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 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.

To request hard copies of the poster, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   with your request. Be sure to include the quantity you need, your name, and your mailing address.

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Share the Load 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.

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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Share the Load Newsletter

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, developed a newsletter designed to provide departments with critical information about firefighter and EMT behavioral health issues, why it is critical to focus on behavioral health, and what you can do as a department and individual to prevent tragic outcomes.

The 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. Article topics include:

  • Warning signs and symptoms of several common behavioral health issues including PTSD, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and anxiety
  • Tips for managing stress
  • Information about the Fire/EMS Helpline, a free, confidential phone line available any time day or night to help firefighters, EMTs, and their families with a variety of behavioral health issues
  • Keeping family relationships strong
  • Breaking the stigma of behavioral health in the fire and emergency services
  • Recognizing the importance of retirement planning in the fire service
  • Steps for developing a department behavioral health program
  • Firefighter Life Safety Initiative 13 and the concensus appraoch to firefighter behavioral health

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. Download the newsletter.

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NVFC Training Summit

When: Friday, June 20, 8:30am-4:30pm and Saturday, June 21, 8am-noon  

Where: Sheraton Myrtle Beach, 2101 North Oak Street, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

Purpose: This event will provide an opportunity to share ideas and best practices, network, and participate in valuable training. Attendees will be able to select six out of 12 breakout sessions to attend, with sessions addressing reputation management in a digital era, firefighter cancer, behavioral health, PPE usage during overhaul, fire codes, and more. Click here to view the event agenda and course descriptions. (Updated 3/25/14)

Who should attend: The conference is open to all volunteer firefighters, EMTs, department leadership, and other fire department personnel from across the United States. Attendance is limited.

Cost: The registration fee for the Summit is $75 per person. This fee covers one and a half days training, lunch on Friday for attendees and their families, and some refreshments throughout the weekend. The fee will be waived for individuals receiving a scholarship.

NEW! Lunch: On Friday, June 20, the NVFC is pleased to provide a lunch for Summit attendees and their families traveling with them. Lori Mercer, founder of, will give a presentation on the role of families in the fire service. Please indicate the number of guests attending the lunch event on your registration form. 

Travel scholarship: To help more first responders attend the Summit, a scholarship is available for select attendees. The scholarship will reimburse up to two nights hotel and up to $500.00 per person for transportation expenses, including round-trip airfare or mileage. The registration fee will also be waived. A maximum of two representatives per department can receive reimbursement. To be considered eligible for reimbursement, you or your department must be a current member of the NVFC. Membership options and benefits can be found at Applicants will also be required to submit a letter of recommendation from a department leader. If you plan to apply for a scholarship, please submit your scholarship application first and wait to register until you have received notice of whether or not you have received a scholarship (turnaround time is approximately one week). Apply for a scholarship today

Registration: Click here to register now. 

Hotel:The NVFC has secured a room block at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach. Click here to make your reservation online, or call (888) 627-8203 (ask for the NVFC Training Summit or Group ID#3708).

Questions? Contact Rachel Buczynski, Program Manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 202-887-5700 x116.