Firefighter Vision Requirements (Do you Need Perfect Vision?)

Firefighting is already a dangerous job before considering the physical requirements you must meet to even get to serve in a department. There are certain standards each candidate must meet or beat before becoming a fully fledged firefighter—vision acuity being one. 

Do you need perfect vision to become a firefighter? 

Perfect vision is not required to become a firefighter. All candidates are required to pass an eye exam and meet certain vision standards, which can vary from department to department. 

Although actual guidelines may vary, a national organization has set aside standards that many fire departments follow. Read on to find out more about those standards and other requirements you may have to meet to become a firefighter. 

What are the typical vision guidelines?

Firefighter Vision Requirements (Do you need perfect vision?)

The vision guidelines can vary from department to department, but most of them are based on the National Fire Protection Association guidelines. The non-profit organization helps to set standards for fire safety, and many departments follow those guidelines set by the NFPA. While they are not mandatory, they are widely accepted as the best practices for a fire department. 

The NFPA categorizes any standards into Category A and Category B. Category A means a candidate is unfit for service, while Category B means a candidate can become a firefighter is certain tasks can be performed correctly.

Category A: Disqualifying Traits

When it comes to vision, the standards state that anyone with the far visual acuity worse than 20/40 binocular with glasses or contacts, corrected or 20/100 binocular with hard contacts or glasses or soft contact wearers, uncorrected falls into Category A. Basically, if you have worse than 20/40 vision with correction or 20/100 without correction, you are disqualified. 

Firefighter Vision Requirements (Do you need perfect vision?)

In terms of near visual acuity, all candidates must have more than 20/100 binocular vision, corrected or uncorrected. 

If you are completely colorblind and cannot see color through a thermal imaging camera, can only see out of one eye, have poor depth perception, have peripheral vision that is less than 110 degrees, have any condition affecting peripheral vision, or are night blind, you are also disqualified. 

Category B: Traits That May Not Disqualify 

Certain diseases may not completely disqualify you from becoming a firefighter, such as retinal detachment. If you suffer from a disease like retinal detachment and get it repaired, you can still be considered to become a firefighter; Lasik procedure does not take you out of the running either. 

Sometimes the peripheral vision issue can be overlooked, depending on the department. 

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Other Physical Requirements

Firefighter Vision Requirements (Do you need perfect vision?)

Besides vision requirements, there are few auditory conditions that may prevent you from becoming a firefighter, which include having vertigo or impaired balance, have any sort of hearing loss worse than 40 dB at several levels of hertz, or any hearing condition that may cause you to be unable to safely perform your duties. While this may seem very general, having good hearing is a must for firefighters and not meeting these requirements are grounds for disqualification. 

There are a few hearing conditions that fall into Category B, including passing a hearing test, having any sort of surgical procedure to help your hearing, stenosis, chronic ear inflammation or infection, tinnitus, or unequal hearing lose. While these do not automatically disqualify you, you will have to prove you can meet the essential requirements. 

On top of hearing and visual requirements, all candidates must past a physical fitness test that includes but is not limited to climbing, lifting, running, and using a fire hose, all under stressful conditions. 

Firefighter Vision Requirements (Do you need perfect vision?)

Firefighters are also disqualified based on any illegal drug use, including prescription drug abuse. Depending on state law, departments can also disqualify you if you have used tobacco within a year of applying for the position. 

Another possible physical disqualification for firefighter candidates is tattoos or piercings that are visible when wearing a department uniform. 

14 Essential Tasks

Firefighter Vision Requirements (Do you need perfect vision?)

When considering Category B, there are 14 tasks that you would have to prove you can do in order to qualify. These tasks are typically taught and drilled during a firefighting academy, where you will learn to exceed these requirements. 

Those tasks include: 

  1. Perform firefighting tasks in stressful conditions wearing full gear
  2. Climb fights of stairs in full gear and tools
  3. Wear full gear and tolerate high body temperatures and dehydration
  4. Work solo in full gear doing search and rescue in low visibility
  5. Tolerate exposure to toxic or infectious substances
  6. Pull hoses over obstacles in full gear
  7. Climb ladders, function at heights, crawl in small spaces around hazards
  8. Tolerate a very physical, very unpredictable schedule 
  9. Operate a firetruck
  10. Make decisions while in time-sensitive, dangerous situations
  11. Communicate while in full gear with poor visibility
  12. Work as a team
  13. Work long shifts
  14. Wear a self-contained breathing apparatus without difficulty

These tasks can vary from department to department, but these are generally what you will have to prove you can do when joining a fire department. 

Vision issues are not an automatic disqualification for an aspiring firefighter. If you have contacts or glasses and meet the requirements, you are already well on your way to becoming a first responder. Be sure to check with your local department to see what requirements they have before taking your next step. 

RELATED QUESTIONS

Can you become a paramedic if you’re colorblind?

While it varies from department to department, most fire departments while require you meet certain criteria if you are color blind before you can be hired. In most situations, if you can drive a vehicle in your state, you will be able to work as a paramedic. Check in with your local departments to see their requirements. 

 Can I wear glasses or contact lenses as a firefighter?

Yes, you can wear glasses or contact lenses when serving as a firefighter. According to the standards set by the National Fire Protection Association, both contacts and glasses are considered corrective and can help you pass the vision qualifying section of the candidates’ medical exam.

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.