Stafford seeks federal funds to improve firefighter health, prevent injuries

Stafford County is applying for grant money to help improve the health and wellbeing of its firefighters.

The County’s Board of Supervisors approved an application for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The request asks for $930,000 to create programs to improve the department’s members’ physical and mental states.

Stafford County is required by the grant’s rules to contribute 10% of local funds to match the donation, which would come to $93,000.

According to County documents, between 2014 to 2019, the Stafford Fire and Rescue Department has experienced 124 workplace-related injuries. All combined, those injuries have resulted in 680 days of missed shifts, which can affect the department’s ability to handle emergencies on a consistent level.

If such a program had existed, these injuries would have been prevented, officials said.

Should it receive the grant, the fire department plans to hire O2X Human Performance LLC, a Massachusetts-based company that works with first responders to improve physical and mental conditioning. O2X has also partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Defence Department and sports organizations such as the NCAA and the NHL.

The department plans to hire a full-time Human Performance Specialist for one year to improve the nutrition, conditioning, and other physical and mental aspects of training for department members. This will also include a four-day seminar for all active full time and volunteer members of the department.

Department members will also be subjected to work performance and fitness evaluations to gauge their faring through the program.

The funds will also be used to purchase gym equipment and training and education for at least 15 members to be certified as personal trainers. This will include instruction in how to implement physical exercise and nutritional programs designed by O2X.

Another 30 members of the department will receive Peer Support Training, which the International Association of Fire Fighters will provide. The goal will be to improve the department’s behavioral health program by receiving training that deals with mental health aspects such as active listening, self-care, and crisis intervention.