Firefighters vs. Physical Fitness


Firefighters in Plano, Texas who are considered unfit are being asked to shape up or they may be asked to ship out. Plano Fire Chief Hugo Esparza is pushing that the departments waistline-challenged shape up or face a desk reassignment or possible termination if they do not comply or fail to slim down within a year.

Chief Esparza is looking out for the health and safety of his department but he has his own obstacle: the firefighters union. The union supports the goal however they feel that some of the requirements are over the top and would prefer to reward firefighters for good fitness. The annual fitness tests would include monitoring body fat, strength and heart health according to age and gender.

“Firefighters are certainly not the poster children for nutrition, and we’re all for improving health, but obviously, we’re never happy about having our jobs on the line” felt Scott Kerr, president of the Plano Firefighters Association.

While responding to emergency calls firefighters lug heavy rescue equipment and medical supplies on them however when they’re idle at the station it’s not as if they can take a jog around the block.

National studies suggest that firefighters are up to three times more likely to have heart problems than the general public. Firefighters also have to contend with stress, abnormal sleep habits and long shifts waiting on the next call.

To encourage physical activity the city of Plano is investing millions in exercise equipment and gym space at its 12 fire stations. In addition, supervisors will be required to extend staff at least one hour of workout time per shift.

Plano isn’t the first department to incorporate a fitness regimen. Dallas phased in a policy after a number of firefighters died of heart attacks in the 1990s. Carrollton, Irving and Farmers Branch are also on the health bandwagon.

Is it out of line for Plano to take these fitness measures? Should physical fitness standards be a job requirement?