Becoming a Firefighter: Training for the Candidate Physical Ability Test (page 4)
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.
Event 2: Hose Drag
This event simulates firefighters stretching and deploying hose lines from the fire apparatus into the fire building and around many obstacles (doorways, furniture, stairwells) inside the building while maintaining a low posture.
This event requires enhancing both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems of the body, as well as strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, lower back stabilizers, biceps, deltoids, upper back, and forearm and hand (grip) muscles.
Attach 50 feet of rope to a weighted duffel bag. Place the rope over your shoulder and drag the duffle bag (resistance) 75 feet while running or walking quickly. Immediately drop to one knee and rapidly but steadily pull the rope hand-over-hand to bring the duffle bag to your body. Perform 8 to 10 repetitions of this event sequence exercise, with a two-minute recovery time between repetitions. As fitness improves, increase weight resistance to 60–80 pounds.
Event 3: Equipment Carry
This event simulates removing tools and equipment from the apparatus and carrying them to and from a point of operation.
This event requires enhancing the aerobic energy system of the body, as well as strengthening the biceps, deltoids, trapezius, upper back, forearm and hand (grip) muscles, and the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
Place two 25 to 30-pound dumbbells on a shelf four feet above ground level. Remove the weights, one at a time, and place them on the ground. Pick up the weights and carry them a distance of 40 feet out and 40 feet back and replace them on the shelf. Continue this practice until it can be performed easily with 30 pounds.
Event 4: Ladder Raise and Extension
This event simulates firefighters' use of portable ladders to reach and access windows, balconies, and roofs of fire structures.
This event requires enhancing both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems of the body, as well as strengthening the biceps, deltoids, upper back, trapezius, forearm and hand (grip) muscles, and the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
Ideally, use an actual 24-foot aluminum extension ladder. Ensure that two adults are available to secure the ladder at the base during the ladder raise segment of this event. While practicing this skill, it is important to move safely and slowly to develop confidence in the required movements. To perform the ladder extension exercise, attach a rope to a weighted duffel bag or knapsack. Place the rope over a tree branch or horizontal bar support (playground swings) 8 to 10 feet above the ground. Use a hand-over-hand motion to steadily raise the weighted object to the top of the branch or bar and then slowly lower it to the ground using the same hand-over-hand technique. Perform eight to ten repetitions of this movement. Rest two minutes and repeat the exercise-rest sequence two more times. As your strength and skill improve, progressively add more weight resistance until you reach 40 to 50 pounds.
Event 5: Forcible Entry
This event is designed to simulate the critical tasks of using force to open locked doors or breaching wood, masonry, and brick walls.
This event requires enhancing both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems of the body, as well as strengthening the following muscle groups: quadriceps, glutes, triceps, upper back, trapezius, and muscles of the forearm and hand (grip).
Wrap padding that has a circular target in the center around a large tree or vertical pole at a level of 39 inches above the ground. Stand to the side of the target area and swing a 10-pound sledgehammer. Practice hitting the target area in a level manner with increased velocity without sacrificing accuracy. Focus on using your legs and hips to initiate the swinging motion. Swing 15 times and rest for two minutes. Repeat the exercise two more times.
Event 6: Search
This event simulates the firefighting task of searching for victims inside an unpredictable area (fire building) with limited visibility. Firefighters often crawl low while searching in heated areas, moving around furniture and other obstacles in total darkness (smoke environment).
This event requires enhancing both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems of the body, as well as strengthening the chest, shoulder, triceps, quadriceps, abdominals, and lower back muscles. Practice crawling on hands and knees wearing loose-fitting pants and kneepads for at least 70 feet while making several right-angle turns during the crawl. Keep low (no higher than three feet above the ground) to simulate being inside the tunnel. Occasionally while crawling on hands and knees, drop to your stomach and crawl ten feet along the ground. When comfortable with the crawling techniques, repeat the sequence with a weighted knapsack on your back. Gradually aim to increase the weight inside the knapsack to 50 pounds.
Event 7: Rescue
This event simulates the removing of a victim or injured firefighter from the fire scene around obstacles to a safe area.
This event requires the enhancing of both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems of the body, as well as strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, torso rotators, lower back stabilizers, trapezius, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and muscles of the forearm and hand (grip) muscles.
Attach a short handle to a weighted duffel bag. Grasp the handle with one hand and drag the bag in a crossover, sidestepping manner. Another technique is to grasp the handle with both hands while facing the bag and moving directly backwards, taking short, rapid stagger steps. Try both maneuvers and pick the technique that feels the most comfortable and effective for you. Drag the weighted duffel bag 35 to 50 feet in one direction and then turn around and drag it back to the starting point. Complete eight to ten repetitions of this task with a two-minute rest interval between each trial. Increase the weight inside the duffel bag until you can successfully complete four repetitions (with rest interval) with 165 pounds.
Event 8: Ceiling Breach and Pull
This event simulates the task of breaching and pulling down a ceiling to check for hidden fire and fire extension.
This event requires enhancing both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems of the body, as well as strengthening the following muscle groups: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, torso rotators, lower back stabilizers, deltoids, trapezius, triceps, biceps, and muscles of the forearm and hand (grip).
To train for a ceiling breach, tie a short piece of rope to a dumbbell or weighted knapsack placed between your legs situated shoulder length apart. Grasp the rope, arms slightly away from the body with one hand at upper-thigh level and the other hand at chest level. Lift upwards and out from the body with an upward extension of the legs to perform an action that simulates thrusting a pole through an overhead ceiling. Complete three sets of eight repetitions with two minutes of rest between sets. Add weight as strength and technique improve.
To train for a ceiling pull, use an exercise similar to ladder extension training. The ceiling pull training, however, requires exerting power in single, repeated downward thrusts, rather than in hand-over-hand movement. Grasp the rope attached to a weighted knapsack or duffel bag with hands spaced approximately one foot apart (bottom hand at your chin level). Use both hands simultaneously to provide a powerful downward motion. Lower your body to raise the weighted object several feet above the ground. Repeat eight to ten consecutive repetitions of the movement. Complete three sets with a two-minute recovery interval interspersed. Add weight as your strength and technique improve.
Final Note: Candidates who attend CPAT practice sessions and who participate in physical training prior to the actual physical ability test have a higher passing rate than candidates who have not prepared.
Click here to read the article containing the description of each CPAT event.
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