It goes without saying that firefighters have a tough job with intense physical demands. Physical fitness tests, like the CPAT (Candidate Physical Ability Test), are what qualify firefighters for the position. This test measures cardiovascular endurance, as well as both muscular strength and endurance.
It goes without saying that firefighters have one of the most physically challenging jobs in the country. The eight tasks outlined in the CPAT are the minimum requirements needed to become a firefighter. These tasks are simulations of what a firefighter might encounter while on the job.
This standardized test must be completed in at least ten minutes and twenty seconds, and is comprised of eight different events:
1. Stair Climb
This portion of the CPAT requires the tester to wear a 12.5-pound on each shoulder, replicating the weight of a high-risk pack (the hose bundle). The participant then warms up for twenty seconds at a rate of 50 steps per minute on a stair climbing machine. After the warmup, the tester immediately begins the times portion of the test, lasting three minutes with a 60-step-per-minute stepping rate. This test is designed to mimic the climbing of stairs, while carrying the high-risk pack in full protective clothing.
2. Hose Drag
The tester prepares by placing a nozzle attached to 200 feet of hoseline over the shoulder or across the chest. The participant can run or walk while dragging the hose 75 feet to a drum, making a ninety-degree turn, an continuing for 25 more feet. The tester must then stop in a marked box and drop to at least one knee, then pull the hose until the 50-foot mark crosses a finish line. This task replicates dragging an empty hoseline from a firetruck to a building (or other fire scene) while avoiding obstacles and remaining stationary.
3. Equipment Carry
This task involves two makeshift saws and a tool cabinet, imitating a storage cabinet on a firetruck. This event tests the participant's ability to take power tools from a firetruck, carry them to an emergency scene, and return them back to the truck. The tester is to take the two saws from the cabinet (one at a time), place them on the ground, then pick them both up (one per hand), carry them 75 feet to a pre-positioned drum, and return to the start point.
4. Ladder Raise & Extension
This task is used to test the participant's ability to place a ground ladder at a firetruck and extend it to a roof or window. The tester walks to the top rung of a ladder, lifts the unhinged part from the ground, and carries it up hand over hand until it is anchored against the wall. He/she must then immediately advance to the next ladder and, standing with both feet in the marked box, extend the fly section until it stops, then lower it back to the start point.
5. Forcible Entry
For this task, the participants must use a sledgehammer to hit a measuring device in a target zone until it activates the buzzer. Feet must remain outside the marked box at all times. The forcible entry test measures the candidates ability to use force to open a locked door or break down a wall.
Candidates must crawl through a tunnel maze (approximate measurement 3x4x64) with two ninety-degree turns and several obstacles. Also, two sections of the tunnel have reduced dimensions. This task simulates searching for a victim in a random space with limited visibility.
The tester must drag a 165-pound mannequin 35 feet by the handles on the shoulder of the harness. He/she then completes a 180° turn around a drum, then drags the mannequin 35 more feet to the finish line. This part of the CPAT imitates the removal of a victim (or injured partner) from the scene fo a fire.
8. Ceiling Breach & Pull
The candidate must remove a pike pole (six-foot pole with a hook and point on one end) from the bracket, then place the tip of the pole on a 60-pound door in the ceiling. He/she must then push the tip three times while remaining in the pre-determined boundary. The pike pole is then hoked to an 80-pound ceiling apparatus and is pulled five times. A set is composed of three pushes and five pulls, repeated four times. This task imitates breaking and pulling down a ceiling to check for fire spread.
While it is known that firefighters must be in excellent physical shape, many of us are unfamiliar with just how difficult and detailed the qualifying tests are. Being familiar with these difficult tasks breeds further appreciation of this heroic occupation.