Before applying to your local fire academy, it's worthwhile to take a look at the requirements -- especially those that can disqualify you. Unfortunately, not everyone can become a firefighter. Not only do you need to be physically and mentally fit, but what you did in your past -- including those teenage indiscretions -- can influence whether or not you get the job.
If you want to fight fires, you must be physically capable of doing so. Fire departments have strict physical requirements that you must pass before being accepted. During the application phase, you are questioned about any physical ailments that might prevent you from doing your job. You are also required to pass a physical and medical test to ensure that you are fit and healthy. Medical examinations follow the National Fire Protection Association's "Publication NFPA 1582 -- Medical Requirements for Firefighters." The fitness test and requirements vary, depending on the fire department you apply at. The city of Plano, Texas, for example, requires their firefighters to drag a 165-pound dummy a minimum of 55 feet to simulate a victim rescue. Others may require slightly more or a bit less. You can expect simulations in your stamina testing that can include climbing stairs with a hose pack, deploying a hose line, removing and carrying a ladder, striking an area with a sledgehammer for ventilation, and crawling in confined spaces.
Substance abuse almost always automatically disqualifies you from firefighting, regardless of whether you are physically capable of performing the job. A conviction for illegal possession or inappropriate use of drugs -- whether prescription or nonprescription -- might result in an automatic disqualification. During the voluntary disclosure phase, you are asked if you use illegal drugs and background checks -- possibly even drug tests -- are performed to verify your answer.
Felony or other serious criminal charges typically disqualify you permanently from firefighting, or even for an extended period of time. Some fire departments may deny you even with a misdemeanor record. Multiple moving or traffic violations might result in a disqualification as well. Conviction for driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs, reckless driving, or a suspended license within five years can disqualify you.
Any form of dishonorable discharge from military service results in an automatic disqualification for most fire departments. Always be honest on your application and during your interview, since honor and trust are important to the department. Deception, lying or withholding information during the selection process can result in a disqualification, even for minor items. Charges of child abuse or neglect or violent behavior, such as domestic violence, can also disqualify you. Fire departments and academies verify your past work history and references, so if you have a history of erratic work behavior, a poor work history, or unfavorable references, you can be disqualified.
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