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My Steps to Fitness

By Richard C. Maddox
FDSOA Vice Chairman

For anyone who knows me, I have become the couch potato king. Yea, I know that heart attacks and strokes are the number one killer of males in the United States.

Some people might say I have a death wish, but I really don’t. I’d like to live to a ripe old age; both my parents lived well into their eighties. I volunteer for my local fire department. Recently, after having my fire department medical and getting the results, I decided to take an active role in reducing my risk factors so that I didn’t become one of those statistics by dying in the line of duty.

After discussing my plan with my family, everyone was on board. I received exercise clothes, new sneakers, and my wife hired a personal trainer to get me started. Like the rest of you, I have made many attempts in the past to get in shape. Most of them were short lived. But I hope this time will be different.

I met with my personal trainer and after going over my goals, she asked me to write down what I eat each day. Then she asked me to remove one thing, and to add more veggies and fruits. She told me not to deny myself, just cut back.

We have been working out now for close to eight weeks. I am walking five days a week and working with my personal trainer for two days a week. The result of all of this? I feel great. My clothes fit better, my moods are better and I look forward to my workouts.

Now before anyone says it, I am not preaching to anyone. I still have a long way to go and I could fall off the wagon. I just want to encourage all of you to get out there and try the same. You don’t need special equipment and you don’t need a personal trainer. But just try to start something today — the life you save might be your own.

As a safety officer, we should be an example of what we profess. There is an almost imperceptible difference between a passionate safety officer and a fire instructor. The roles compliment each other, if not blend into one.

It is said that you should be a student of what you teach. Reference material used in the FDSOA ISO and HSO courses comes from recognized sources such as the USFA and NFPA. These documents set minimum wellness standards for firefighters, and safety officers are subject to those standards.

The FDSOA certification program requires validation against the standard. The best validation comes from actions of the individual. If we expect firefighters to be healthy and safe then we, as safety officers, must meet the expectations of what we teach. It should be second nature to “do as we say” as we teach others.

Richard C. Maddox is the vice chairman of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association. He is a certified fire suppression incident scene safety officer and a health and safety officer. He has served with the Sayville, New York, Fire Department for the past 32 years and is currently the department’s health and safety officer and chairperson of its health and safety committee. He is the FDSOA current representative to the NFPA 1720 Technical Committee. Mr. Maddox holds an associate’s degree in applied sciences, a bachelor’s degree in health care administration and a master’s degree in public administration. He is employed by the New York State Office of Mental Health as a clinical risk management specialist. He can be reached at

Learn how to lead your department’s safety initiatives in, ‘S.O. Sidelines,’ the Fire Department Safety Officers Association’s FireRescue1 exclusive column. The FDSOA, an 18-year-old fire safety organization, teaches important lessons in how to be an effective fire department safety officer.