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Need for Physical Ability Testing

Reference Number: MTAS-1212
Reviewed Date: 11/10/2022

Physical fitness in public safety is a concern for city governments. Much of a police officer's and a firefighter’s shift is filled with driving, report writing, and other duties that do not routinely require a great deal of physical exercise. In emergency situations, the sedentary work environment of the officer or firefighter changes immediately to one of high stress, requiring tremendous physical exertion that often results in exhaustion. In a Tennessee city, a highly respected police officer suffered a fatal heart attack while engaging in foot pursuit of a suspect. This incident is not unique to that city and should make all cities more aware of the need to protect the public's safety as well as the lives of police and firefighters.

Physical ability is important for police officers and firefighters because they need sufficient strength, endurance and aerobic capacity. Many studies have shown that the more physically fit officers and firefighters are and feel, the more self-assured and happy they are with themselves. By continuing a physical fitness training program, an officer or firefighter can sustain job enthusiasm, improved self-control, and total performance. Pre-employment health screening reduces new hire injuries by as much as one-third. It is estimated that current employee health screening also results in a one-third reduction in injuries. While a city’s primary concern should always be the health and safety of the public and the firefighter or police officer, policies that can significantly reduce worker’s compensation claims and expense should also be of great concern for cities.

Cities should promote a culture of physical fitness for police officers and firefighters, encouraging them to stay fit and exercise regularly. Many cities provide incentives for officers and firefighters, such as providing free weights and workout/exercise machines in locker rooms or providing free memberships to local gyms or athletic centers. Many fire departments allow firefighters to engage in physical fitness activities while on-duty. The Insurance Services Office (ISO), the agency that rates community fire protection, will allow training credit for physical fitness activities under Section 580B, company training, of the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule.