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Fat Firefighters Need Not Worry: Body Mass Index Not an Issue in Florida

| April 30, 2013

firefighters-bmi-weightThe Florida House rejected an amendment on Monday that would have required firefighters to watch their body mass index if they wanted to keep their job. In a voice vote, the House rejected the amendment that would have required all firefighters to keep their BMI at 25 or under.

Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, proposed firefighters have their BMI tested every four years as an additional requirement to existing physical agility testing. “Right now we’ve got firefighters who are physically fit, with a BMI of 25 or less, that are being asked to do above and beyond the work of those who are not able to do it,” Adkins said. But a number of representatives expressed concern about the BMI rating system because it doesn’t calculate fitness of individuals, and can be misleading, particularly with highly muscular people.

Curiously, the amendment did not address the weight issues of police or law enforcement personnel. (“Mike and Molly,” a popular television show on CBS, currently features a morbidly obese character who works for the Chicago Police Department.)

BMI divides an individual’s weight in pounds by height in inches squared and then multiplied by 703. A rating below 18.5 is deemed underweight, from 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. At a BMI of 30 and above, the individual is considered obese. A 5-foot, 9-inch person is considered overweight when weighing between 169 pounds and 202 pounds, and obese when heavier than that. (Calculate your BMI here.)

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7 percent) and approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese. The CDC does not track weight proportions among firefighters. The rate in Florida is 26 percent, according to self-reported numbers.

The amendment was proposed for a measure (SB 1410) that refines the duties of the State Fire Marshal, and among other changes would make it a felony to impersonate a volunteer firefighter. No final vote was taken on the underlying bill; that is expected on Tuesday.

–FlaglerLive and the News Service of Florida

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15 Responses for “Fat Firefighters Need Not Worry: Body Mass Index Not an Issue in Florida”

  1. Gia says:

    How do you expect these guys to do their job properly when they are fat?? We should have rules if they want to keep the job.

    • Let the Truth be Told says:

      I agree there should be standards they must pass, but BMI is a joke!!!! It has no account for muscle and body fat. It’s based on weight and height, and someone with a muscular frame would be borderline or obese according to this scale.

    • RG says:

      Most of the Fire fighters that are Fat are the Fire Chiefs and they usually dont participate in hands on firefighting operations so dont worry too much about it Gia.

    • james says:

      Fat and high BMI are two different things. Many people can have a high BMI but when you look at them they are “built” and full of muscle. So sure, have a fitness test if you want but I think you’re going to have to have some incentive pay for those that pass. The pennies public safety get paid now is not enough to fit your healthy, fit, low BMI model. How about our congressmen have BMI checks to hold office?

  2. Umm says:

    They don’t get paid enough for that!

  3. r&r says:

    Gia good post. The same should hold true for law enforcement. That’s why you see those suvs because some of them can’t fit behind the wheel of a car..

  4. GoodFella says:

    ‘You cannot use BMI for everyone. A individual that is 5’9″ may weigh almost 200lbs but be solid muscle and have a BMI of 30 on a chart. They should use body fat content to regulate this. Now a skinny guy may be healthy according to the BMI and be too weak to carry a hose or someone in need of help to get out of a fire. So it works both ways.

  5. The Man! says:

    As long as they do the job, does it really matter folks? Really, get a life people! By the way you see those “Fat ones” doing the job without a problem now, so now what do you got to say its based on looks, like that one cheerleader that got bashed?

  6. devrie says:

    Don’t they have physical readiness tests? In the Navy, one had to pass the physical readiness test and weight, but if someone was over the weight limit, then that person had to submit to a bodyfat percentage.

    How can someone do his job if he’s fat? Remember, we aren’t simply talking about roly-polies here. Being considered over the optimal BMI doesn’t necessarily mean that person is lazy, lethargic or weak. The person may even have body fat that overlies enough muscle to give him a good amount of strength. I would surmise that such a person would only be considered mildly obese. It’s easy to wonder someone who looks like Gov. Chris Christie could be a firefighter, but a guy who is 5’10” and weighs 195 lbs wouldn’t make the benchmark for this proposal. If he actually has some muscle, he’d probably be in better shape than someone under the BMI with less muscle mass.

    There has to be a better way to determine fitness levels outside of a BMI of under 25. I would imagine firefighters would have to be fairly strong, and for that, we’d kind of want them to be relatively lean, but they should have a slightly higher BMI than average, really.

  7. Adkins Diet says:

    Funny how politicians are always looking to regulate everyone’s job but not one of them will do anything to reign in their own stupidity.

  8. JL says:

    I agree that Firefighters should be in somewhat good physical shape. The same for law enforcement officials. I think they should have to undergo a PT test similar to the military. There are some cities where they allow their firefighters and police to get as fat as they want. Then when it comes time to fight a fire, who is the first one to drop? The one that has to be carried out of a burning building after just 2 minutes, can’t climb the stairs, much less rescue a person and carry them down the stairs? The fat firefighter. They are the ones most likely to suffer a heart attack while at a fire. Same should be for police. If you have to run down a suspect, you’re not doing it with 80 extra pounds around the middle.
    Some cities, like Orange County California, insist on their firefighters being in top physical shape. I think that should be a requirement for all cities. Enough with sitting around, eating donuts all day, waiting on the call. You have time, and a lot of firehouses have some type of work out equipment. Use it. And how about trading that donut for a banana?

  9. DP says:

    Really people we have nothing better than to continue to bash the Fire service, and the Men and Women who proudly serve, and are willing to lay their life on the line for some they don’t even know???
    It’s not always the “FAT” ones that are the first ones to drop on calls, I have seen the best of shape drop well before any others. Just like the best athletes in the world drop like flies.

    You make me sick to my stomach. I bet the haters and nay Sayers have never set foot inside a Fire house, let alone even tried on the gear they use. So before you join the idiots in Tallahassee and continually bash stop and think what they want done. If it was being done to you by LAW would it be right for you????????? I think not!!!!!!!
    If this doesn’t make sense, it’s because this kind of crap has got to stop, it chaps me so bad that I can’t think or see straight. This doesn’t have any business with the elected morons or to be placed in the statues. WHAT NEXT ?????
    Get a Life

  10. RG says:

    Each individual firefighter has his or her limits. And they are always aware of those limits. These limits determines wether an emergency event ‘s outcome concludes in a safe and sucessfull job. Because they consider each other in most part brothers in common and more a family. Its not just a job.50 percent getting ready and 50 percent on the run. Oh yes the best job in the world and it dont matter if your a little plump everyone is allowed to play in the sand box.

  11. Deep South says:

    It really depends on where you live. If a fire fighter lives near the Ocean he should be an excellent swimmer, if he lives in a big city he should be able to climb high story buildings without hesitation, if he lives in mountainous areas he should be able to run many miles with full gear.

  12. JJ says:

    If people want Firefighters to be in the same shape as professional athletes, maybe they should push to pay them the same!

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