5 Immediate Disqualifiers For Aspiring Firefighters


what disqualifies you from being a firefighter

Everyone knows that becoming a firefighter can be a long process, but knowing what disqualifies you from being a firefighter is just as important to know as what makes you a great candidate. 

If you are an aspiring firefighter out there, this may apply to you. In this article, I want to discuss some of the factors that fire chiefs and hiring panels look at when evaluating you as a firefighter candidate. 

So, what disqualifies you from being a firefighter?

  • Lack of physical fitness
  • Drug use
  • Extensive criminal history
  • Extensive driving expenses
  • Dishonorable discharge from the military

There are potentially endless reasons why you would want to become a firefighter. You’d be hard pressed to find a job as rewarding as firefighting.

Rewards and other money incentives aside, saving lives is arguably the best reason you perhaps would love to pursue a career in firefighting. You become an integral part of your community, a highly trusted professional who prevents major property damage, prevents potential fire tragedies and saves lives.

Just like any other career, several factors are important in the recruitment process of firefighting. This includes things such as your fitness, criminal history, references, your past experience, how you perform in your firefighter interview and more. 

And this implies that as an aspiring firefighter, your failure to pass these tests could easily result in your automatic disqualification. All these requirements imply that you can easily be disqualified for conditions, actions or behaviors deemed to physically or morally impair your overall performance.

Physical Fitness (or lack of…)

Firefighting is a very physically demanding job. This means that if you are an aspiring fireman, you must possess an incredible amount of stamina, strength, and endurance to perform in an emergency.

If you are someone who enjoys taking part in physical activities and staying fit, then you’ll definitely have a leg up on the other candidates.

Consequently, if you don’t enjoy physical activity, you are in for a rude awakening if you get hired.

Most fire departments boast high-end workout equipment and firefighters are always encouraged to work out daily. Running, lifting weights and playing sports is an excellent way to stay fit as a crew.

Typical examples of medical conditions that could easily disqualify you from fulfilling your dream of becoming a firefighter include those that need treatment with steroids or narcotics, as well as heart conditions and poorly managed diabetes.

During the application process, as an aspiring firefighter, must explain any physical ailments that might keep you from carrying out your job effectively. You will also be required to pass physical test as well as medical tests to verify that you are fit, healthy and ready to go.

Whereas the medical exams are uniform across the United States of America and are conducted under the National Fire Protection Association’s Codes and regulations, fitness tests and requirements usually vary, depending on the state or fire department you are applying at.

In general, the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), is the standard examination for gauging an aspiring firefighter’s capability to tackle both the mental and physical responsibilities that come with being a fireman.

This is a timed exam that is used to measure how one can different physical tasks or functions that firefights would encounter in real-life.

These usually involve carrying or removing equipment from fire apparatus to the fire ground, hose drag, forcible entry, ladder raise and pull, search, as well as stair climb.

Your failure to pass any of these tests or improper handling of any fire equipment used during the assessment usually gets you disqualified for a specific period until you are eligible to retake the test and pass it.

It goes without saying that if you are unable to pass multiple portions of the test you will be disqualified from being hired as a firefighter.

History of Extensive Drug Use

There are some jobs for which sobriety is not negotiable. Firefighting is arguably one of these jobs.

Probably because the tasks involved in firefighting are highly demanding both mentally and physically. It is a job that can be extremely stressful and dangerous due to the exposure to flames, high temperatures, deadly. This is both dangerous and life-threatening, even for the most clearheaded and experienced professionals.

Today, drug screening is part of the hiring process at almost every fire department in the country. And a history of drug abuse usually disqualifies one from becoming a fireman, regardless of whether you are in a position to perform the tasks or not.

Any conviction for inappropriate or illegal possession of drugs, whether nonprescription or prescription will probably result in an automatic disqualification.

During the hiring process, at some point, you will be asked to honestly admit if you have ever used illegal drugs.

Subsequent drug tests will also be carried out just to ensure that you don’t test positive for any recent drug use. Your use of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and other similar drugs, as well as your abuse of prescription drugs and anabolic steroids automatically disqualifies you from getting hired.

It also includes convictions for the possession or sale of illegal drugs in the recent past. Abuse of alcohol that causes you to behave improperly will also result in disqualification.

It is important to note that the use of tobacco within a year of making an application as a firefighter is a disqualifying factor at some departments as well.

In general, prospective firefighters must show no sign of illegal drug use within two years before testing. Equally, you must not show any sign of drug dependency after a drug examination.

Any illegal drug usage beyond two years is usually evaluated on a case by case basis depending on the department at which you are applying.

However, it should be noted that an individual who has abused marijuana is usually not eliminated unless he/she used the drug in recent history.

This could be for several reasons including a more recent shift in public sentiment towards marijuana as well as the fact that most people at some point in their lifetime have used marijuana in some form.

In most fire departments, the admission of illegal use of marijuana five or fewer times or simply experimentation within the last two years would lead to temporary disqualification for a time, after which prospective fireman will need to submit another application.

Consequently, if you might have used marijuana more than five times in the last five years, you may be disqualified permanently.

However, if it is found that you have used one or more of the following drugs, you will probably be permanently disqualified from joining most fire departments.

  • PCP.
  • LSD.
  • Cocaine.
  • Heroin.
  • Ketamine.
  • OxyContin.
  • Methamphetamine.

Extensive Criminal History

Keeping in mind that firemen have the responsibility of saving lives and property, the screening process is usually very demanding and specific. Some numerous requirements and restrictions stand in your way. And a criminal record is just one of them.

A serious misdemeanor charge or felony as an adult can prevent an aspiring firefighter from joining the fire service.

Some fire departments are also known to disqualify former juvenile offenders. It is also importnat to note that past offenses deemed to be acts of moral turpitude are disqualification tools used by most fire departments.

You can also be disqualified for crimes that you admit to, but have not been punished. Admission of these crimes usually occur during polygraph tests or the firefighter interview.

During your time of application, you must not be a wanted person by any law enforcement agency or be under indictment for any type of criminal offense.

Multiple Driving Offenses

While this can vary greatly depending on the department and their rules/regulations the more driving offenses you have the less your chances of getting hired.

Driving under the influence of alcohol will disqualify you from becoming a fireman for at least a few years.

Some fire departments operate on a zero-tolerance policy in matters related to DUIs and similar convictions. It only means that if you have been charged with a previous DUI, you should find out what the departments rules are on the subject.

A DUI conviction does not look good on your driving record and will only hinder your chances of becoming a fireman.

Other severe driving offenses such as fleeing from an accident scene, reckless driving as well as any other offense that leads to suspension of your driving license are usually treated similarly to driving under the influence.

With a poor driving record in your history, your application will always be deferred until you can demonstrate at least two years of overall improved driving.

It is also imperative to note that other driving offenses such as inability or failure to maintain insurance, may also disqualify you from the job.

Dishonorable Discharge from The Military

Prospective firemen who have served their country in the military usually have a huge advantage over those who haven’t.

Generally, it is believed that although military veterans may not possess as many certifications as the other regular candidates, they offer so much more thanks to their level of experience.

Aspiring firefighters with military backgrounds are usually more mature, regardless of their age. What’s more, they are physically fit and understand the need for commitment as well as the need to work as a team.

When you are discharged from the military service, there are a number of ways this can happen.   You can be discharged honorably, for medical reasons, dishonorably and so on. 

However, the type of discharge you get significantly affects the quality of life you will get as a civilian. A dishonorable military discharge will almost always automatically bar you from becoming a firefighter.

If you didn’t know, an individual with this type of discharge was more than likely found guilty for committing some kind of crime or dishonorable act during their time in the military.

So, if you are former military with a dishonorable discharge, just know that you cannot own a firearm, you are not entitled to any benefits and you are likely to have massive problems securing a job in civilian society.

The firefighting community would not usually be interested in hiring someone with a dishonorable discharge.

Finally, it’s important to mention that this is not a comprehensive list of everything that could get you disqualified from the hiring process. Each department is different, and part of those differences are the hiring criteria. 

Use this list as the bare minimum and do your best to keep you record as clean as possible. 

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