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 Fire Service Joint Labor Management
Wellness-Fitness Initiative

SUMMARY:  The International Association of Fire Fighters, in cooperation with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, has committed to an unprecedented endeavor. We have gathered together some of North America's finest fire departments in an effort to build a stronger fire service by strengthening our foundation - the fire fighter.

The participating departments on the Task Force are:

  • Austin, TX / IAFF Local 975
  • Calgary, ALB / IAFF Local 255
  • Charlotte, NC / IAFF Local 660
  • Fairfax Co., VA / IAFF Local 2068
  • Indianapolis, IN / IAFF Local 416
  • Los Angeles Co., CA / IAFF Local 1014
  • Metro Dade Co., FL / IAFF Local 1403
  • New York City, NY / IAFF Local 94/854
  • Phoenix, AZ / IAFF Local 493
  • Seattle, WA / IAFF Local 27
Fitness physically, mentally, and emotionally requires an effective wellness program available to recruits, active fire fighters, and retirees. The Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness/Fitness Initiative is an exciting challenge in what we foresee as a positive process for the fire service. An overall wellness/fitness system must be holistic, positive, rehabilitating and educational. Key issues of the initiative incorporate the following points:
  • Overcome the historic fire service punitive mentality of physical fitness and wellness issues;
  • Move beyond negative timed, task-based performance testing to progressive wellness improvement;
  • Require a commitment by labor and management to a positive individualized fitness/wellness program; and
  • Develop a holistic wellness approach that includes: medical, fitness, injury/fitness/medical rehabilitation and behavioral health.
Fire fighters must continue to respond to emergency incidents that require extreme physical output and often result in physiological and psychological outcomes. Such situations, over time, can and do effect the overall wellness of the fire fighting and emergency response system. Tomorrow's fire service requires that we face our destiny of keeping our fire fighters fit today.The ultimate goal of the Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness/Fitness Initiative is to improve the quality of life for all fire fighters. The project seeks to prove the value of investing wellness resources over time to maintain a fit, healthy, and capable fire fighter throughout his/her 25-30 + year career and beyond. An effective program should realize significant cost savings in lost work time, workers compensation and disability.

The Process:  The first phase of this comprehensive project on physical fitness and wellness issues involved the creation of a network of selected geographically diverse fire departments with excellent union/management relations. Each selected fire department is represented by the fire chief and the IAFF local union president, with invitations extended to the department physician, physiologist, and/or fitness coordinator. A commitment assuring full union/management cooperation on this issue has been received from each department and each department has committed to making a concerted effort towards implementing the Task Force project.

The second phase entailed the development of a complete physical fitness/wellness program. Through data collection and analysis, the participating departments will create valid baseline data suitable for fire service wide comparisons.The final phase was the formation of a comprehensive program for distribution to the fire service.

The Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness/Fitness Initiative is available, without charge, to all IAFF affiliate presidents. It is available as a complete physical fitness and wellness program package and includes a manual and a video. p>The completed program was highlighted at the IAFF's Redmond Symposium, as well as the IAFC's Conference, both in August 1997.The IAFF, the IAFC and the Task Force members are now committed to engaging in a similar process to address performance support.

The Mission:  An overall wellness/fitness system must be developed to maintain fire fighters’ physical and mental capabilities and should be the objective of every fire department in cooperation with its local IAFF affiliate. While such a program may be mandatory, agreement to initiate it must be mutual between the administration and its members represented by the local union. Any program of physical fitness must be positive and not punitive in design; require mandatory participation by all uniformed personnel in the department once implemented; allow for age, gender and position in the department; allow for on-duty-time participation utilizing facilities provided or arranged by the department; provide for rehabilitation and remedial support for those in need; contain training and education components, and be reasonable and equitable to all participants.

The program must address the following key points:

  • Confidentiality of behavioral, medical and fitness evaluations;
  • To develop a physical fitness and wellness program that is educational and rehabilitative and is not punitive;
  • Require a commitment by labor and management to a positive individualized fitness/wellness program;
  • Develop a holistic wellness approach that includes:
    • fitness
    • medical
    • rehabilitation
    • behavioral health
    • Be long term, program could be made available to retirees.


  • Commitment to develop a performance evaluation for incumbents first, then for candidates.
  • The objectives of the Task Force performance evaluation are:
    • to develop an instrument used to assess the ability and skills of uniformed personnel to successfully accomplish defined fire ground/emergency tasks;
    • to define sequential fire ground/emergency tasks that would typically occur as part of the first response of fire companies;
    • to define evaluation criteria that emphasizes safety and utilizes practical effectiveness and efficiency (time); and
    • to develop evaluation criteria that would be used as part of the assessment of the team and the team member in company assignments.
    • For issues before the Task Force that do not have unanimous consent, a 2/3 majority vote will be required to proceed on that issue.

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