Wellness, mental toughness and psychological self-care for firefighters are available in the palms of their hands; that is, in a smart phone app. Fire and police agencies can provide their officers access to these and other self-help tools in an app that reflects each agency’s identity and design choices. Employees can be assured that use of the app is totally confidential.

Cordico, Gold River, California, west of Sacramento, provides confidential support for firefighters and other employees through an app that incorporates comprehensive and trusted wellness resources. The CordicoFire app is easy to use, available on-demand, and only requires the push of a button.

Firefighter wellness tools

The app is designed to reinforce and strengthen a fire agency’s existing wellness culture

The app is designed to reinforce and strengthen a fire agency’s existing wellness culture and is updated continuously. The app includes firefighter wellness tools, such as self-assessments and a therapist finder. Peer support resources are built into the app, and psychological first aid helps firefighters know when help is needed – and what their options are. There are also sections on the app addressing healthy habits, making marriage work, mindfulness, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Specific to firefighters, there is information on cancer awareness, exposure to hazardous materials, and heart health – among more than 40 topics firemen can scroll through. Self-assessments can identify the sources of stress and how to address them, and/or identify problems with alcohol abuse. Physical fitness videos demonstrate exercises for stress release and injury prevention, and there is a section on nutrition.

No additional authentication required

Each firefighter is provided a link and password to download the app. Posters promoting use of the app are available, including a QR code that employees can scan to download the app. There is no additional authentication required, and no personal information is shared with the app. Around 90% of employees typically download the app.

The app is hosted on Cordico’s server rather than the agency’s server, so there is no tracking of information, which would defeat the purpose of an anonymous app. Anonymity is important to overcome the perceived stigma that could make firefighters hesitate to ask for help. The app is also made available to spouses, significant others and even retirees, who may find that cumulative trauma catches up with them years later.

Employee assistance programs

People use their smart phones all the time, so it’s easy for anyone to get on the app"

People use their smart phones all the time, so it’s easy for anyone to get on the app, click on a section and read for 10 minutes if they need information, help or emotional support,” says Kevin Dacy, Operations Manager, Cordico.

There is a generation of people comfortable with using apps. We provide them with privacy to look at topics and get the self-help they need.”

The app dovetails with an organization’s employee assistance programs and peer support team and/or leaders. Cordico works with agencies to include information about therapists, clinicians and chaplains who are available to help. When an agency decides to use the app, Cordico’s chief technology officer organizes a product launch meeting, and Cordico’s client care team works with the agency until the app has been successfully launched.

Pre-Employment psychological evaluations

Agencies have flexibility in terms of the graphics and illustrations used on the app and also the information provided, which could include traffic, weather, etc., in addition to other services. (Southern California agencies include a surfing report because the activity can help to relieve stress.) Updates to the app are done on the back end as new information is added. The app password can be changed to limit use of the app to current enrollees.

The company evolved to providing pre-employment psychological evaluations for first responder jobs

Dr. David Black, CEO of Cordico, shifted his psychological practice to first responders after 9/11. The company evolved to providing pre-employment psychological evaluations for first responder jobs. The app grew out of that service, and now most of the largest agencies in California use the app. Cordico has worked with small and large agencies – five to 22,000 employees – although the average department size using the app is 150 to 200 people.

Consulting clinicians and therapists

In addition to a concentration in California, the company also does business throughout the United States, with customers in most states. Cordico has around 15 employees, in addition to consulting clinicians and therapists. Although Cordico does not share specific data with an agency about who uses the app, they can provide activity counts.

For example, usage of the app could spike after a dramatic incident, which could alert the agency of a higher level of trauma that might need additional education and/or comfort. During the coronavirus pandemic, Cordico’s phone lines and emails have lit up with agencies looking to consider the app to help manage the added stress of dealing with the pandemic. Even during the economic downturn, Cordico is busier than ever.

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Larry Anderson Editor, TheBigRedGuide.com, Notting Hill Media

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