It is important for fire department employees to be physically and medically fit to do their job. This is why firefighters periodically undergo a new job-specific examination. In order to realise this, nine employees of the CN Fire Department (Brandweer Korps CN, hereinafter BCKN) were trained as test leaders for the Periodic Preventive Medical Examination. This examination takes place annually at at the Fire Department. All nine employees, one from Saba, three from St. Eustatius and five from Bonaire, passed the exam and are now qualified test leaders. Ellen Buskens, the national coordinator/teacher from the Netherlands, has trained them and also administered the exam. The new test leaders are now authorised to administer the tests to other colleagues.
Work of a test leader
The work of a test leader comprises assessing objectively whether the participants meet the physical requirements of the new fire department examinations. The exam comprises two components, namely questionnaires and a medical examination which is administered by an occupational medical officer. The physical test is administered by a test leader The assessment of the entire examination is performed by the occupational medical officer.
Fire Department staff must undergo the physical part of this new fire department examination annually. During the physical test the employees must run an obstacle course in full gear with compressed air, during which they have to perform all kinds of physical activities which the fire department may face during actual deployment. They subsequently have to climb 100 stair steps in full gear wearing an extra lead vest (total gear of 45 kilogrammes) within two minutes. This physical test is purely to demonstrate that the employees’ level of fitness is adequate to do their job properly. The same requirements apply to all male and female firefighters because they have to do the same work during actual deployment. This is important for the safety of the colleagues but also for the citizens of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius.
Physical fitness at desired level
Employees themselves are responsible for maintaining physical fitness. On Bonaire they can do this in the gym at the Fire Station. On the Windward Islands they can visit the gyms on Saba and St. Eustatius. In order to whip firefighters into shape and to maintain this physical fitness, the department uses a sports instructor and periodically also a lifestyle coach.
The teacher Ellen Buskens was very enthusiastic about the trainees. It was a very pleasant and unique experience for her. “Never before have I had the pleasure of teaching a group which was so well prepared,” Buskens says. She was pleasantly surprised that everything went so well.
The Fire Department continues to invest in its personnel because it highly values safety.