Before we continue, please be aware that fire service fitness tests differ from brigades as does the terminology used to describe some of the assessments we discuss here.
However, if you are thinking about joining the UK fire service and are wondering how to become a fireman, there are certain fire service entry requirements you need to be aware of.
The Fire Service issues information and guidance on their website which explains the role in much detail. The information states that as a firefighter you will need to respond to a variety of emergency situations, dealing with these swiftly and calmly using your training as well as your problem-solving skills and initiative. The range of emergency situations includes extinguishing fires, carrying out rescues and responding to road traffic accidents.
Since being a firefighter is a public facing role you will need to have good communication skills when relating to members of the public, especially in distressing, confusing and overwhelming situations. As well as responding to emergencies, you will also need to work in the local community, such as schools and at public events to raise awareness and prevent fires and other incidents from occurring.
Being a firefighter requires a good level of physical fitness as well as possessing certain personal attributes and these are all tested as part of the selection process. In addition to passing the fire service fitness test, you will need to answer interview questions, pass psychological tests and have an eyesight test and a medical examination.
The firefighter fitness test is designed to assess your fitness level as well as your strength and dexterity. When you take part in the fitness test your confidence levels will be under scrutiny and the tests are designed to mimic the various situations you’ll be presented with as a firefighter. The fire service needs to ensure that only those with the highest standards of physical fitness are introduced into the challenging situations the role will present during the time you serve as a firefighter.
When it comes to the firefighter fitness test, there are 6 individual assessments you need to take part in and pass. including:
• Climbing a ladder
• Evacuating a casualty
• Ladder lifting and lowering simulation
• Moving in an enclosed space
• Assembling equipment
• Carrying equipment
Here’s further information about each of these tests:
Climbing a ladder
This test is designed to assess your levels of confidence and your tolerance of working at height. Before you start the ladder climb, you’ll be asked to wear full personal protective equipment (PPE). This consists of a protective helmet, mask, gloves, boots and other garments such as a fire-resistant body suit. Whilst wearing these you will need to show you can do what is known as a ‘leg lock’. A leg lock is a way of ensuring you can work safely on a ladder with your hands-free since your leg is hooked onto the ladder and there’s minimal risk of you falling. After you’ve demonstrated this, you will need to climb a 13.5-metre ladder to a height that’s equivalent to two storeys and at this point, you will need to demonstrate the ‘leg lock’ once again. You will then be asked to extend both hands and lean backwards, describing a symbol that will be shown to you on the ground. After this, you can climb down as you’ve successfully completed the ladder climb.
Evacuating a casualty
This test is designed to assess your upper and lower body strength. Once again, you’ll be required to wear full PPE and pull a casualty backwards through a course of 30 metres. Your ‘casualty’ will weigh 55kg and an assessor will guide you as you walk backwards through the course.
Ladder lifting and lowering simulation
This test is designed to assess your lower and upper body strength and you will carry out the assessment in full PPE. You will need to lift a bar 182cm high from its support that is 75cm from the ground. Once you’ve done this, you will need to demonstrate you can lower the bar back to its support. The bar’s weight will start off at 5kg and progress up to 15kg.
Moving in an enclosed space
The enclosed space test is designed to assess your agility and confidence when inside an enclosed space. After all, anyone with claustrophobia won’t be a suitable candidate as firefighters sometimes have to enter enclosed spaces during their work. Wearing full PPE, including a breathing apparatus and face-mask, you will be asked to crawl through a narrow tunnel and complete this exercise within a set time. While you’re crawling, you will be able to see where you are going for just half of your journey, as the rest will be obscured as it would be in smoky conditions. During this test, you’ll be expected to carry out specific tasks.
This task is designed to assess your manual dexterity and you will need to show you can assemble and disassemble equipment by following the colour coded diagrams you’ve been given.
The carrying equipment test is designed to show your levels of aerobic fitness, as well as your strength and stamina. Each of these tests must be completed within a specific time and you’ll be given full instructions.
In these tests you will need to:
• Pull out a hose reel over a 25-metre distance then jog back to the start
• Lift 2 coiled hoses and carry them over a distance of 100 metres
• Carry a coiled hose chest high over a 25-metre distance, then jog back a longer distance of 75 metres
• Lift a suction hose together with a basket strainer. The hose measures 2.4 meters and you’ll need to lift and carry this and the strainer over a 100-metre distance before jogging back to the start
• Lift a light portable pump and carry it over a 100-metre distance. The pump weighs roughly 30kgs
Once you’ve successfully joined the fire service, you will need to take part in ongoing training such as, attending practical training and exercises, attending lectures and participating in other forms of training. The Fire Service insists all serving firefighters maintain high standards of fitness and issue guidance on this which you can find at http://www.cfoa.org.uk.
Popular Fire Fighter Fitness Tests
Whilst the UK fire and rescue services prefer to use different methods to obtain a sub-maximal aerobic assessment, two of popular ones are the Chester Treadmill Walk Test and the Chester Step Test.
Each test is an incremental test which just means that the load, either stepping rate or gradient, increases to a point roughly equivalent to 80% of theoretical maximum heart rate, where maximum heart rate is determined by 220 minus your age.
The test continues until 80% of this heart rate is reached. As a general rule, fire and rescue personal are asked to obtain a Vo2 score of 42mls/kg, this again varies between fire and rescue services.