Becoming a Firefighter: Training for the Candidate Physical Ability Test
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.
Event 1: Stair Climb
This event simulates the carrying of one length of bundled hose up flights of stairs. When operating at fires, firefighters often climb stairs and ladders wearing full PPE and carrying equipment.
This event challenges the candidate's aerobic capacity, lower body muscular endurance, and balance. Running, fast walking, stair stepping, use of a tread-mill, swimming, and bicycling enhance aerobic capability. Follow an exercise program to strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles, and the lower back stabilizers.
Perform an actual stair-stepping exercise at the base of a staircase. Use the first step of the staircase to perform 24 complete stepping cycles within a one-minute period. A stepping cycle consists of stepping up with one foot, then the other, and down with one foot, then the other. Alternate your starting foot from right to left. Try to complete two stepping cycles within a five-second period. Step continuously for five minutes. As your fitness improves, complete a second and third five-minute exercise interspersed with several minutes of recovery time. Begin to add weight to your waist by using a knapsack while performing these step exercises. Gradually increase the weight around your waist to 50 pounds. Eventually, try carrying 10-to 15-pound dumbbells in each hand, in addition to the 50 pounds around your waist. At this stage of your training, reduce the duration of the exercise intervals to three minutes.
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