The Firefighter Physical Tests

As part of your assessment in the firefighter recruitment process, you’ll have to complete the Firefighter Physical Tests – sometimes also called the Practical Tests.

These are designed to introduce you to the equipment you’ll be using on a day to day basis as a firefighter, and also to test your levels of fitness, strength, co-ordination and manual dexterity

There are usually around 6 physical tests to pass as part of this recruitment process – but as with everything in firefighter recruitment these will vary slightly from FRS to FRS!

For information on the individual recruitment processes of different UK Fire and Rescue Services check out our selection of Recruitment Guides!

However, as a rule of thumb you can expect the tests to include:

  • Ladder Climb
  • Casualty Evacuation
  • Ladder Lift / Lower Simulation
  • Enclosed Spaces
  • Equipment Assembly
  • Equipment Carry

You’ll be given full instructions and will need to complete each element within a certain time. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be provided but it would be sensible to wear something comfortable and non-restrictive like jogging bottoms and a sweatshirt on the day.

Some FRSs will run the fitness tests on the same day as the physical testing, some will do these as part of an assessment day, and others will give you a stand-alone session to attend.

You’ll be informed of where and when to attend in advance, and advised if there’s any identification or documents you’ll need to bring along. It’s unlikely the FRS will let you reschedule, so be prepared to move things around to attend!

What do the different tests involve?

Before candidates start each test, the ‘Test Brief’ and detailed instructions for completing the test will be read out. An instructor may first demonstrate the test so you know exactly what to do – watch closely!

Before candidates carry out each test they’ll be asked to confirm that they fully understand the instructions and whether they have any questions. DO speak up if you have a question – the tests are on a pass/fail basis and a mistake due to a misunderstanding could cost you your space in the process.

The Ladder Climb

The ladder climb is basically a test of confidence whilst working at height.

Candidates will have to demonstrate the the correct ‘leg lock’ (you’ll be shown this) just above ground level before commencing the test. Wearing full PPE, including a harness attached to a fall-arrest system, you’ll climb a 13.5 metre ladder, extended to the third floor of the drill tower to two-thirds of its height, and again demonstrate a leg lock.

You’ll then have to lean back with your arms outstretched to the side, looking down to the assessor and identifying and calling out a symbol they’ll hold up. Finally, you’ll have to descend in the correct, safe manner.

Casualty Evacuation

The casualty evacuation is sometimes also called the ‘dummy drag’. Again this is a test of lower and upper body strength, completed in full PPE.

In this test you’ll be required to move a 55 kg ‘casualty’ to a set distance, around a cone and back to the start point.  This test is timed.

The Ladder Lift / Lower Simulation

This is a test of upper and lower body strength, and again is carried out while wearing full PPE.

You’ll be asked to raise a bar from 75 cm off the ground to a height of 182cm, and then lower it back back down to the 75 cm support. The weight of the bar at the lifting point will start at 5kg, and the maximum load added is generally 15kg.

You may also have to complete a ladder extension. This involves releasing the pawl (lever) and lowering the ladder in a controlled manner. Extending and lowering the ladder like this equates roughly to controlling a weight of 26kg.

Enclosed Spaces

This is the test that catches a lot of applicants out – many people don’t realise how much the conditions will affect them!

It’s a test of confidence, agility and claustrophobia whilst working in an enclosed space. You’ll be wearing full PPE and a Breathing Apparatus facemask, and will be required to negotiate a measured crawl-way (series of tunnels) within a set time.

Visibility will be limited, and you’ll feel with your hands to the left, right, above and below to find the route. There will also be various obstacles to negotiate along the way.

Equipment Assembly

The equipment assembly activity is a test of manual dexterity, where you’ll have to assemble and disassemble a ram unit wearing full PPE. This will be a times assessment.

The pieces will be laid out on a marked board in the correct order and the photos will be displayed next to the assembly point.

Once the unit has been assembled in the correct way, you’ll be asked to start disassembling the unit in reverse order, placing each item back on the board in the correct position.

Equipment Carry

This tests your aerobic fitness, muscular strength and stamina. Candidates wearing full PPE will be required to complete a series of tasks moving and carrying a range of equipment. Some FRSs run this as a group task.

An example of what you might have to do is:

  • Pick up the hose reel from an appliance and run with it for 25 metres to a marker, then jog back to the start.
  • Next, pick up two coiled 70mm red hoses by the handles, then carry them up and down the course four times (usually 100 metres) before placing one back at the start.
  • Then, pick up the remaining coiled 70mm red hose by the centre lugs and carry it at chest height for 25 metres to the marker. Place it down and then jog the course three times (75 metres) to return to the start.
  • Lift and carry a 2.4 metre suction hose (or hard hose) and a basket strainer for four lengths of the course (100 metres), then place them back down and jog the course another four times.
  • Carry a 27.5kg sandbag or similar up and down the course four times (100 metres).

It’s a lot, and this is a challenging part of the process!

So many applicants fail to prepare adequately, by either not having reached the required standard or having not trained in the correct way – often ‘traditionally’ fit applicants are surprised to find the testing difficult!

Written by a highly experienced, long-serving Firefighter, our How to become Firefighter Fit eBook is 100% targeted to what you need to do to achieve the sort of fitness, strength, stamina and flexibility you must have to reliably perform the complex role of a modern firefighter.
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