Click here to report anti-volunteer bias, contact the NVFC’s Volunteer Advocacy Committee, or learn more about threats to the right to volunteer.

Share the Loadâ„¢ Resources

Behavioral health is a subject not often talked about in the fire service, but it affects every department and emergency responder in some way or other. The NVFC, through its Share the Load™ Support Program, has developed a series of resources to help educate and train first responders about the importance of behavioral health and provide resources, tips, and tools to help departments, first responders, and families address these issues.

Share the Load Helpletter

This newsletter features articles from subject matter experts and fire service veterans who provide tips, tools, and resources to help first responders take a proactive approach in addressing many behavioral health issues. Included are signs and symptoms of common behavioral health issues, tips for managing stress, information about the Fire/EMS Helpline, tips for keeping family relationships strong, the need to break the stigma of behavioral health in the emergency services, recognizing the importance of retirement planning in the fire service, steps for developing a department behavioral health program, information on Firefighter Life Safety Initiative 13, and more.

Share this publication with your entire department and use it as a reference to help you develop, expand, and maintain your department's behavioral health program.

Share the Load Poster

The Share the Load™ program poster encourages first responders to reach out if they need help. Hang a copy of the poster up at the station to remind personnel that help is available. The poster promotes the Fire/EMS Helpline, a free, confidential phone line available 24/7 to provide support to first responders and their families experiencing any behavioral health issue, such as PTSD, depressions, stress, addiction, and more. The PDF poster size is 16.5”x21”. To request hard copies of the poster, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Be sure to include the quantity you need, your name, and your mailing address.

Share the Load Ad

This ad can be placed in department newsletters and fire service publications to encourage first responders to reach out if they need help. It also includes the number for the National Fire/EMS Helpline to let firefighters and EMTs know help is available when they need it. The ad is 8.5”x11”.

 What to Expect: A Guide for Family Members of Volunteer Firefighters

Joining the volunteer fire service means a lifestyle change not only for the individual volunteer, but also for their entire family. To help family members navigate the volunteer fire service life, the NVFC partnered with FirefighterWife.com to create this resource for spouses, children, parents, siblings, and significant others of volunteer and paid-on-call responders. It introduces family members to the basics of the volunteer firefighter life, provides guidance for keeping family relationships strong and being part of the fire department family, and contains an array of tips and resources to help first responder families adjust to this lifestyle.

Download the guide for free, or order print copies from the NVFC store. For a limited time only, NVFC members can order up to 25 print copies for free; access the discount code from the Member Benefits page of the Members-Only section of the NVFC web site.

Suicide in the Fire and Emergency Services: Adopting a Proactive Approach to Behavioral Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention

This report explores various firefighter/EMT behavioral health concerns and identifies resources and best practices for mental wellness and suicide prevention in the fire and emergency services. It also includes data from a behavioral health survey conducted by the NVFC. In addition to the report, a webinar providing an overview of the report and survey is also available.

Preventing and Coping with Suicide in the Fire and Emergency Services

The NVFC, with support from the U.S. Fire Administration developed this online training course focusing on suicide awareness and prevention. The three-module course examines the signs and symptoms preceding suicide, highlights available resources for departments and individuals, and discusses the healing process when coping with a firefighter suicide. This course is available through the NVFC's Virtual Classroom.

Brotherhood vs. Parenthood: Finding your Life Balance

This webinar looks at all the roles a volunteer firefighter plays throughout their lives. From your role as an employee to spouse to parent to firefighter, how do you emphasize the importance, purpose, and balance of each role? This webinar will help you identify strategies for prioritizing each aspect of your life to help you achieve balance and time management. This course is available through the NVFC's Virtual Classroom.

Putting Out the Fire: Stress Resilience Strategies

Stress is an underlying risk factor that affects a majority of the population, especially first responders. Can you identify your current stressors? Do you know what types of stressors exist? Do you know the types of stressors to which you are susceptible? This webinar helps you key in on the types of stressors most prominent for firefighters and how to successfully manage stress as it arises. This course is available through the NVFC's Virtual Classroom.

Fire Service Suicide and Behavioral Health Concerns

This webinar provides an overview of behavioral health issues effecting the fire and emergency services, with a focus on firefighter suicide warning signs and prevention. The webinar is available through McNeil and Company’s Emergency Service Insurance Program (ESIP) platform. Visit http://training.mcneilandcompany.com and sign-in if you have an existing account, or register as a student using access code 6832.


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Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

If you require information for this program in an alternative format (braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) or in a language other than English, contact the NVFC at 202-887-5700 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

To file a complaint alleging discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410, or for Forest Service issues please call, toll free, (866) 632-9992 (Voice). TDD users can contact USDA through local relay or the Federal Relay at (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (relay voice users).

USDA and the NVFC is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Share the Loadâ„¢ Support Program for Fire and EMS

Most people are aware of the physical demands that first response activities place on firefighters and EMS providers. But it is important to also realize the impact that fighting fires and responding to emergencies has on the mental wellbeing of emergency personnel. Firefighters and EMS providers face the risk of many behavioral health concerns such as anxiety, depression, burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction among others.

Taking care of your mental health is as important as managing your physical health. The NVFC's Share the Load™ program provides access to critical resources and information to help first responders and their families manage and overcome personal and work-related problems. This includes the Fire/EMS Helpline, which offers free 24-hour assistance with issues such as stress, depression, addiction, PTSD, and more.

The resources in this section can assist individuals seeking help for a behavioral health issue as well as departments looking to implement or enhance a behavioral health program.


National Fire Service Suicide Reporting System

We tragically lose dozens of firefighters and EMTs each year to suicide. The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance is the nationally recognized reporting system for collecting data about firefighter suicide. The reporting system is confidential and the data is used to identify trends and prevent future instances of firefighter and EMT suicide. To report a suicide, go to www.ffbha.org and click on "FF Suicide Report" in the left menu.

Phoenix Society - Resources for Firefighters

People who suffer burn injuries often have a challenging time getting back to living. The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors helps them do exactly that. Since 1977, the Phoenix Society For Burn Survivors has been the only national burn survivor organization working with survivors, families, healthcare professionals, the fire industry, and donors to support burn recovery, improve the quality of burn care, and prevent burn injuries.

The Phoenix Society has many programs and resources to help burn victims and their families. All of these resources are available to burn-injured firefighters, but some of the programs have firefighter-specific components. Resources include the following:

Phoenix SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery): The Phoenix SOAR program provides training for survivors and family members who want to volunteer to help others. Available in over 64 burn centers, this hospital-based program was developed to ensure that every burn survivor and their loved ones have access to someone who has truly “been there.” Working with National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Charitable Foundation, the network now includes over 40 trained burn-injured firefighters and families to assist those burn injured in the line of duty.

Phoenix World Burn Congress: This annual three-day conference serving over 900 participants is a premier burn survivor event focused on providing recovery education and peer support in a caring environment. Specific programming is available to assist in recovery of the burn-injured firefighters and their families. Over 100 firefighters are engaged as volunteers to support attendees. This has offered a unique experience for the fire service to close the loop by interacting with survivors and families who have healed and are living meaningful lives.

On-line Resource Center and Support Community: Since burn care is very regional, the Society’s web site provides a community of support that includes burn recovery stories, resources, articles, chats, forums, and ways to meet others who have experienced a burn injury. The Society is expanding self guided learn modules focused on recovery and advocacy. Follow them online at www.phoenix-society.org and www.facebook.com/PhoenixSocietyforBurnSurvivors.

The Journey Back: The Journey Back is a resource that will help you support your family, your students, or someone you know who is working towards the ever important recovery step of returning to school. Together with the NFFF, this program has been expanded to be used when there is a LODD and children go back to school after loss of a parent and a highly publicized death of a firefighter.

Phoenix Burn Support Magazine (BSM): BSM is a magazine that is full of articles on the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of burn recovery. Included are feature stories on burn survivors and their family members who are traveling the road to recovery. BSM also covers the latest news in the burn community, original works written by burn survivors, and information on burn care and safety legislation.

Phoenix Educational Grant Program (PEG): The PEG is the first national scholarship endowment fund created for burn survivor students.

Prevention and Advocacy: As a national organization, the Society’s efforts are focused on policy development and legislative measures that will have a permanent impact on decreasing burn injuries or improving the care of those with burn injuries. By sharing information and educating their membership, the Society is active in promoting change by adding the burn survivors’ voice.

Over the years, fire service participation and presence within the Phoenix Society has grown. Out of this involvement with the fire service, specific programing has been added to support the firefighters and families who have experienced a burn injury in the line of duty. Additional articles and information about some of these resources are as follows:

Fire/EMS Helpline


Fire/EMS Helpline: 1-888-731-FIRE (3473)

Make the Call to Make Things Better

Firefighters and EMS personnel face many unique challenges that can have a significant impact on their behavioral health. To ensure these individuals and their families have access to the help they need, the NVFC teamed up with American Addiction Centers (AAC) to create a free, confidential helpline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Fire/EMS Helpline can serve as an individual resource, or departments can offer it as an Employee Assistance Program for their members. The key difference of the Fire/EMS Helpline is that it was created for first responders by members of the fire service. This program is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of firefighters, EMTs, rescue personnel, and their families.

Why Call

First responders and their families can call the Fire/EMS Helpline any time day or night to seek help for a variety of behavioral health issues. These may include alcohol or drug addiction, depression, suicide prevention, stress or anxiety, critical incidents, PTSD, stress caused by financial management issues or legal problems, relationship issues, work-related concerns, or psychological issues.

When you call, you will receive compassionate, non-judgmental support you can trust. Depending on your individual needs, you can speak with a trained fire service member who understands what you are going through, you can be referred to local resources to help with your specific problem, or you can be admitted to a treatment facility where there are licensed counselors trained in the fire service culture. If a treatment center is needed, the Fire/EMS Helpline will work with your insurance to make sure there is no cost to you.

What to Expect When You Call

  1. The first step in getting help is to make the call. Simply call 1-888-731-FIRE (3473) any time day or night. Calls are free and confidential.
  2. A skilled, trained Intake Counselor will answer your call. Make sure you identify yourself as a firefighter, EMT, or family member of the fire service.
  3. The Intake Counselor will listen to your problems and concerns and identify local resources in your area, or when appropriate, locate national treatment options that work within your needs and insurance capabilities. Trained assistance professionals who are members of the fire service are available to talk, and the licensed counselors at AAC treatment facilities have undergone intensive training specifically on the culture and needs of the fire service.


About the Founders

The Fire/EMS Helpline was developed by fire service veterans Mike Blackburn and Mike Healy. Based on their own professional and personal experiences, both recognized the need for firefighters to be able to reach out to other firefighters when they need help. The Fire/EMS Helpline allows firefighters, EMTs, and their families to talk to trained professionals that understand what they are going through and who can relate to the special needs of the fire and emergency services.

Mike Blackburn, CEAP, LADC-1, SAP, is a retired Rhode Island Fire Department Battalion Chief. He currently serves as AAC’s Senior Vice President of Business Development and is a nationally Certified Employee Assistance Professional, a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, and a Substance Abuse Professional. He has extensive training in providing Critical Incident Management and spent six weeks at Ground Zero providing Stress/Critical Incident leadership to firefighters.

Mike Healy, CEAP, LAP-C, SAP, has over 40 years in the volunteer fire service and is a current and past chief. He is a member of the Rockland County, NY, Critical Incident Stress team, is the coordinator of Fire Education at the Rockland County Fire Training Center, and is a New York State Fire Instructor. He is a Certified Employee Assistance Professional, a Labor Assistance Professional-Certified, and a Substance Abuse Professional. He retired as Clinical Director of the NYCTA-TWU Assistance Program and now serves as a treatment consultant for American Addiction Centers.

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