Becoming a Firefighter: The Candidate Physical Ability Test
Firefighting is a physically demanding profession. It requires flexibility, cardiopulmonary stamina, and muscular strength and endurance.
Most municipalities administer firefighter physical ability exams to ensure that candidates possess the physical capabilities to perform the duties of the firefighter efficiently and safely. The tasks that make up the physical ability exam are designed to measure a person's stamina, agility, strength, and coordination. Regular exercise and proper nutrition are very important in maintaining overall health and the ability to train for and pass the physical firefighter tests. Candidates should also practice the specific skills that are part of the exam.
Many municipalities have adopted the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT). This test, which was established as a joint venture by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), consists of a sequence of eight separate events along a predetermined path. When administered correctly, the CPAT allows fire departments to obtain a pool of trainable candidates who are physically able to perform fireground activities.
Municipalities that do not use CPAT have historically conducted physical ability exams designed to evaluate similar attributes. Running, jumping, lifting weighted objects, handgrip strength, balance, agility, endurance, and overall conditioning are some of the areas measured. Be advised that it is in the best interest of a municipality looking for new recruits to formulate a physical ability test that clearly demonstrates applicability to the job of firefighting.
This article focuses on the CPAT and provides a brief discussion of ways to prepare for the CPAT through several exercise and fitness programs.
Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) Events
The CPAT is a pass/fail test of eight sequential events to be completed in a maximum total time of 10 minutes and 20 seconds. CPAT events require the candidate to wear a 50-pound vest to simulate the weight of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and personal protective clothing (PPE). Throughout all events, candidates must wear long pants, hardhat, work gloves, and footwear. The sequential events include:
Ladder raise and extension
Ceiling breach and pull
The eight events are performed in a logical sequence that simulates the duties performed on the fireground, but the test allows for an 85-foot walk to recover between events. The stair climb, hose drag, and equipment carry are the preliminary steps required to begin fighting a fire. The ladder raise and forcible entry constitute the beginning of interior firefighting operations. The search and r escue events follow, simulating life-saving techniques and abilities. The final event, ceiling breach and pull, mirrors overhaul (looking for hidden fire) operations that are commonly performed subsequent to the fire being extinguished.
As stated previously, all eight events must be completed within the 10 minute and 20-second time frame of the test. If the candidate does not complete the events within that time frame, he or she fails the test.
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