The First Responder Project


By Rob Shaul

Today we’re announcing the “First Responder Project.”

The mission of the First Responder Project is to be a resource, beacon of inspiration and a like-minded community for First Responders who want to train professionally for their jobs as tactical athletes, and improve the fitness cultures at their units.

The First Responder Project is not a soft, entry level “wellness” initiative common at many Fire/Rescue and Law Enforcement units and offered by other organizations.

Instead, the First Responder Project aims to research the fitness demands of First Responders, design the appropriate training methodology to prepare them physically for their very dangerous lines of work.

As a whole, there is a weak fitness culture amongst First Responders, and as a result, many surprisingly unfit firemen and police officers. There are many excuses for this, including:

– Many older “legacy” First Responders are resistant to job-based fitness training

– Most First Responder units have no training tradition and an anti-training bias

– Public union resistance

– Administrative cost and effort

– Poor health habits

These excuses ignore the reality of these professions: for first responders, physical fitness can be a matter of life or death. An unfit First Responder can get him or herself killed, or lead to the injury or worse for a teammate.

We understand the physical demands of tactical professions do not discriminate. Criminals don’t shoot slower bullets for unfit law enforcement officers. Likewise, there are no cooler, slower-moving fires for unfit fire/rescue professionals. If an individual wants to be on the front line fighting fires or chasing bad guys, he or she needs to maintain the level of fitness and physical capability demanded by the most dangerous situation they could face.

Further, fitness is the individual’s responsibility. It is a professional obligation to be fit enough for the most demanding job tasks.  Leadership has the critical role of establishing and supporting a strong fitness culture.  However, the ultimate responsibility for job performance rests with the individual. It helps greatly if leadership provides the means (time, space, equipment, fitness programming) to become fit.  Yet, it is not acceptable for a weaker member of a team to blame their shortcomings on leadership, age or lack of motivation.  In fire rescue or law enforcement, where your life, or the life of a teammate, may be compromised due to being overweight or unfit, lack of individual responsibility for one’s own fitness is unacceptable.  A strong fitness culture demands and expects strong individual accountability.

A strong fitness culture will build fit athletes. If a strong fitness culture exists and a new individual is introduced to this culture, that individual will adopt the existing culture or selectively remove themselves from that culture.  A strong fitness culture will foster fitness of its members by setting a standard that is acceptable in that unit.

Fitness training helps everything. We’ve seen this many times – when an individual or unit commits to professional fitness training for their job, this commitment and professionalism migrates to all other areas of their work life. Every element of job performance improves.

We understand this will be a long campaign and at first, we may progress just one officer or one fire rescue professional at a time. But we strongly feel this approach is long overdue.

Finally, there is no fitness or health barrier to start on the path to proper fitness for a first responder.

First comes the attitude change. Actions follow. We don’t care who you are, or your current level of fitness. If you want to start on the path to high level tactical athlete fitness for yourself or your unit, we’ve got tools in place to help.

Questions? Feedback? Want to partner with us?

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