Thursday, January 14, 2010

Firefighters and sheriff's deputies square off

I'm amused to read of a competition between the Sheriff's Department and firefighters of Palm Beach County, Florida.

The trash talking — e-mailing really — began before the holidays when the spokesman for Palm Beach County firefighters told the spokeswoman for the sheriff's office that the fire department would not go down to the "wimps in green."

To which, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw himself chimed in today:

"Bring it."

Professional standards showdown? No.

Tug of war in the county budget office? No.

The two departments announced this afternoon they're squaring off in a much more personal arena: the battle of the bulge.

Which county staff can lose the most weight in the next four weeks?

So far, about 70 fire rescue department employees have signed up to compete against about 70 Sheriff's.

It's The Biggest Loser competition without the commercials.

Trash talk aside, both departments brag this kind of competition benefits all.

"It reduces injuries, reduces sick time, and at the end of the day it benefits the employees," said Bradshaw, who notches his belt a little tighter these days after losing 32 pounds in the last eight months.

The 62-year-old Bradshaw says he's running more — about 10 miles a day — and eating better. (He boxed a turkey Subway sandwich, some Sunchips, a banana and some sliced apples from the news conference lunch).

. . .

The Sheriff's department, a much larger organization, can offer its staff an on-site gym and nutritionists.

The Fire Rescue group, has gyms too and can direct its employees to outside diet experts.

Being a Sheriff's deputy or firefighter is a physically demanding job, agree those at the top.

Neither department, however, makes any requirements regarding an employee's weight — that could be a legal tangle, noted Fire Rescue's wellness coordinator Lauren Kurth.

And neither has mandatory fitness requirements, say Kurth and the Sheriff's Grant Homa, a fitness assistant.

Firefighters do take a fitness assessment, but failing earns you assistance in meeting your goals, not losing your job.

Deputies must meet fitness requirements in the police academy to become certified, but there's no follow up on the job.

And both jobs pose diet challenges. What or where do you eat when on patrol? What if your meal is dictated by the other eight men and women on your firehouse shift?

Already both sides are playing dirty.

After the news conference announcing the competition, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue sent two dozen doughnuts to the Sheriff's Office gym. The Sheriff's Office fired back. McDonald's cheeseburgers.

There's more at the link.

This should be fun. If the Sheriff's Department wins, do the losing firemen get to carry the deputies over their shoulders across the 'finish line'? And if the firemen win, do they get off their next traffic ticket?


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