Captain Kevin Klar, fitness for life coordinator at LA County Fire Department, explains why it pays to be fit.

Published:  01 September, 2008

Klar was involved in representing all uniform members on the Fitness for Life programme and he was an original member of the Wellness Fitness committee formed in 1998 that created the current exercise protocol for the recruit fitness programme. Klar also oversees the delivery of training to 3,000 staff and the training programmes themselves to 80 Peer Fitness Training (PFT) staff. His work is supported by a Medical Doctor, a Health Programs Coordinator and an Exercise Physiologist.

Capt. Klar is responsible for new recruits and their 21-week training academy, which they are only accepted for after passing the Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT). This standardised and validated test was developed by The International Association of Fire Fighters/International Association of Fire Chiefs and has been used by hundreds of departments to test thousands of potential candidates. Capt. Klar explains, “We see a clear correlation between those who are already fit when they start the training and their success on the program, and those who are unfit who then have the most difficulty.” The age of recruits is not a barrier to those wishing to enroll, and successful candidates have ranged from 21 to 52 years old. This training regime helps firefighters get used to the physical demands of the job and they are assessed every year to monitor their levels. As Capt. Klar explains, “We provide all firefighters with a personal trainer and help them write a program for their fitness, and answer any questions they may have about how to exercise. We track their results and offer a bonus of three per cent of their salary for attending the medical exam and performing to the predetermined levels, such as the ability to perform 35 sit-ups and 24 push-ups.” To help firefighters maintain these levels all stations are equipped with dumb bells, an exercise bike and an adjustable bench. Many of the 180 work sites have treadmills and other additional equipment, some of which is purchased by station personnel, adds Capt. Klar. As well as monitoring the physical aspects of the job from the moment a recruit arrives, firefighters also have the voluntary option of attending a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Program that is initiated after particularly difficult incidents, or whenever a member asks for it.

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