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I am an EMT-1 student at Foothill College in Palo Alto, California. I'm within 2 classes in obtaining my EMT-1 (basic) certification. Here's my question, which will dtermine if I should go forward or choose a different career. Is it required to have NORMAL COLOR
VISION to pass most fire department's physical exams?

San Jose F.D., for example, requires that candidates have normal color vision. I can't pass the Ishahara color dot test, typically given to measure normal color vision. I'm trying to get into a class that I need this week which is full but I won't continue if color blindness is an issue in the future when I take the physical.

I would appreciate your prompt response to this question because it will save me alot of time and money if this condition will be a problem.

Thank you,

Tim Hartman
(650) 571-8565
Sincerely, Tim Hartman


Welcome to the Firecareers Bulletin Board. First and foremost, kudos to you for obtaining EMT certification, a skillset that will come in handy in many life scenarios.

Your interest in becoming a member of the Fire Service is commendable, and one that you may be able to attain. While many career positions in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services do indeed demand good eyesight and broad-spectrum color recognition, there are some agencies and many Fire Service positions in which this may not be a critical factor.

The first thing for you to do is determine *where* you might be willing to work. I'm speaking regionally. If family commitments, other life activities and concerns about climate, etc. are key factors, then you may only have a short-list of agencies to which to apply. If you are willing or interested in setting your roots on another part of this great planet, then your opportunities can multiply.

Once you have your short list of agencies, become intimately familiar with their standards and testing practices. If you can honestly say that you are not endangering yourself or others - and pass *their* test, then the issue of your color vision becomes a moot point.

If on the other hand, you are not able to pursue an active "front-line" responder role, please consider some of the many important support roles that combine your other interests and the Fire Service. From meteorology and computer science, to forestry or zoological science, there are many opportunities in North America to work with and/or alongside Urban/Suburban/Rural/Wildland Firefighters in our truly dynamic mission. Maybe your love of a rural environment and other life opportunities will bring you and your family to live in one of the many communities served by Volunteer Fire Departments, where your role may not be so severely limited.

No matter what you do Tim, don't give up! Your dream may at this moment be a diamond in the rough, but like that soon to be brilliant jewel, your desired future career has many, many facets. There are no right or wrong doors, only the ones you choose!

Your situation is not uncommon. Please let us know what and how you do. By sharing your experience, you can be helping many others.


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This message was edited by lafdpso on 9-28-03 @ 12:38 PM

Hello Brian -

Thanks for your reply and that's encouraging and matches what Curt at Firehire told me - that normal color vision, without deficiencies, may only be the requirement at a few agencies, but not all.

So, I am going to complete the remaining two classes I need to get an EMT-1 certification, apply at several Bay Area departments and see what happens.

- Tim Hartman
Sincerely, Tim Hartman

Hey Tim,
Let me give you another scenario which MIGHT play out if you are unable to pass the dot test. Some depts may then elect to send you to a specialist to give you another round of testing [ in this case, vision ]. One of the tests they may give you as an alternative is one where [ sorry , I dont remember the name of it ] they have blocks [ maybe 10-15 ] and they will start out with a color [ the one I had was purple ] and another is blue. The rest of the blocks are reds, oranges, etc. They are all scattered on a table top and your job is to assort them from purple to blue with all the other colors in between in a shade order which you think is most correct. When putting them in `order`, you set them in a tray similiar to a socket set holder, so when done , it will look like a set of colored square sockets. That is my experience with not passing the color portion of the vision test and given another opportunity by a specialist. Hope this sheds some more light on what has been said in the posts above. Good luck and dont get discouraged. There IS a dept. out there for ya where this wont be an issue !
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