The Congressional Fire Services Institute and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation have selected the City of Norton Shores (MI) Fire Department and the Prince George’s County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association for the Senator Paul S. Sarbanes Fire Safety Leadership Award.
The awards will be presented at the 20th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner on April 3rd, in Washington DC. Named after retired-Senator Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland, a strong advocate of our nation’s firefighters and rescue personnel during his 36-year career in Congress, the award recognizes outstanding organizations for their contributions to firefighter health and safety. Both State Farm Insurance and VFIS serve as the corporate supporters of the award program.
With four stations and 13 full-time and 20 part-time firefighters, the Norton Shores Fire Department developed a fitness and wellness program to improve the fitness and wellbeing of its firefighters. It will require firefighters to pass an annual medical examination and physical-ability test in order to maintain their jobs. The program was developed by management and the local union and became part of the collective bargaining agreement. “The thing that stands out in this effort is the fact that these groups, which could easily have an adversarial relationship, pulled together to not only solve a problem, but go far beyond that to create a program that has helped the entire Department achieve better health and fitness,” said Representative Mary Valentine in her letter of support.
The second recipient is the Prince George’s County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association (Local 1619). Four years ago, Local 1619 and the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department developed a total health and risk management approach to protecting the health and well being of the individuals in the department. The program focused on three key areas of firefighter health and safety: 1) Health and fitness of individuals, 2) Prevention and protection from injury and illness, and 3) Proper medical and rehabilitative care. The outcome of these systems was seven mutually agreed upon programs that include:
- Annual Medical Physical Program
- Injury/Illness Back to Work Program
- Peer Fitness Trainer Program
- Pre-Hire Medical Screening Porgram
- Pre-Hire Fitness Preparation Program
- Recruit Fitness Training Program
- Fitness Center Operations
As a result of these programs, a number of firefighters have been diagnosed with medical conditions that, left undetected, could have been life-threatening. According to state officials who supported the nomination, the fire department has experienced a “dramatic reduction in injuries, as well as medical conditions” with sick leave being reduced by 20 percent.
CFSI President Bill Jenaway and NFFF Chairman Dennis Compton issued a joint statement recognizing the two recipients for their achievements. “We are proud to be presenting this award to City of Norton Shores (MI) Fire Department and the Prince George’s County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association. Both distinguished themselves worthy of this honor through their total collaborative efforts, working closely with their counterparts from management and labor to create healthier environments for their firefighters. Changing cultures and attitudes is never an easy task, but these two organizations certainly serve as models as to how the fire service can bring about positive changes to daunting challenges. We would also like to acknowledge the many organizations that sent to us outstanding nominations, demonstrating the progress being made on this important front.”