Why do Firefighters need to be able to Swim?

Depending on which FRS you’re applying to a swimming test may be part of the assessment process – but why do Firefighters need to be able to swim?

As part of their duties, Firefighters are generally expected to be able to perform in-water rescues if required. Therefore firefighters need to be able to swim and be confident in water to the levels set in the essential criteria by the FRS. These may vary slightly from FRS to FRS – like everything else in the process!

The purpose of the swimming test is to assess if you are able to swim and:

  • Jump / dive into deep water
  • Swim 100 metres continuously on front and/or back in deep water using a recognised swim e.g. front crawl, back stroke, breast stroke or butterfly.
  • Tread water for 30 seconds
  • Surface dive to the floor of the pool
  • Climb out unaided without ladder/steps

There may be additional criteria, particularly for FRSs based in a costal area where the local fire service may be called upon to assist with water rescues more regularly.

Some FRSs may include a times test, where (for example) you will be asked to complete two lengths of both front crawl and backstroke in under 3 minutes.

Where will this be in the Assessment Process?

Generally the swim test will be scheduled for the same time (or thereabouts) as the physical and fitness testing. You’ll be given the details ahead of time.

You might be asked to go to a local swimming pool, although certain costal FRSs have in the past done tests in open water, or in outdoor sea-temperature pools. This is to replicate the conditions you might have to perform a rescue in.

Help! I Can’t Swim!

Don’t panic – firstly take a look at our recruitment guides for relevant guide to the FRS you’re looking to apply to. Here you can find out if a swim test is included in the process.

If you want to become a firefighter in general we’d advise learning how to swim. It’s a great skill to have, and in addition it’s great for improving your fitness.

You can usually book lessons through your local pool or health centre, and there are even some companies who ofter residential courses where you’ll learn to swim over a long weekend! If you live by the sea (or are willing to travel) you can also find instructors who will take you for a private or small group lesson outdoors in the sea.

Because FRSs recruit on an annual basis, the chances are you’ve plenty time to get started if the area you want to apply to has a swimming requirement.

Want to find out more about the physical testing? Take a look at our article here!

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FRS Team

Our team of experts have the many years of Fire Service experience and are up to date with the latest selection news.

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