Firefighters in Blackpool tried out a tough new training exercise - against the clock.
In a move away from the more traditional bleep test, crews instead completed a role-based challenge, which involved dragging dummy casualties to safety, carrying and unreeling lengths of hose, and short shuttle runs – all while wearing heavy kit.
Among those put through their paces was community protection manager for Blackpool and Fylde, Phil Jones, who whizzed his way around the course in 9.45 minutes, well inside the standard of 11.11 set by bosses. Speaking from Blackpool’s fire station, close to Stanley Park, he said: “It was very difficult.
“In my normal day-to-day role I would be incident commander rather than doing these tasks, but you never know where we will be one day, so we have to be able and competent and of the same level of fitness.”
Firefighters, who now face working to 60 instead of 55 following a relatively recent increase in retirement age, are tested on their fitness annually.
This latest exercise, developed by the Chief Fire Officers Association and the University of Bath, was launched last week and will be rolled out in Lancashire from April.
Racing against the clock, crews will carry shuttle bells 200m, put on specialist breathing kit as fast as possible, extend a hose reel and bight (rope) 25m, drag a ‘casualty’ 50m, take their breathing kit back off again, run 200m, carry two hoses 75m before rolling them out, run a further 50m, carry and roll out the hoses again, before running another 200m.
The county’s deputy chief fire officer, Justin Johnson, is the national lead officer for firefighter fitness.
He said: “It’s a test across the board, but we are keen to make sure our fire fighters are as fit as they can be because they have longer careers.
“I think if the firefighters are competitive about it [the new exercise] and are doing it regularly, then it will increase their fitness, but in Lancashire the levels of fitness are already very good.”
And Mr Jones added: “Even though we are an ageing work force, we are fitter too. It’s good for our future.”
Mr Johnstone said the fire service is now developing fitness programmes for female firefighters, who may experience the menopause in the twilight of their careers. Historically, fewer women joined the service and retired earlier than is now the case.