Most fire departments require candidates to pass a number of firefighter physical tests as part of the qualification processes. These tests often include medical exams to evaluate factors such as hearing, vision, and general health. Many departments also require physical fitness tests, which are designed to prove qualities such as strength, agility, and speed. In most cases, firefighter candidates must pass all physical tests, as well as psychological and written examinations, in order to be hired.
Depending on the department, there may be several health-related firefighter physical tests. Vision and hearing tests are quite common. Firefighters are usually required to have good hearing at a wide range of decibels and must generally be free from vision defects such as color blindness. The degree of acceptable hearing or vision impairment is up to the hiring department and may also be dictated by a governmental or regulatory body in some areas.
Other types of firefighter physical tests relate to the candidate’s overall health. Exams may check for issues such as high or low blood pressure, heart conditions, and breathing disorders, such as asthma, all of which may affect a firefighter’s ability to perform in adverse conditions. Tests may also compare the candidate’s height and weight to certain guidelines, along with numerous other factors.
In many cases, candidates must pass firefighter physical tests that prove their ability to meet the physical demands of the job. These might include demonstrating stamina by running a long distance within a specified timeframe or speed by running a short, timed sprint. Other tests include agility, in which a candidate might be required to complete a timed obstacle course, and fine motor skills, in which candidates are required to manipulate small objects with their hands. They may also be required to demonstrate techniques such as CPR.
Strength is perhaps the most common of the firefighter physical tests. Many tests include a carry or drag, in which the candidate must lift or drag a dummy a certain distance to an established “safe zone.” In this test, the dummy is generally the size and weight of an adult human. A flight of stairs is often involved.
Firefighter candidates may also have to pass strength tests related to managing actual fires. The most common of these is a live hose test. In this test, the candidate must demonstrate the ability to hook up, turn on, and handle a functioning fire hose at full or nearly full power.