CPF, CalChiefs, Cal-EMA Agree: Pack Test Falls Short as Fitness Test
California’s new Emergency Management Agency (Cal-EMA) has joined with labor and management to reject efforts to impose an inadequate physical ability test on both incoming and incumbent firefighters.
In a joint statement, Cal-EMA, CPF and the California Fire Chiefs Association (CalChiefs) conclude that the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s “Pack Test” can’t and shouldn’t be used as a “fit for duty” test.
“The Pack Test is a measure of an individual’s ‘work capacity,’ not their ability to do his or her job successfully,” reads the statement.
The NWGC developed the Pack Test as a way to demonstrate the level of work capacity needed for wildland firefighting positions. But it falls short of NFPA firefighter fitness standards (NFPA 1021, 1051, 1582 and 1583) as well as the Joint Labor-Management Wellness Fitness Initiative (WFI) in determining fitness for duty.
“Fire departments impose a false sense of security that is tied to the Pack Test as an indicator of fitness for duty,” said the joint statement.
Of even greater concern to public safety is the potential impact a Pack Test implementation could have on the state mutual aid system. By creating a patchwork testing system instead of recognized national standards, implementing the Pack Test could delay mutual aid response or even preclude some departments from responding.
Rather than implementing the Pack Test, the California fire service leaders believe our state should maintain a verifiable and job-related performance standard that complies with NFPA standards. The WFI is that complete package and should be the model for any physical fitness standard in the state.
The joint statement is signed by Kim Zagaris, Cal-EMA’s Fire and Rescue Chief, Sheldon Gilbert, president of CalChiefs, and CPF President Lou Paulson.