Face it. Even if you love your job, all jobs come with their own stressors, and stress can be harmful to your mental, physical and emotional health. While one camping trip may not completely reduce your stress, you’d be surprised at the impact it can make.
Nature is associated with higher levels of serotonin, a chemical produced by our body that boosts our mood.
Nature provides a relaxing “soundtrack” that is soothing and peaceful. There’s a reason sleep apps are full of noises from nature. Studies have shown that the babbling of a brook or the sound of wind through the trees promotes relaxation and feelings of well-being.
From a practical aspect, you can escape the “to do” lists and pressures of work and home. You have less to worry about.
2. Camping provides a digital detox.
As a population in general, we spend too much time indoors in front of our screens. This can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, lack of focus, and sleep problems. It also can be a contributing factor to obesity. Camping gives us a much-needed break from our digital devices.
Camping allows us to be social. It can promote face-to-face conversations, form bonds, and strengthen relationships.
It also allows you to be solitary if you prefer, and spend time with your own thoughts. Nature offers the perfect setting for reflection and meditation.
Unplug during your camping trip. Keep the digital devices to a minimum, set designated phone-free zones, and you’ll enjoy more of what nature has to offer.
3. Camping gives us sunshine and fresh air.
The sunshine and fresh air on your camping trip not only feel good, they have real health benefits. That will make you feel even better about being outside.
If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t get enough Vitamin D, important for bone growth. Sunshine helps our bodies make Vitamin D, so being outdoors is a natural vitamin boost.
As you breathe in fresh air, your oxygen levels increase. This helps you to feel more energized. It improves your ability to concentrate and remember.
Fresh air also can help lower blood pressure, help in digestion and boost your immune system. Enjoy that breath of fresh air. It’s good for you!
4. Camping promotes exercise and resilience.
Camping doesn’t have to be a survival test; you don’t even have to camp in a tent! You can plan your camping trip around your family’s needs and choose enjoyable exercise and favorite recreational activities. This is a chance to try new things and feel good about all you’ve accomplished.
Choose a favorite outdoor hobby or explore a new one. Examples include fishing, biking, hiking, or orienteering (using a map or compass to navigate between points).
Plan to make your own food over an open campfire, even if it’s just hot water to pour over Ramen noodles. Not only will it be fun, you’ll be building confidence with your newfound skills. Just remember to keep campfire safety in mind.
If you brought the kids along, this is a great time to teach them personal responsibility.
5. Camping improves sleep patterns.
Because your days and nights will be guided by nature, you’ll escape the light pollution and sleep patterns associated with life back home. And getting an adequate amount of sleep each night has been proven to have a positive impact on your mental health.
The sun emits short-wave blue light in the morning and long-wave reddish-orange light in the evening. This signals our bodies when to sleep and when to wake up.
Camping allows you to get in touch with your internal clock and natural sleep cycle. A weekend camping trip can move you closer to the ideal sleep-wake time.
Unlike your normal workday, when you are camping you make your own schedule, meaning you can get rest and wake up whenever you would like. No morning alarms = automatic stress reliever.
Pro tip: Don’t skimp on sleeping gear. Bring that inflatable mattress for an extra cozy night.
6. Camping brings you home with a new perspective.
You’ll return home with your mind and spirit recharged. You will also appreciate the comforts of home more. Here are just some of the added mental health benefits after a camping trip:
Improved focus, higher levels of confidence, and self-esteem
It’s tempting to pull in front of a fire hydrant or park in a fire lane—especially if it’s just for a minute. But your quick decision could be the difference between life and death for someone who needs emergency assistance.
We’ve all been taught not to park in front of fire hydrants, but did you know your vehicle, by law, should be parked at least 15 feet away to allow access for fire engines to park and safely connect to the hydrant? The same concept applies to fire lanes, which are established areas where fire engines can gain quick access to buildings. But these lanes have an even larger safety-distance of 20 feet. So, even if it’s just a short stop- think again.
When you block a fire hydrant or park in a fire lane you…
…deny first responders access to buildings during emergencies.
In an emergency, every second counts. Generally, fire lanes are in busy urban areas with lots of traffic. Chances are there’s not a parking spot, and certainly not an area large enough for a fire engine, ambulance, and police cars. Yet these essential first responders need to get close enough to take action. The fire lane allows them to do that. Fire lanes are clearly marked, usually with curbs painted yellow or red and signs that read “No Parking or Standing Fire Lane.”
… make it difficult to access water during a fire.
The early firefighters used bucket brigades to put out fires. These dedicated individuals would line up and pass a bucket of water from person to person until they were successfully able to stop the fire. Fire hydrants were an engineering marvel, first appearing in the early 1800s. Today, they are essential sources of water during emergencies.
…. are ignoring their important purpose.
Maybe you just have something to drop off or pick up or you have a task that will only take a few minutes. You’ve been in places where you can’t park but you can load and unload. Fire lanes and the space near fire hydrants are not loading and unloading zones. You may make the argument that you’re not technically parked if someone is sitting in the car, right? You may even have your hazard lights on, signaling that this is temporary. But having your vehicle in the lane or in front of a hydrant is not allowed. That’s true even if someone is in the car and your vehicle is running. If you’re caught in these places, you could be subject to a ticket, fines, and more.
… are breaking the law.
Laws vary from state to state, but in all cases, there are repercussions for parking in front of a fire hydrant or in a fire lane. In many places, you are subject not only to fines but immediate towing. Don’t chance it.
… are preventing someone from getting the emergency assistance they need.
The most important reason of all is the reason why these laws about fire lanes and hydrants were established. Any delay in getting to a fire or helping victims could cost lives. It’s a similar reason to why you move over for emergency vehicles. You want to make sure that first responders have a clear path to their destination so they can help as many people as possible.
Drive safe and be sure to keep your distance when parking next to fire lanes and fire hydrants.
About an hour after the first plane struck the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, Michael Wright found himself on the 81st floor of the North Tower, trapped in complete darkness and smoke. That’s when he heard the rumble: The South Tower was collapsing.
“I was lucky enough to be next to a first responder,” Wright said. “I can credit him for the fact that I am alive now.”
For John McLaughlin, rescuers found him the next morning, buried in the ruins of building two. “The last bits of rubble were cleared, and they were able to pull me out with nylon straps,” he said.
Survivor Wendy Lanski recalled how after the planes struck, “Police and firefighters and EMS workers were everywhere … [they] were coming up to us, grabbing us in groups, saying, ‘Go out this door, run across the street, cover your head, and don’t look up.’” As she and her colleagues rushed to escape the building, first responders were charging in, intent on saving lives.
Tragically, many of them never made it out. In all, 412 first responders – 343 firefighters, 24 law enforcement officers and 8 emergency medical personnel – were lost when the towers fell. With them, 2,565 people in and around the buildings.
September 11, 2001, marks the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, when four commercial planes were hijacked by members of al Qaeda and flown into buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C. The fourth was thwarted when passengers resisted, causing it to crash into a field in Pennsylvania instead of its intended target.
The attack left Americans reeling in shock, horror, and grief. In an instant, devastation rippled out across families, communities, and the nation.
In sharing that heartbreak and devastation, though, Americans came together. Within hours, an incomprehensible tragedy had galvanized a renewed spirit of national unity.
Much of that was sparked by the stories of courage and heroism that had emerged within minutes of the attack. Strangers risking their lives to run back into the towers to save others. Office workers staying behind for friends who were trapped or had disabilities.
And, of course, the hundreds of first responders – the warriors who rushed in to save lives, despite the overwhelming danger. Over the next days and weeks, countless stories like those of Wright, McLaughlin, and Lanski emerged, painting a profound story of the best of humanity.
Remembering the Fallen
Besides being the single deadliest attack in human history, 9/11 was also the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in U.S. history.
As we take time on 9/11 to reflect on the national tragedy that occurred 20 years ago, we will remember the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice that day. They were fire, EMS, and law enforcement personnel, but more importantly, they were husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, and beloved colleagues.
How You Can Honor Them
Here are some ways you can honor our 9/11 heroes:
Visit a memorial. There are memorials and monuments at or near the sites of the attacks, as well as across the country. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum also offers an online experience to learn more and pay tribute.
Help 9/11 responders. Due to the chemicals and toxins released at the attack sites, many 9/11 first responders have since developed or died from illnesses such as cancer, respiratory diseases, and other chronic conditions. Support organizations that are directly helping responders who’ve fallen ill.
Support your local first responders. By supporting your local heroes, you are giving thanks to all those who answer the call to serve and protect. Say yes to that next pledge or fundraising drive hosted by your community’s firefighter or police department.
If you are a first responder, you can:
Join a 9/11 memorial stair climb. Every year, thousands meet up to climb the equivalent of 110 stories, the height of the World Trade Center towers. Normally held in office buildings, convention centers, and stadiums, this year the stair climb events are mostly virtual. Find one near you.
Engage with your community. Although your job is serving others, doing so in your off hours – for causes close to your heart or in different areas of interest – will bring you closer to your community and first-responder network. Find a cause that could use your expertise or energy, or educate others about the EMS profession and inspire the next generation of first responders.
Practice self-care. Learn to be aware of and manage your stress levels. Employ healthy coping mechanisms, take care of your mind and body, and be sure to reach out if you need to talk with someone or get support. Be there for your first responder family, many of whom are at increased risk of suicide.
Although we can’t erase the tragic events that took place 20 years ago, we can honor its fallen heroes by being kind and generous toward our neighbors and finding ways to serve in our communities.
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As the country takes in terrifying images of the latest wildfires scorching communities in California, Oregon and beyond, Chief Scott D. Kerwood is thinking of the firefighters out working the blaze. He knows that as weary as they may be, many are continually running on empty, worrying more about protecting others than taking care of themselves.
While the business of being a firefighter is physically demanding – even when they’re not putting out house fires or dealing with other emergencies, putting out wildfires is grueling work. And it’s made even more difficult by harsh environmental conditions that cause physiological and emotional stress. That’s why Kerwood says it’s critical for firefighters to take breaks to hydrate, rest, decontaminate their gear and take other important steps to recover. If they don’t take the time to take care of themselves during those arduous emergency situations, Kerwood warned, firefighters, risk causing injuries to themselves and to the colleagues they are supposed to protect.
“The goal is that when they are done with this job, they can go home to their family at the end of their shift — or at the end of their career,” said Kerwood, who serves on the NFPA committee that reviews the rehabilitation guidelines and requirements spelled out in standard 1584.
Given that wildland firefighters are exposed to extreme heat and toxic substances for extended periods of time may make them vulnerable to certain types of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. There are long-term performance and health benefits related to rehabilitation practices for wildland firefighters. Beyond helping to lessen the risk of serious illness, adding services provided on the scene may also help firefighters recover properly so that they’re ready for the next emergency.
Although fire professionals have been urging the rank and file first responders to use incident-based medical services, showers, decontamination stations, and other rehabilitation resources for at least a decade, the recent push to focus on wildland first responders may be in part due to what some industry experts consider troubling trends.
A recent study, for instance, suggests that drier conditions at higher elevations may explain why some wildfires have occurred in areas previously considered ‘too wet to burn.’ Ten-year data suggest that the average number of acres that burned has increased in some regions. In addition, regions are also seeing more and more residential and commercial developments built in wildlands. Because of these additions, it may be more likely that we start to see more of the 1.1 million career and volunteer firefighters in the U.S. putting out wildfires.
Hydrate, Eat, Rest, and Repeat
Firefighters who are seeking guidance or need to review rehab practices and protocols should consult NFPA standard 1584. The materials for this year’s Firefighter Safety Stand Down campaign include helpful studies and handouts on nutrition, mental health, exposure mitigation, and other issues. Kerwood said the first responders should also take the time to study their agency’s rehabilitation action plans.
“They need to be prepared to take care of their own safety, as well as that of the rest of their crew,” he said. “We should, when we check out our apparatus, for example, at the start of the shift make sure that we have all the rehab supplies we need on that truck,” including cooling towels, hydration packs, and breath analyzers that measure carbon monoxide levels in the body.
“Because existing rehabilitation protocols were largely designed for incidents in built environments that have rapid access to medical care, protective equipment and portable facilities, such as decontamination showers, firefighters deployed to wildfires shouldn’t assume that all agencies have the proper gear and supplies for those incidents,” said Nathan Trauernicht, chief of the University of California – Davis Fire Department.
“But that also doesn’t mean the first responders shouldn’t ask for what they need,” he said. “For example, if a department doesn’t have a decontamination shower on the trucks to clean equipment at the scene, firefighters should ask the agency to provide cleaning wipes.
“Still,” Trauernicht said, ”firefighters should follow the basics of rehabilitation every time they take a break. For starters, they must hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate some more — and if possible take electrolytes. Because they burn tons of calories, they should eat foods that help replenish them. Their rehab routine should also include oxygen, blood pressure, and heart rate checks.
Rest, of course, is a must. And if firefighters need grief counseling or other mental health services, they should ask for them.”
More Improvements Needed
According to Kerwood and Trauernicht, while it’s very important for firefighters to diligently follow wildfire rehabilitation practices, they also urge first responders to stay physically and mentally fit. Being disciplined about their exercise, water intake and nutritional habits help them lessen their risk of injury or developing serious chronic illness.
“You may be off duty and not planning on engaging in your regular work activities, but when we send a strike team out, we start doing a station recall or several stations of recall,” Trauernicht said. “And you’re now in a position where you may be next out to go to a significant incident that’s going to require you to be nourished, hydrated, and rested.”
Kerwood and Trauernicht are among fire professionals who say agencies should do everything they can to protect the men and women in their departments who risk their lives daily.
Because it may become more commonplace for firefighters across the nation to work wildfires, Kerwood and Trauernicht said agencies need to accelerate changes to their standard operating manuals to keep up with trends.
They also would like to see administrators be more thoughtful about the protective gear and equipment they buy for their firefighters, because of the different environments they may encounter. For instance, the personal protective equipment firefighters wear for structure fires often isn’t appropriate if they need to fight a wildfire, because they can make them overheat. “When battling a wildfire, it’s about striking the right balance between protecting personnel from the obvious hazards of flames and the oftentimes the less recognized risk of heat stress,” Trauernicht said.
Manufacturers of protective personal gear and firefighting equipment should continue to pursue options that make it easier and safer for firefighters to work on wildfires. Trauernicht said he would also like to see additional research and emphasis on the development of respiratory protection solutions they would be able to use in those incidents.
As more and more studies shed light on the associations between the toxic substances firefighters are exposed to, the newer generations of firefighters are going to demand better PPE, Standard Operation Procedures for rehabilitation operations, and rehabilitation resources.
“If you look at the old photographs, not of just structure firefighters, but you look at wildland firefighters, and you see them with ashes and smudges on their face, and their gear’s nasty,” Kerwood said. “I mean, we all prided ourselves in that. Now, the folks that we’ve got coming in, it’s like, ‘Really? You lived that way?’
Our job as fire chiefs and fire service leaders, therefore, is to make sure ‘Everyone Goes Home.’”
And now that also includes fire leaders doing all they can to protect firefighters from heat stress, chronic disease, and other serious conditions they could develop from fighting fires.
You hear sirens and see flashing lights. There’s only one thing to do. Pull over.
There’s a reason you’re moving out of the way.
Even a few minutes delay can be a matter of life and death when you’re traveling by ambulance. The same holds true if a first responder can’t get to the scene of an accident, a fire, or disaster. Emergency vehicles need to get to the place where they can help people. If you’re on the road where they are traveling, you can help them get there by giving them a clear path to their destination.
Your moving car is dangerous to stopped vehicles.
You may have noticed a police officer, a roadside worker, a car pulled over on the side of the road, or even a wreck. Driving by them or rubbernecking at high rates of speed is dangerous. According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), “making a traffic or emergency stop on the side of our nation’s highways is one of the most dangerous things law enforcement officers do in the line of duty.”
Every two weeks, a first responder or roadside worker loses his/her life, reported AAA. The agency recommends slowing down to a speed that is 10-20 mph slower than the speed limit and changing lanes to be further away.
Pay attention so you’ll hear and see emergency vehicles.
If you have the radio blaring, if you’re texting, or otherwise distracted, you may not see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching. You might not know that you have to pull over until that vehicle is right there. Not only is that stressful, but your quick actions might also cause a collision.
Here’s what to do when you see lights and hear sirens.
Put on your turn signal and slow down.
Check your mirrors and make sure the way is clear.
Move over to the shoulder and park your vehicle.
Wait until the emergency vehicle has passed. You will want to stay at least 500 feet behind it.
Check your mirrors, put on your turn signal and carefully pull back into traffic.
Importantly, don’t slam on your brakes. Don’t travel through a red light. Don’t stop in the middle of your lane. And never try to outrun an emergency vehicle.
Where you are, and the direction you’re traveling, matter.
Emergency vehicles don’t always come from behind you. Sometimes they are traveling in the opposite direction, on the other side of the road. Do you still have to move over? Check your state laws for the rules regarding moving over for emergency vehicles.
If you are traveling in a high-speed lane, and there is no room to stop, slow down.
If you are traveling in the left lane, go right as traffic on the right moves over.
Firefighting is a hot job no matter when you do it. But during the summer months, with all that extra heat and humidity, it can be brutal. How do you keep your cool — and cool down? Read on.
A blazing fire can be 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. In your heavy gear, the perspiration builds up and your core temperature can be as high as 160 degrees. After 20 minutes, you’re exhausted.Couple that with a hot summer’s day and it seems like there’s no relief in sight.
Here are some “do’s and don’ts” to help you cool down and stay safe on a hot summer’s day on and off duty.
Do: Stay hydrated.
Water is your drink of choice. (Or try coconut water which contains potassium, a great source of electrolytes.) Drink water whether you are thirsty or not. And drink it three days leading up to your shift—because it will help keep you hydrated. When you’re fighting an active fire, your body will evaporate 1 liter of sweat for each hour of work. Make sure to replace that loss by drinking electrolyte beverages as soon as you are able.
Don’t: Drink caffeinated beverages, sugared drinks, or alcohol.
Caffeine constricts blood vessels which makes you warm. Coffee, tea and caffeinated beverages are a diuretic, which means they cause you to urinate. Sugary drinks actually make you thirsty and can provide a crash in energy. Alcohol causes dehydration. Drink it the night before your shift and you will feel the effects the next day.
Do: Eat for the heat.
That means light healthy meals so your body doesn’t have to work as hard to process them. Include foods that help replenish electrolytes that are lost through sweating. These include watermelon, peaches, apricots, and radishes. Leafy greens also contain a large percentage of water, which helps keep you hydrated.
Don’t: Eat a heavy meal.
It takes a lot of energy for our bodies to digest a steak dinner. When our body breaks down protein, it creates heat. You don’t have to eliminate meat altogether; just take it easy and substitute more carbs.
When you’re in shape, you have a lower heart rate and body temperature. This allows you to adjust to heat stress twice as fast as your fellow Americans who are unfit.
Don’t: Push your physical limits.
It takes time to acclimate to working in the heat. Start gradually and increase over time. It takes about 10-14 days to get used to it. Listen to your body. It will tell you when you’re ready for a break.
Don’t: Run the air conditioner on the way to the fire.
The temperature change from cool to very, very hot can affect your body. Instead, keep the windows open and the air blowing but the air conditioning off on the way to a call.
Do: Use ice, water, and cooling technology.
Set up a bucket filled with ice water so that you can immerse your hands and forearms. Put a damp towel in the freezer and wrap it around the back of your neck when you need relief. Apply cold pressure to other pulse points: your wrist, chest, temples. Spritz yourself with a garden hose; dribble water down the back of your neck from your water bottle. Try a cold pack vest if it fits under your gear. But stay away from misting fans in a humid environment. They’re good for dry environments, but in high humidity, these fans can increase the chance of burns.
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