By Thomas Coe, Fire Chief of the Frederick County (MD) Division of Fire and Rescue Services
Life in the fire service is no easy task. To meet the demands of the job and to perform optimally, firefighters must place a heavy emphasis on both physical and mental health. As outlined in the 2020 article “Humans Over Hardware,” Frederick County (MD) Division of Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS) took the initiative to pilot a human performance program as a way to offer an innovative solution to occupational stressors. September 2019 was the beginning of what we, as a department, call a “proactive step” in the right direction. Since the start of the program in Frederick, we have witnessed the positive impacts human performance brings to the table, both in recruit training and at each of the 30 firehouses. From recruits to senior members, all exposed to the program are reaping the benefits. Human performance, in every aspect, is a priority here in Frederick, and we truly believe in investing in our members’ health and wellness. The health of the force is a top priority, and we intend to keep it that way.
By prioritizing injury risk reduction and enhancing the robustness of the force, Frederick County has been able to realize financial rewards. In February 2022, Frederick County DFRS put together a cost savings analysis to better understand the financial impact of having a human performance specialist embedded within the department. The numbers were staggering. In the two fiscal years prior to starting the program, the department averaged 116 insurance claims, costing $1,053,670. After partnering with O2X Human Performance, a training and education company specializing in customized programs for the tactical population, that cost dropped to just more than $549k in the first fiscal year—saving a sizable amount of money that could then be reinvested into health and wellness initiatives.