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Firefighter Fitness Facts

Cybex is proud to support the brave men and women of the fire services who risk their lives each day in the performance of hazardous duties. Our long medical heritage and extensive research efforts in biomechanics and human performance help to ensure that you are provided with the very best equipment, information, and programming. As your partner in firefighting, Cybex hopes to make your job a little easier, a lot safer, and significantly more rewarding.

Who Are Firefighters?
  • As of 2004, there were over 1.1 million firefighters in over 30,000 fire departments across the United States
  • 293,600 are career firefighters and 784,700 are volunteers
  • The average age of firefighters is 35, with a range in some departments between 17 and 65
  • Firefighters combat fires in homes, buildings, industrial facilities, and natural environments
  • Other duties and responsibilities of firefighters include, rescues, extractions, handling hazardous materials, maintaining vehicles and equipment, and emergency medical support

High Risks of Firefighters
Injury Statistics
  • One out of every three firefighters will be injured this year
  • Injuries on the fireground account for 47% of total line of duty injuries
  • Fractures, sprains, and muscle strains account for roughly 62% of all injuries
  • 42% of these injuries affect the extremities (arms and legs) while 22% involve the back
  • The primary causative factor for these injuries is overexertion
  • While most injuries are not deemed serious, 33% result in some lost time

Fatality Statistics
  • During the decade from 1994 - 2004, an average of 114 firefighters died each year
  • Of all 2008 deaths, 68% were volunteers while 32% were career firefighters
  • 44% of the career firefighter deaths occurred on the fireground while 45% of the volunteers died while responding to or returning from fires
  • On average, roughly 40% of all fatalities are caused by sudden cardiac death; 46% of those are caused by overexertion
  • Career firefighters between 41 and 45 years account for 33% of sudden cardiac deaths in that group, while volunteers over 70 years comprise the most frequent victims in their group

Physical Demands of Firefighters
  • Firefighters have the highest short-surge physiologic demands of any occupation
  • Strenuous job tasks include:
    Carrying gear up stairs
    Advancing charged hoses
    Using pike poles and axes to break through doors, walls, and ceilings
    Raising ladders
    Rescuing victims
    Hoisting equipment
  • Firefighters carry roughly 50 Lbs of protective equipment, including turnout gear, helmets and masks, boots, and SCBA
  • The use of a 15 kg SCBA increases cardiorespiratory strain 20% and cause significant postural stress
  • Heart rates during short, high-intensity activities reach between 150 - 190 beats per minute, with an average response of 157 - 165 BPM
  • Rescues and ceiling breaches evoke heart rates near 95% of maximum
  • Oxygen consumption may reach 85% or 95% of maximum for brief periods

What does this mean to the community?
  • 82% of the overall budgets of fire departments support personnel-their greatest assets
  • Medical disability from occupational injuries account for 50% of the retirements in some departments
  • Injury rates and use of sick time usage can be reduced, controlling overtime costs
  • Departments in the Wellness Fitness Initiative have shown a 28% decrease in lost work days
  • For every dollar spent on uniformed personnel wellness, via implementation of the WFI, results in an almost immediate return of over two dollars in occupational injury and illness costs
  • The commitment to support firefighter fitness serves both the firefighter and the community as it readies them to better serve and protect its residents and reduce their exposure to serious injury or death
For a list of references used in this page please click here.