This year, the award was given to Chief Jake Rhodes of the Kingman Fire Department in Kingman Arizona. It was presented during the 2018 International Association of Fire Chiefs annual conference in Dallas, Texas.
Chief Rhodes was selected as the award recipient after he successfully implemented a bold new medical and physical program that helps deliver on the promise of making sure that everyone across his organization is mentally and physically fit for the long haul.
In January 2015, the Kingman Fire Department made aggressive changes to its Health and Wellness program in order to better serve the membership of the department and prolong their health and wellness. During this time, the department instituted NFPA 1582 compliant physicals for all members. Prior to 2015, the annual physicals that the department required were not NFPA compliant.
As a result of these comprehensive changes to our physicals, we have been able to catch cardiac issues and a variety of health issues early enough to successfully treat them and have had more positive outcomes. These positive outcomes would not have been possible without the comprehensive NFPA 1582 compliant physicals that were put into place and provided to all members of the department.
During this period the department implemented a comprehensive mental health and physical fitness program to include a physical ability test and physical assessment test to measure cardio and physical endurance. It is required to be completed on an annual basis by all personnel from the Fire Chief down to the newest Firefighter.
As part of this transition the department realized value of advancing training of on-shift certified personnel trainers to help guide and strengthen department members to achieve better fitness levels. As a result, the department placed 6 personnel trainers on shift. The City of Kingman also offers comprehensive annual colon cancer screenings, skin cancer screenings, education on proper nutrition, stress management training, organ screening, prostate screenings and mammograms.
Kingman Fire Departments commitment to health and wellness does not stop at physical fitness, however. The department has taken a proactive approach to cancer prevention and is leading the fire service in the state of Arizona in this area. This has been accomplished by the removal of all bunker gear to include SCBA’s from our apparatus cabs. It is now placed it in a compartment in an effort to minimize carcinogen exposures.
With the removal of the gear from the cabs, the department has also developed a comprehensive decontamination procedure that is required of all members after a structure fire. We have placed cancer buckets on each apparatus that include elements that a person would need to properly decontaminate themselves. In addition, the mandatory wearing of SCBA and PPE during overhaul has been instrumental in reducing exposure. Finally, the department is currently undergoing an initiative for extractors and proper cleaning so that members show up and leave work in civilian clothing, thus reducing the spread of any contaminants or other materials from the fire station.
One of the last and most important components that Kingman Fire Department has instituted in its mental and physical health program is a comprehensive peer-to-peer program. We know that the mental well-being of our membership is critical. As a result, we have identified 15 personnel and provided comprehensive advanced training in peer-to-peer behavioral health programs. This program has been tremendously successful to not only our department but to neighboring departments as well as we make our peer-to-peer team members available to other departments as needed. Working with the National Research Development Institute, the department has been able to participate in research and benefit from the research provided.