Austin fire chief prioritizes firefighter health with MnFIRE training
Firefighters are in an others-first career, often focusing on people who need help before tending to their own needs. As a fire chief, Jim McCoy knows it’s part of his job to give the members of his Austin Fire Department resources to make their health a priority. It’s why McCoy had his department complete MnFIRE training.
“This is one thing we can do for us,” said McCoy, who has been in the fire service nearly 24 years. “Our other firefighter training focuses on helping others, but we need (MnFIRE training) to make sure we are healthy, too.”
From these trainings, McCoy and his department became MnFIRE aware and then dove deep into learning about cancer and cardiac diagnoses along with mental health. The trainings helped them find ways to try to avoid these diagnoses and gave them coping mechanisms for getting through them.
McCoy acknowledged that some cancer can be mitigated by changes such as using more advanced gear, taking showers after calls, washing gear properly and wearing gloves amongst many other tactics. While cardiac issues sometimes depend on an individual’s genetic makeup, McCoy said he can encourage his department to eat healthy and work on physical fitness to help keep them heart healthy. For his own overall health, McCoy and his wife watched MnFIRE’s nutrition training videos online led by Chef Marshall O’Brien. Now the couple continuously works together to cook the nutritious recipes they learned from the training videos.
Mental wellbeing is the one area that needs the most improvement in the fire service, McCoy said.
“Mental health is nothing you can see, and it’s so engrained in us to ‘suck it up,’” McCoy said. “In the past, that term ‘suck it up’ was the norm in the fire service. It was almost as if feelings weren’t allowed.”
McCoy is glad that mentality is changing.
“Now it’s OK to talk about it, have feelings and let people know it’s a struggle,” he said. “Through MnFIRE and other programs, we have routes to deal with mental health – to talk to people and become well again.”
The MnFIRE trainings are part of making that change.
“All the trainings have been wonderful and it’s something that needs to continue,” McCoy said. “The more knowledge we have on prevention the better off we are.”
For more information about MnFIRE Training, visit the training tab on our website.