Capt Craig Freeman

Using Work-Sample Physical Ability Tests to Maintain Fitness Standards of Incumbent Firefighters

Daniel A. Biddle, Ph.D; CEO, Fire & Police Selection, Inc.
Stacy L. Bell, M.S.; Vice President, Fire & Police Selection, Inc.

In 2000, the National Fire Protection Agency made a bold but profound statement: “Overweight, out-of-shape fire fighters are an accident waiting to happen” (NFPA, 2000). While the statement can be supported by common sense alone, research data shows just how true this statement really is. For example, a 2005 study revealed that nearly 50% of all injuries to civilian firefighters in that year were a result of sprains, strains, and muscular pain—whereby overexertion is considered the primary causative factor (NIST, 2005). Additionally, over 59% of all on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States in 2011 were caused by stress and/or overexertion which resulted in a heart attack (FEMA, 2011).

Firefighters are charged with the serious responsibility of ensuring the safety of their crew and the public. Fire departments are motivated to reduce worker compensation claims, thereby reducing employment costs, which only constitutes some of the costs related to firefighter injuries. After tallying all of the costs related to firefighter injuries in 2002, NIST estimates the annual price to fall between $2.8 and $7.8 billion (NIST, 2005).

This background shows why many fire department executives are passionate about ensuring the high fitness levels of their active fire suppression personnel. While this may be the case, a national research survey of 185 chief-level fire officers1 revealed that only 25% of fire departments use physical ability tests (PATs) as annual maintenance standards for ensuring the fitness levels of their incumbent fire suppression personnel. This survey revealed that a much higher percentage (88%) use PATs for pre-screening firefighters. So, while fire departments seem intent on screening fit candidates into their departments, maintenance testing programs are not typically put into place to continually ensure the fitness level of incumbent fire personnel.


The complete report can be viewed here

Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.