We get so many questions about medical conditions and firefighting. People worry about how certain medical conditions could prevent them from getting their dream job as a Firefighter.
It’s a fairly complex subject. There are a lot of ‘grey’ areas. However, we’ll cover the need to know info and try to set your mind at rest a little!
Non Biased Approaches
Unless you have a condition or disability that will clearly, physically prevent you from carrying out your duties as a Firefighter, you will be considered.
The Fire Service recognises that when it comes to medical conditions, all cases are individual, and must be considered and treated as such without any prejudgement.
We would take the opportunity to remind that you MUST be open and honest about your condition from the outset. FULLY disclose this on your application. Failure to do so could result in you being removed from the process.
The Firefighter Medical
If you’ve made it to the Medical Examination you’ve already done better than hundreds of applicants! This usually happens near the end of the recruitment and selection process.
You’ll be examined by an approved FRS medical professional, who will request your medical records from your GP’s surgery.
You’ll also be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your medical history. The physical testing includes:
- Hearing Test
- Heart Rate
- Lung Function
- Physical Stamina
- Reflex Tests
- Chest X-Ray
- Vision Test
Your medical history will be reviewed and the doctor will ask questions if it’s necessary. The results will be passed on to the FRS with the doctor’s recommendation of whether you’re medically fit for service.
The doctor will take into consideration:
- Are you fit to undertake a full operational Firefighter role?
- What is the likelihood of your condition affecting you whilst on the job? How might this likelihood change over time?
- How is your condition currently controlled – for example medication, diet, lifestyle changes.
- Is there any types of duty you would be unable to do on medical grounds?
Lets look at the guidelines for the most common medical conditions we’re asked about:
As a general rule of thumb you have to be seizure free for one year if your epilepsy is controlled with medication. You must be seizure free for three years if you do not take any medication. However the full extent and severity of your epilepsy will be investigated.
You need to hold a full driving licence to work as a firefighter, or be in the process of obtaining one. The DVLA rules state that to be allowed to drive you must be seizure free for six months to a year (depending on your individual condition) either on or off of medication.
Having a diagnosis of ADHD will not necessarily be a barrier to you becoming a Firefighter. Again, your medical history and the severity of your condition will be taken into account.
In fact, careers in the emergency services are often a very good choice for those with ADHD, as the job is fast-paced and it’s impossible to predict what might happen from day to day!
The unpredictability of firefighting may have the opposite effect on those who are on the Autistic spectrum, and cause a great deal of stress.
Again the severity of your condition, and how this may affect your ability to do the job will be considered.
Some traits of autism lend themselves very well to the role – strong focus and organisational skills for example. Many autistic individuals cope very well under pressure, as they’re so used to dealing with ‘fight or flight’ syndrome as part of their daily lives. Because of this they’ve learned coping mechanisms by the time they reach adulthood.
It’s recognised that firefighter with diabetes that is well-managed should be able to perform their duties in the same way as anyone else, whether you suffer from Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
However, everyone’s experience of diabetes is different. So again, you will be assessed individually. This will determine if your diabetes will impact on your ability to do your job, particularly as it is physically demanding and involves working long hours.
The FRS may ask for a report from a specialist consultant, and may ask to see evidence of blood sugar levels (HbA1c) over a specified period.
If you have a history of depression this will be looked into fully, and particular attention will be paid to how this has impacted your working life.
A diagnosis of mild depression which occurred in the past is unlikely to have any impact on your ability to do the job. However recent, recurrent or severe episodes could result in you being considered unsuitable for the position, and will require in-depth examination.
What the doctor will be bearing in mind is that the job is a highly stressful one. There is every possibility you will witness traumatic events over the course of your career.
Some Firefighters with no history at all of depression have developed mental health issues or PTSD. It’s important for your own safety (and the safety of your colleagues and the public) that the full risks are taken into account.
The Fire Service will consider applications from applicants with a history of asthma. Again, each application will require individual assessment.
This will include:
- An examination of medical history, focusing on current symptoms and treatment requirements.
- Considering potential triggers including exercise and irritant exposures.
- The frequency and history of attacks.
If your asthma causes symptoms when you exercise, or in cold air, smoke or fumes (triggers that are likely to be encountered on the job) or if you have frequent attacks resulting from infection or seasonal allergy, you are not likely to be considered fit for duty.
If you have any questions about your particular condition please do get in touch with the recruitment team of the Fire Service you are applying to as soon as possible. And again, be full and frank in your disclosure of ANY conditions – if what you declare doesn’t match your medical records than this can cause huge issues for you later on.