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# Spatial Relations and Map Reading for Firefighter Exam Study Guide

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Updated on Jul 5, 2011

Imagine you are shopping in a local mall. You look at the store directory to find the closest restaurant. You locate the arrow that says "You Are Here." Do you know where you are? Do you know which way to go to find the restaurant?

The store directory has just presented you with a typical spatial relations question. Spatial relations is the ability to visualize in three dimensions. As the store directory example suggests, everyone needs to be able to translate a two-dimensional representation into a three-dimensional sense of where they are and where they want to go. But this ability is particularly important for firefighters, who must read maps and floor plans to get to the people who need their help.

Spatial relations questions on a firefighter exam are based on a map, a building floor plan, or a picture, usually accompanied by a short explanation of the scene. The examiners may give you a picture of a street with apartment buildings, houses, and stores, possibly including a fire scene containing apparatus and personnel. The questions require you to locate certain points or give details on objects shown in the picture. The answers to the questions can all be found in the diagram; however, you must read each question carefully and pay close attention to the details.

Many spatial relations questions are based on maps. Map-reading skills are essential to the work of a fire- fighter. Firefighters are expected to be able to figure out the quickest route to the scene of an emergency without hesitation. They are frequently stopped by lost motorists trying to find their way. Pedestrians often come into the firehouse to ask directions.

#### Questions on the Most Direct Route

Map-based questions typically ask for the most direct route between two points. As you answer such questions, keep in mind that you must choose the best legal route, observing one-way streets and traffic rules. When giving directions to pedestrians, you don't have to consider the flow of traffic, so providing them with the shortest route may be easier to do. Take a systematic approach to answering this type of question, using the following procedure:

1. Look at the map. Take a moment to scan the buildings and streets. Locate the legend, if any; it tells you which way is north and explains any special symbols, such as those indicating one way streets.
2. Read the question. Read carefully and be sure you understand what is being asked. Do not read the answer choices at this time. Read only the question so that you can plot the route yourself. That way, you are less likely to be confused by incorrect choices purposely included to distract you.
3. Return to the map. Locate the information asked for in the question. Look at the street names and traffic patterns.?
4. Prepare your answer by tracing your route. Remember to observe any traffic rules that are necessary. Write down the route you have selected. Read the question again. Have you understood what was asked, and have you answered correctly?
5. Read the answer choices. Be very observant, as the choices may be very similar to each other. Does one of the choices match your route exactly? Some answers may almost match your route but contain one wrong direction, for example, using north when you are supposed to go south. If you do not find an answer choice that matches yours exactly, reread the question and try again. Carefully review the question to see what is being asked. Do you understand the question? Have you mapped out the correct directions in selecting this route?

A street map is on the next page. Following the map are questions that ask you to find the best route based on the map. After each question is a detailed explanation of how to use the procedure outlined above to find the correct answer.

A firefighter is often required to assist civilians who seek travel directions or referral to city agencies and facilities. The accompanying map shows a section of the city where some public buildings are located. Each of the squares represents one city block. Street names are as shown. If there is an arrow next to the street name, it means the street traffic moves one way in the direction of the arrow. If there is no arrow next to the street name, two-way traffic is allowed. Answer questions 1–4 on the basis of this map.

1. Your company must respond to a reported fire at the Third Avenue entrance of the hospital. What is the shortest legal route the engine can take?
1. South on Douglas Street, west on Second Avenue, north on Carol Street, and west on Third Avenue to the hospital entrance.
2. North on Douglas Street, west on Second Avenue, south on Bruce Street, and west on Third Avenue to the hospital entrance.
3. North on Douglas Street, west on Second Avenue, south on Carol Street, and west on Third Avenue to the hospital entrance.
4. North on Douglas Street, west on First Avenue, south on Abby Street, and east on Second Avenue to the hospital entrance.

Here's how you would use the map-reading procedure to answer question 1:

1. Look at the map. Notice that some streets are one-way only and that avenues permit two-way traffic. Locate north, south, east, and west. What are the names of the buildings shown?
2. Read the question. Take note of key words and directions, in this case, shortest legal route. You are responding to a fire alarm, so the starting point must be the fire station. The hospital has two entrances, one on Second Avenue and another on Third Avenue. You are being asked to go from the entrance of the fire station to the Third Avenue entrance of the hospital using the shortest legal route.
3. Return to the map. Locate the fire station entrance. It is on Douglas Street between Second Avenue and Third Avenue. Douglas Street is one way going north. The hospital entrance you are asked to report to is on Third Avenue between Abby Street and Bruce Street. Avenues allow two-way traffic, but Bruce Street is one way going north. You need to go south to get to Third Avenue. Abby Street is a two-way street, but you would have to go past the hospital to use it. Carol Street, which is one way going south, is the better option.
4. Prepare your answer by tracing your route. After careful consideration, you find that the shortest legal route would be to start on Douglas Street at the fire station entrance and go north to Second Avenue. Then you would proceed west on Second Avenue to Carol Street. Then you would travel south on Carol Street to Third Avenue and then west on Third Avenue to the hospital entrance. Now, reread the question. You have found the shortest legal route from the firehouse to the Third Avenue entrance of the hospital.
5. Read the answer choices. Choice c matches the route you chose, but examine the other choices to make sure. Choice a is incorrect because you can't legally travel south on Douglas Street, and, if you could, it wouldn't lead you to Second Avenue. Choice b is close to your chosen route, but it becomes incorrect when it sends you south on Bruce Street, which allows northbound traffic only. Choice d will get you to the hospital legally but takes you to the Second Avenue entrance of the hospital instead of the Third Avenue entrance. It also takes you out of the way by traveling on First Avenue to Abby Street.

Use the same procedure to answer the next question.

1. The delivery-person from the grocery store calls to ask directions to the firehouse so that he can walk over with the order. You should direct him to walk
1. west on Second Avenue to Douglas Street, make a left, and go half a block to the firehouse.
2. east on Second Avenue to Douglas Street, make a right, and go half a block to the firehouse.
3. west on Second Avenue to Douglas Street, make a right, and go half a block to the firehouse.
4. east on First Avenue to Douglas Street, make a left, and go half a block to the firehouse.

The delivery-person needs to walk from the grocery store to the firehouse. First, locate the grocery store and the firehouse. The grocery store is on Second Avenue between Bruce Street and Carol Street. The firehouse is on Douglas Street between Second and Third Avenues. Since the delivery-person is walking, you can ignore the one-way streets. Trace a route: Beginning at the grocery store, the delivery-person should walk east on Second Avenue to Douglas Street, turn right, and go half a block to the firehouse.

Now read the answer choices. Choice b is the route you would have directed the delivery-person to use to get from the grocery store to the firehouse. Choices a and c have him walking west on Second Avenue, which is not the correct direction from the grocery store to the firehouse. Choice d has the delivery-person walking on First Avenue, which is not where the entrance to the grocery store is located, and left on Douglas Street, which will not take him to the firehouse.