Violet Township firefighters traded search and rescue drills for training in self-preservation last week as department officials seek to improve personnel health and safety.

Violet Township firefighters traded search and rescue drills for training in self-preservation last week as department officials seek to improve personnel health and safety.

As it has done for decades, the Violet Township Fire Department participated in activities for the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters' 2010 Fire/EMS Safety, Health & Survival Week otherwise known as Safety Week.

The department's three-day program this year focused on improving firefighters' fitness through exercise, diet and stress management, as well as improving health by stopping smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco. There were also programs about alcohol, drugs and infectious disease.

The effort tied into this year's safety week theme of "Fit for Duty." It also sought to address goals set forth by a fitness committee instituted within the department last January.

"It's become a very important part of what we do," Fire Chief John Eisel said. "We're focusing on targeting these areas to help eliminate in-the-line-of-duty injuries and death and improving our performance."

For the first time, the department spent $1,200 to bring in professional trainers from D1 Sports Training in North Columbus June 23-25 to work with firefighters to improve mobility and reduce the risk of heart attacks and other health problems that can be brought on or compounded by their jobs.

Chris King, a strength coach at D1 Sports Training, said the company became involved with the fire department after firefighter Allison Wendt sought its services to prepare for an obstacle course competition and the Boston Marathon within a two-week period.

Wendt's training piqued the interest of fellow firefighter J.D. Postage, and the two soon inquired about on-site training for the entire department.

"I have designed programs for fire departments previously and presented them, but never on-site training," King said. "The firefighters at Violet Township are doing one of the boot camp-style workouts that we do at D1.

"There is varied focus to each exercise and boot camp: body position, core stability and functional strength, always trying to be maintained or worked on while doing exercise. I think good cardiovascular, metabolic and functional strength is important for every firefighter with the increased demands of their jobs."

Eisel said fitness is one of the things the department is targeting this year.

"We've had guys come out and do a mini-boot camp, which focuses on improving their core strength, flexibility and agility," he said.

Each of the department's approximately 70 firefighters completed the course. It included physical drills and classroom education.

"They do just over an hour of physical fitness and then they have a question and answer period and an information period," Eisel said. "This gives our guys the (ongoing) training and skills they need to be successful so they're in better shape and better prepared."

nellis@thisweeknews.com