Initiative 6: Saving Our Own

By PA State Advocate Andy Marsh
Incident Safety Officer and Training Instructor, Emergency Management Coordinator, Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department – Allegheny County, PA (Station 102)

During the winter months, our members gather once a month on a Sunday, to have an extra one hour’s worth of training for the week and share a meal together at the kitchen table at the firehouse. I share this today with you as one of these trainings paid off educationally and became enlightening to all and empowered our Fire Chief to do something that will no doubt enhance the lives of all of our members. You see, I was instructing a “Baseline Vital Signs and SAMPLE” continuing education class. Part of that class included the actual skills of taking each other’s blood pressure. During the skills portion, it was determined that one of our members in attendance had recorded an unusually high blood pressure in another one of our members. That blood pressure was then verified by another one of our members who is a registered nurse. Our fire chief, Gene Marsico explained to the firefighter that he needed to place him on an inactive status, until he could be further checked out and had his blood pressure under control.

But there’s more. Two days later at a department meeting, Chief Marsico informed the troops that there will be a weekly physical fitness detail prior to the weekly training. Further, he added that he was implementing a “Biggest Loser Program,” which will be started at the end of February, with a half hour of walking in our first due. The program will then run for six months. Chief Marsico will also be rewarding the winner of that competition with an unknown, but reportedly valuable prize. The bigger value will come as over a dozen firefighters under his command have signed up for this competition and are vowing to be in better physical shape than they currently are. The “Biggest Loser” promises to produce many winners as it relates to physical fitness. Chief Marsico knows that 50% or more firefighters die in the line of duty each year as a result of cardiovascular problems. He is determined to change his department around and is leading the pack. Congratulations to Chief Marsico on that winning attitude, for promoting good health and empowering and leading your firefighting force into better physical fitness. Chief Marsico is working towards ensuring that “Everyone Goes Home.”