Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Origins of the Firefighter Combat Challenge

From time to time, the question comes to me, be it in a TV interview, or just a new Competitor: “Where did this (meaning the Firefighter Combat Challenge®) come from?” 

Short answer: “This is the only federally funded, University-based, occupational physiology research study that became an international touring and televised sport.”

The Sports Medicine Center of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health was the recipient of a grant from the predecessor of FEMA.  

In cooperation with the Fire Training Officer’s sub-committee of the Greater Washington DC Council of Governments (GOG) I conducted a JTA (job task analysis). This is the process whereby essential functions of the position (firefighter) are identified and quantified. Our criteria were a search for arduous, frequently performed or critical tasks. Critical means that failure could result in injury or death. 

The validity of the five linked tasks is evident with the world-wide acceptance and promulgation of the Challenge. There are professional and legal standards that must be met to withstand the rigor of publication in peer-reviewed journals. The results of our study were published in the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise).  But beyond a competition, the higher standard is being able to defend against legal challenges when the arduous nature of the profession has a disparate impact on “protected classes.” 

And then there’s a lot of steps from a research study to the development of a copyrighted, trademarked competition and all of the intricacies associated with over 60,000 participants spanning nearly three decades. 

While imitation is the highest form of flattery, it is disconcerting when your intellectual property is hijacked and represented to be the creation of their own. Simply stated, there is no form of firefighter testing or competition involving a tower, forcible entry, hose advance and a victim rescue that is not a derivative of the Firefighter Combat Challenge®. 

My vision for the Challenge is that there is only one right way to run this event. When people start to change the fundamentals, we lose respect for the objectivity of the event. There’s only one 440 yard dash and the performance time has universal credibility.