Take Control of the Controllables


Take Control with these 3 Must-have Items for the Firehouse

Justin Herzog, O2X Lead Instructor, Career Firefighter

Every day at the firehouse is unpredictable.  Doesn’t matter how long your shift lasts, every time you show up for duty, you’ve got to be ready for whatever comes your way. You never know what’s going to happen, or what you’re going to be asked to do – when the tones drop and somebody’s called 911, it’s go-time.  

So much of what goes on every shift is completely out of our control. That is why it’s so important to focus our time, effort, and energy on controlling the few controllables we can in order to prepare ourselves to be ready for whatever is coming our way.  

How do you take control?

Here are just a few of the ways I try to be prepared for every shift, and a few things that have helped me as I work to achieve that ever elusive goal of controlling what I can.

3 Things you CAN Control

1. Control your Hunger

First up is snacks!! Everybody loves snacks, right?  Well, due to the unpredictable nature of our job and the emergencies we respond to, there’s no guarantee we’ll be at the firehouse for “normal” meal times.  In an effort to be prepared for long calls and long delays between meals, I try my best to have some healthier snacks with me on the rig to ensure I’ll have the fuel I need to get me through the delays. 

Every day, when I put my gear on the rig, I also include a few snacks, like cliff bars and/or beef jerky, along with some water, to make sure I’ve got at least some fuel to get me by if I’m unable to have a full meal. I also like having electrolyte powders, like Liquid IV or Drip Drop, to add to my water, in case we’re out on a fire or a physically demanding call and I need to refuel.  By packing these items, I’m taking personal responsibility for my own nutrition, and taking the guesswork out of where I’ll get my fuel from if I’m out on a call.

2. Control your Fitness

Another item I use that is helpful to have around the firehouse is a resistance band or two.  At my firehouse, we put a high value on our physical fitness, but we don’t always get the time, or have the energy, for a solid, “quality” workout. I use resistance bands to fill in the gaps. They enable me to stay warm and loose, and I can even get in a quick workout with them, without needing additional equipment.  Don’t underestimate the “quality” of warmup and/or workout you can get with just bodyweight, resistance bands, and some intentionality, and, if possible, a little intensity.

3. Control your SLEEP Environment

Proper sleep is incredibly important to a first responder’s overall preparedness and performance, which is why the last item I’m including on this list involves ensuring I get plenty of rest. 

I, personally, always include a fan for my dorm room or bunk, if possible. And if I have my own dorm room, I use blackout curtains over the windows. Don’t worry, the fan is not jacked up so high that I can’t hear the tones when I’m asleep at night, but a cool, dark environment is key to getting the best possible sleep I can at the firehouse.

I can’t control how many times my sleep will be interrupted by calls, and running calls is always the most important thing we do while we’re on duty.  Ensuring my sleep environment is as cool and dark as I can make it, though, helps me control, to the best of my ability, my sleep, which is critical to my ability to perform my job at a high level.

How will you take control?

These are a few things I do, and items I use to help me be prepared to perform when 911 is called.  Hopefully this helps you think about what you can add to your routine and preparation, but, if not, let us hear from you.  How do you “control the controllables” to ensure that you’re ready for when those tones drop??

Be smart out there, take care of yourself and each other, and stay safe.

Want to hear more about Controlling the Controllables? Listen to this O2X Specialist Roundtable.