Editor's Note: Norfolk Fire Chief Jeffrey Wise responded to an article written by the Virginian-Pilot that we published on Thursday.
As the fire chief in Norfolk, I would like to provide some additional information related to the Thursday morning story on firefighter fitness testing in Norfolk Fire-Rescue (NFR). No NFR member participates in the essential functions of the annual Incumbent Physical Ability Evaluation (IPAE) unless they are medically declared fit for duty and have had a city sponsored medical physical within the past 12 months.
More than 15 years ago, NFR started comprehensive annual medical physical examinations that meet the industry standard measure under National Fire Protection Association (NFPA-1582). Included in the annual physical is a standard approach to evaluating / discovering potential cardiac issues. If the testing reveals potential issues, the firefighter is sent for more extensive testing.
In 1999, a fitness test was developed and validated by Human Performance Systems. This test is used to assess the fitness level for citizens wishing to become a Norfolk firefighter.
The IPAE implemented in 2012 for active firefighters closely mirrors this applicant test. The primary difference is that the active member is expected to wear firefighting clothing rather than the weighted vest used by an applicant. All test times in the IPAE are extended as compared to the times for an applicant.
I must ensure that every time a Norfolk citizen calls 911, our firefighters are mentally and physically prepared to perform their job. When those calls come, we must be ready to put our training to work and save lives.
In addition to this responsibility, I take seriously the health and well-being of our firefighters. I want everyone to go home to their families at the end of their work day. Maintaining a fit and healthy firefighting force helps in accomplishing these goals.