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Physical requirements

There are many physical activities that a firefighter must be able to carry out as part of their role.

The key components of fitness for a firefighter are:

  • Aerobic endurance
  • Muscular strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Grip strength
  • Flexibility

Aerobic endurance

This is the ability to exercise or carry out physical activity for extended periods without tiring. Firefighting activities that require aerobic endurance include:

  • Climbing and descending stairs repeatedly with or without breathing apparatus
  • Walking with urgency continuously to and from the fire engine (also called an appliance) whilst wearing fire kit
  • Working in extreme heat whilst wearing breathing apparatus

Muscular strength

This is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to contract and produce force. The more strength you have the more force you can produce, increasing your ability to lift, lower, push and pull heavy objects. Firefighting activities that require muscular strength include:

  • Lifting a 13.5m ladder back on to an appliance
  • Handling and operating equipment such as heavy duty cutting tools or a door enforcer
  • Lifting and removing a casualty from a dangerous situation eg a road traffic collision (RTC)

Muscular endurance

This is linked to both aerobic endurance and muscular strength and is the ability to lift, carry, push and pull heavy objects over a prolonged period of time. Firefighting activities that require muscular endurance include:

  • Dragging an unconscious casualty out of a building whilst wearing breathing apparatus
  • Maintaining a safe posture or holding a certain position for a long duration whilst carrying out a task such as during an animal rescue or RTC

Grip strength

This is directly related to muscular strength and endurance but focuses on the hand’s and fingers’ ability to grip by exerting and maintaining pressure on an object. Firefighting activities that require grip strength include:

  • Extending a 13.5m ladder using a pulley system
  • Carrying a 33kg light portable water pump
  • Carrying two lengths of hose, one in each hand

Flexibility

This is the range of movement (ROM) available at an individual or group of joints and/or muscles. The greater your flexibility, the better your ability to move your limbs and joints into specific positions at the end of their normal ROM. Firefighting activities that require flexibility include:

  • Crawling through small spaces in a building whilst searching for casualties
  • Safely lifting an object or casualty from the floor whilst maintaining the correct posture

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