Kent Fire and Rescue Service reports on a highly successful partnership between the service's training provider Formula GFI and a local gym.
As part of Kent Fire and Rescue Service's (KFRS) drive to improve the health and well-being of its staff, its latest initiative has seen firefighters from stations across the county working with tutors from Formula GFI to complete a Physical Training Instructor course, so that they are physically and mentally better prepared when the next emergency call comes in.
The week long course - which is being held at DW Sports gym in Thanet - covers a wide range of health improvement initiatives, such as cardiovascular training, weight training alongside nutrition and weight management. KFRS Fitness Advisor Gareth Redmond, said: "Life as a firefighter can be unpredictable, one day you might be visiting schools or fitting smoke alarms and the next dealing with a house fire or attending a road accident. "This means that the job requires many different skills. Among them of course is a good level of physical fitness and when it comes to living a healthy and active life it would be fair to assume that firefighters are among those leading the way. However, we found there wasn't consistency across our staff, with some being unable to achieve their own personal goals and the fitness levels we expect crews to maintain. "We approached Formula GFI to see how they could help us deliver a relevant healthy living programme and they suggested the NVQ Level 2 Physical Training Instructors (PTI) course. Those that completed the course would be able to assist their colleagues back at their respective fire stations by motivating them to reach their fitness goals."
As well as providing PTI courses, KFRS has invested in gym equipment which will be available at all wholetime fire stations. The kit complements current weights and cardiovascular facilities, focuses on core strength, endurance and flexibility - also heightening resilience to injury. Paul Bailey from Formula GFI delivers the course to Kent's firefighters. He said: "Thanks to funding from City of Wolverhampton College, we are able to offer the PTI course to KFRS for free. Anyone who completes the course successfully is able to work in the fitness industry. For KFRS, this means that there are staff within the workforce who know how to use gym equipment appropriately and who can train their colleagues in maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle." Research shows that choosing a wellbalanced and nutritious lifestyle improves many aspects of health including reducing the risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and some cancers, while improving overall well-being and mental health. So far 30 staff from KFRS have completed the course with all passing.
DW Sports in Thanet are providing the use of their gym facilities for free. General Manager James Edwards said: "We jumped at the chance of helping the fire service with their fitness course. It is great to be in the position to offer our facilities, knowing that with our help the local community will have a fitter and healthier emergency response." Gareth Redmond added: "The benefits of investing in a healthier work force are twofold. First, fitter and healthier staff have more enthusiasm for the job they do and are less prone to long term sickness, resulting in a better equipped fire and rescue service. And second, firefighters are great role models in the community, especially to children and young people. With obesity becoming a growing concern we hope that a partnership like this will encourage the wider community to pursue a healthier lifestyle."