barriers in the Fire Service
  • Firefighter Rehab
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Functional Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Health and Wellness Program Design
  • Heart Health
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Obesity in the Fire Service
  • The Insulin Connection
  • The Impact of Stress on Firefighter Heart Health