Physical fitness a necessity for some region police, firefighters

2012-12-28T20:15:00Z 2012-12-30T00:34:03Z Physical fitness a necessity for some region police, firefightersChas Reilly, (219) 662-5324
December 28, 2012 8:15 pm  • 

As the new year approaches, many people might be thinking about setting resolutions to head out to the gym more often.

For some local firefighters and police officers, physical fitness isn't an option.

The 12 full-time firefighters at the Merrillville Fire Department must participate in physical training exercises three times each week, Merrillville Deputy Fire Chief Jim Lilley said.

The requirements started when the firefighters were hired in October.

The firefighters participate in multiple exercises to build endurance, strength and agility, which are all needed on the job, Lilley said.

Fire Chief Ed Yerga said some initially thought the requirements were tough, but now they want to train more often.

Lilley said Hidden Lake Park in Merrillville has become a popular place for the staff to train. They often run several miles at the park.

Yerga said he has noticed the firefighters have changed their eating habits since they started the training.

Some have traded junk food for protein shakes, he said. There also are some firefighters who quit smoking since they were hired.

Portage Fire Chief Tom Fieffer said there are full gyms at each of the city's fire stations.

Portage firefighters must exercise an hour during each of their shifts, but the department doesn't mandate the type of physical activities that must be completed, Fieffer said.

There also are annual physicals for firefighters, he said.

The physicals are mostly medical, but they include aspects to test strength and endurance.

Fieffer said holding a plank for a certain amount of time is among the activities tested during the physicals.

For the 26 members of the Northwest Regional SWAT team, achieving fitness standards is required to stay on the team each year, said Merrillville police Sgt. Bob Morgan, team commander.

The fitness test has six categories, including a vertical jump, a 1.5-mile run and 300-meter run.

The members receive points based on their results from each category, and they must score at least 15 points to pass the test, Morgan said.

Physical fitness is important for police officers, and "this is something that works well for us," he said.

Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said the Police Department doesn't have required physical training exercises, but the department has a fully staffed gym available for officers.

Miller said some officers also have their own memberships at local gyms.

He said the city's police officers take defense tactics tests each year, and the department's SWAT team members take annual physical training tests.

He believes the majority of his officers make physical fitness a priority.

"For the most part, (they) take care of themselves," Miller said.

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About Merrillville

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7820 Broadway Ave. Merrillville, IN 46410
Fax: 219.756.6170

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