There’s a tremendous amount of research, guidelines and information available regarding firefighter health and wellness issues like cardiovascular disease and line-of-duty deaths, cancer, and post-traumatic stress, as well as general health, exercise and nutrition.

One could equate the amount of information – and our ability to absorb and understand it – to trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose.

That’s where the First Responder Center for Excellence for Reducing Occupational Illness, Injuries and Deaths (FRC) comes in.

The FRC’s vision is to “deliver quality educational materials and factual research through a network of professionals who are committed to reducing first responder injuries and deaths through a common set of core values.”

“In today’s world of technology and websites, there’s just so much information out there, and it’s easy to get frustrated and not get the correct information,” said Ed Klima, FRC managing director. “We view the FRC as the go-to portal for people to get the right information.”

The origins of FRC

Most firefighters are familiar with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s work benefiting the widows/widowers and children of fallen firefighters and their sponsorship of the fallen firefighters memorial service every year at the National Fire Academy.

But there’s a side of the NFFF that you might not know much about, and that’s the work performed by the good folks at NFFF to educate firefighters about safety, health and disease prevention. Did you know that the Everyone Goes Home campaign – including its 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives – was developed by the NFFF?

Since the March 2004 Firefighter Life Safety Summit (where the Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives were born), the work done by the NFFF and its stakeholder organizations has helped leaders realize there’s much more work to be done to increase firefighter health and wellness. First responders needed better access to reliable information and the latest research and quality training to achieve success across all the Life Safety Initiatives.

It was this needs assessment – and gap analysis – of the education currently available to the first responder community that led the NFFF to spin-off a new entity, the FRC.

FRC goals and initiatives

One of the FRC’s goals is to make it easier for firefighters and other public safety first-responders to get access to up-to-date, useful health and wellness information, including:

  • The latest research results on firefighters and cancer.
  • The latest research results on firefighters and cardiovascular disease.
  • The latest research results on firefighters and mental health.
  • Proven and tested tools and practices to help firefighters deal with the common health, wellness and injury issues that come with the job.

The FRC, a nonprofit corporation, receives funding to conduct research, create programs, examine best practices and deliver authoritative and practical reports and training materials. To help produce these resources, the FRC is actively seeking out the best and brightest individuals and organizations with experience in:

“It’s going to take some time to get to where we want to be,” Klima said. “We’re certainly further along on the cancer front, and we’re going to work hard this year on those other areas.”

In particular, the FRC is working to develop innovative methods to address the growing concerns about cancer, suicide and the adverse effects of chronic stress in the first responder community. This effort includes expanding Stress First Aid, a set of supportive and practical actions to assist first responders experiencing stress reactions and promote general health and wellness.

The FRC support research regarding health intervention and disease prevention for first responders through technological solutions, a library of resources and grants.

“One of our long-term goals is to not only have the research there, but also tools for either the individual or the company officer level, or the small department training officer, to develop policies and procedures and training programs that cater to their needs,” Klima said. “Even in the large departments, in today’s world, with the fiscal issues and everything else that’s going on, the easier we can make it for people to reduce occupational illnesses, the more likely it is to happen.”

Get involved in the FRC

The FRC is actively recruiting volunteers for its advisory committees, which assist in developing and facilitating the associated goals and objectives for the following subject areas:

  • Cancer.
  • Cardiovascular health.
  • Behavioral health.
  • Firefighter physicals.
  • General health and fitness for first responders.

The committees primarily meet via teleconference with one in-person meeting each year. The in-person meeting is typically held in conjunction with one of the major fire service conferences (e.g., FRI or FDIC).

For more information about how you can participate on an Advisory Committee, visit the Opportunities page on the FRC website.