First responders required to tend to their own health in order to serve others

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Each year, fire-rescue workers and police officers must pass certain health tests in order to serve the community.

Before they’re called to duty, first responders must tend to their own health.

“Trying to fix a problem before there is one,” explained Justin White, Greenville Police.

That’s where the Pulmonary Function Test or PFT comes in.

“It’s important to look for any obstructions or restrictions,” explained Jessica Van Meter, instructor, ECU Human Performance Lab. “Things like asthma or something that would affect their lung capacity and how well they breathe air in and out of their lungs.”

Greenville fire-rescue workers and police officers are going through PFT this week at ECU.

A good reading means approval to wear a respirator or a gas mask for police officers like White.

“You know you’re exposed to gas, some of it can be fatal to you and if you can’t breathe with the gas mask on, you’re kind of hurting yourself along with everybody else,” said White.

Van Meter said it’s important for the community to know the people taking care of them are also taking care of themselves, “They put their lives on the line every day. They go out there and they protect and serve our community and our surrounding communities and so making sure that their heart and their lungs are healthy and that they can do their job and reduce that risk of something happening in the line of duty.”

“[The] whole goal with any of this is to make sure you go home at the end of the day,” said White.

A physician will come to sign off on each PFT next week.

ECU also runs first responders through a cardiovascular health assessment once a year screening for heart disease.

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