In a somewhat controversial move, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) has dropped the physical test requirement for probationary firefighters. The move was done in part to increase the number of female members in FDNY.
From the New York Post:
The Fire Department has stopped requiring probationary firefighters to pass a job-related physical-skills test before getting hired — a move that critics derided as a lowering of standards.
The move by first-year Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, which allows probies to fail components of the Functional Skills Training test but still graduate from the Fire Academy, comes amid criticism of the department’s low hiring rate of women.
Out of FNDY's 10,500 firefighters, just 44 are women. Only 57 percent of females pass the physical test, compared to 95 percent of males. The physical test involves, among other things, moving a tire six to eight feet and climbing up a ladder wearing an oxygen tank with a small amount of oxygen.
This, frankly, scares me. If I were trapped in a burning building, I wouldn't care if the person tasked with saving me were a man, a woman, or a genderless robot--my main concern would be their ability to carry me to safety. It's also highly unlikely that physical fitness tests are the only reason for the disparity of the sex ratio in firefighters. Call me crazy, but if I were a mother with children, I personally wouldn't seek out a job that required me to regularly risk my life and run into a burning building.
FDNY's commissioner should be concerned about two things: keeping firefighters safe, and being able to extinguish fires quickly and efficiently to protect the public. Dropping physical tests (or allowing people who go beyond the time required to stay in the program) is not advancing either of those goals.