Q&A Feature: How Do I Become a Firefighter?
Q: What is the hardest part of the CPAT that you have to do in order to become a firefighter and what is the test called?
A: For me, the hardest part of the Candidate Physical Ability Test has always been going all out for that length of time and then having to drag the dummy at the end. It always seems to weigh about 8 or 9 hundred pounds by the time I reach it. Oh, and getting older doesn’t help either.
Q: How much does the dummy actually weigh?
A: 175 lbs.
A: Fortunately the CPAT isn’t required for my volunteer department, since I am 44 years old, but I did try some of the exercises to see where I was and I couldn’t make the stair climb (Haul 2 50 foot lengths of hose on your shoulders up to the fifth floor of the fire tower, wearing full PPE and SCBA). Knees just ain’t what they used to be. But I agree that you have GOT to run and build endurance or you’ll pass out. And yep, that dummy always seems to weigh 900 pounds no matter when you have to haul him around!
Q: Wow. So running is a good way to prepare to do all these tests? Is there an actual running test that you have to take?
A: NO!! You may walk fast. You may be called out for running. you will receive 2 warning about running. I just recommend the running to build ones wind for the stairmaster. The stairmaster is the 1st challenge. It will wear you out.
Q: Oh. So don’t run on the test but run to get into shape for the test. Ok I get it. Thanks!
A: After the running (steps are a plus), you need to work on abdominal, grip, arm, shoulder, and back strength. Flexibility is needed. Some skills are needed like rolling/unrolling hoses quickly and correctly and raising/lowering ladders. The ability to use a sledgehammer is a plus. After that, you need to be able to follow directions. If you know someone who is already with a department, you might ask them for a drawing or an example of what the firefighter challenge would be.
A: When I was in training, one was required to do the “Dummy Drag” which required a trainee to drag a weighted dummy (usually 175-185 lbs.), along with being able to carry a 24ft. extension ladder by yourself and raise it to roof height properly, etc. etc. I could keep going on, but the requirements vary from state to state and city to city, so I would check with your local department and your state government on what the usual requirements are, if that is what you would like to find out to help you prepare for training. If I were you I would start weight training and running. Where I started running a certain distance or anything like that was not a requirement, however I found out that in real world situations after training, going above and beyond what is required helps a lot. Also, another thing to keep in mind is that one should be mindful of being in areas where it is extremely hot. Its not just being inside a structure that is on fire where you will find heat, it is also the weather as well. Turnout gear, if you are not familiar, consists of several layers and is heavy, especially if its wet, and working outside in the dead heat of summer while wearing full turnout gear, not to mention any other equipment, can be physically demanding as well. If I were you I would also work outside, or in any other hot environment, for extended periods of time to help yourself get used to the conditions. I hope this helps.