FIREFIGHTER PHYSICAL ABILITY TESTS

Firefighter Physical Ability TestsFirefighting is a very physical job. Fitness is not only a big part of the job, it’s a pass/fail consideration in the hiring phase. The importance of maintaining a healthy, fitness based lifestyle can’t be over emphasized.

Firefighters are physically taxed on a regular basis, and the potential for extreme physical exertion is always present. Modern firefighters are not only expected to be physically ready to respond to any emergency at a moments notice, their very lives may depend on their physical ability.

For these reasons, specific levels of physical fitness and ability are required to enter the fire service. These minimum levels of fitness incorporate elements of strength, endurance and agility. Beyond entry level fitness tests, more rigorous physical standards are often expected of new recruits in the Academy. During the longterm course of a firefighters career, physical fitness remains important as most departments have minimum physical standards professional firefighters must maintain.

Physical Fitness Tests For New Firefighters:

Most professional fire departments have standardized the physical fitness measurement portion of their hiring exams. Today, the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) is the most consistent physical fitness/ability test utilized. There are some departments still using the Consolidated Physical Ability Test (PAT), also known as the BIDDLE test; however, these tests are not as commonly used by modern, professional fire departments due to the more prevalent use of the CPAT. These tests are meant to simulate the actual work firefighters do on a regular basis.

The Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT):

The CPAT is a timed course consisting of eight events that simulate actual actions firefighters are expected to perform. The events must be performed safely and correctly within set guidelines. The CPAT is a pass/fail test, and the entire course must be completed within 10 minutes and 20 seconds or the test is failed.

During the test, the candidate will progress through the course of events wearing a 50 lb. vest, which is meant to simulate a firefighters self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), turnouts and gear. The eight events consist of:

  1. Stair Climb (an additional 25 lbs (2 -12.5 lb weights) are added to the candidates shoulders for this event to simulate carrying hose packs up the stairs of a high-rise building.
  2. Hose Drag
  3. Equipment Carry
  4. Ladder Raise and Extension
  5. Forcible Entry
  6. Search
  7. Rescue
  8. Ceiling Breech and Pull

Specific descriptions of each event including tips and techniques to pass and/or avoid the automatic failure criteria are discussed more in-depth on the, soon to be published, CPAT page.

It’s important to note that while the CPAT is consistent in it’s structure of events and time requirements, the way different departments require its completion/certification varies.

  • Some departments will require you to obtain a CPAT passage certification prior to applying for their department or test. In essence, this will be one of the requirements to apply.
  • Some departments will administer their own CPAT exams, and will not accept CPAT certificates from other exams or departments.
  • Some departments will both accept other CPAT certificates or allow you to take a CPAT exam they administer, depending on your preference.

Be sure to read the job announcement for any departments you are applying, so you’ll know what their requirements are ahead of time. Maintaining a current CPAT passage certificate is a good idea and depending on your location, there are usually several options for taking the test. Many fire training organizations and college Fire Science/Technology departments administer the tests several times a year. Check with your local departments or colleges to see if one is available in your area or send us a message and we’ll see if we can help locate one for you.

Consolidated Physical Ability Test (PAT)/BIDDLE:

The Consolidated Physical Ability Test (PAT)/Biddle is another physical fitness and ability test that is used by some departments to measure the candidates ability to physically perform the duties expected of them as an academy recruit and entry level firefighter. Like the CPAT, the PAT/Biddle is meant to simulate realistic conditions firefighters face while performing their duties.

The PAT/Biddle is a timed course consisting of 11 events that simulate actual actions firefighters are expected to perform. The events must be performed safely and correctly within set guidelines. The entire course must be completed within 9 minutes and 34 seconds or the test is failed.

During the test, the candidate will wear a turnout jacket, fire helmet, structure firefighting gloves and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA); however, the candidate will not be on air (not breathing air from the SCBA). The 11 events consist of:

  1. Dry Hose Deployment
  2. Charged Hose Deployment
  3. Halyard Raise (Ladder Extension)
  4. Roof Walk
  5. Attic Crawl
  6. Roof Ventilation
  7. Victim Removal
  8. Ladder Removal and Carry
  9. Stair Climb with Hose Pack
  10. Attic Crawl
  11. Hose Hoist

Specific descriptions of each event including tips and techniques to pass and/or avoid the automatic failure criteria are discussed more in-depth on the, soon to be published, PAT/Biddle page.

Like the CPAT, departments that utilize the PAT/Biddle vary in how they require it’s completion/certification. If you are applying for a department that utilizes these tests, be sure to read the job announcement carefully to know if they will administer the test or require you to have it completed prior to applying or by a certain point in the hiring process.

Other Physical Fitness/AbilityTests:

If you are applying to departments that utilize other forms of physical ability tests, be sure to familiarize yourself with the tests: the events you must complete, the pass/failure criteria and the requirements for the particular department and whether they will administer the tests or if you need to complete them elsewhere.

If you encounter other physical ability tests still being utilized besides the CPAT or PAT/BIDDLE, send us a note and let us know about them!

Post Physical Ability Test, Academy Fitness:

After you’ve passed your physical ability test, it’s important to maintain your physical fitness level. If you are progressing through the hiring process and are about to enter a professional fire academy, it’s important to step up your physical training even more. Remember, the physical ability test is a MINIMUM level of fitness to continue on in the hiring process.

The fire academy has different expected levels of fitness and they are typically much higher than those you met during the physical ability test. Making it through the hiring process to the Academy is a great accomplishment; however, to successfully make it through the Academy requires even more focus, discipline and hard work. It is not uncommon for a professional recruit academy to lose several candidates within the first couple of weeks due to poor physical conditioning.

We are currently working on an ACADEMY FITNESS GUIDE, to help make recruits aware of the physical standards they will be expected to achieve and maintain in the academy. Our guide will make them aware of what to expect and guide them in preparing for that experience so they can easily meet it with success. Subscribe to be notified when it’s finished and available.