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City purchases fitness watches for firefighters

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 17, 2016

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights firefighters will more easily be able to keep watch of their health due to a recent city expenditure.

At a May 4 meeting, the Sterling Heights City Council unanimously approved a purchase of Fitbit Blaze fitness watches for the Sterling Heights Fire Department in the council’s consent agenda. According to the Fitbit website, the Fitbit Blaze devices track and monitor sleep, heart rates, steps, workouts and more.

After the meeting, Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin said the fitness watches will assist firefighters in staying strong and in shape.

“The Fitbit helps the firefighters track their performance and encourages continual improvement,” he said in an email. “Any motivation helps.”

A city document said the cost of 100 Fitbit Blaze fitness watches is expected to total around $17,000, but the cost will be 90 percent funded by an Assistance to Firefighters Grant, officials said.

According to Martin, the Fire Department secured the Assistance to Firefighters Grant from FEMA last year in order to help provide health screening and healthy living education for SHFD staff. Prior to the fitness watch purchase, he said the grant was also used to buy more cardiovascular exercise equipment — such as treadmills and elliptical machines — for the city’s five fire stations.

“As the grant neared completion, there was moneys left over due to the fact that the estimated costs for the physicals was less after using the competitive bid process,” he said in an email.

“Since there was additional funding available, we requested and were approved for an amendment to the grant to support ... more exercise equipment for the stations and a Fitbit for each employee.”

Martin said heart attacks and strokes are leading causes of death for firefighters, and injuries and stress are also common for emergency workers. Pursuing a comprehensive physical fitness initiative could be good for the firefighters and keep injury-related costs down, he explained.

“I support any steps that can be taken to improve the physical fitness of any member of our Fire Department,” he said. “It goes a long way in their capability to perform this job the way our residents expect, and it also protects and improves their overall well-being in the long run.”

At an April 5 City Council meeting, Sterling Heights resident Linda Godfrey commented on the approval of a Peer Fitness Trainer Certification Program for the Fire Department. While she said she is not against health or fitness, she sought clarification about the status of firefighting grant money.

“Grant after grant after grant with leftover moneys — it seems that we don’t ask the questions, or maybe some of you have, and maybe you can explain it,” she said.

Find out more about the Sterling Heights Fire Department by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2950. To read about Fitbit devices, visit www.fitbit.com.