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Preparing For a Non-Written Firefighter Training Exam

We’ve already covered what you can expect during the psychological exam and the written portion of the firefighter examination so now we are going to dive into the details on each exercise you can expect to participate in when going through the candidate physical ability test otherwise known as the CPAT.  The CPAT can be challenging and rigorous and the fact that you are going to be racing against the clock to complete your drills doesn’t help reduce the pressure.   The CPAT can showcase your skills or set you back behind the pack if you aren’t fully ready for the training exercises that you are going to encounter.

Here’s what you can expect for the CPAT and the order you can typically expect it in:

  • Stair Climb Endurance Testing:  A lot of recruits past and present view this part of the exam as a way to physically exhaust the trainee before moving on to the next portion of the exam.  It’s exhausting and you need to be in top cardiovascular shape if you are going to ace the stair climb.  You’ll be expected to do the timed stair climb while wearing a weighted vest.  Train hard for this portion because you are going to need to be prepped for the sheer amount of physical abuse it puts your body through.  Your legs are going to feel like buckling down, and it’s going to take everything you have to move on to the next step.
  • Hose Drag:  This is pretty self-explanatory.  You get to drag a hose.  After you just killed yourself running the stairs.  Luckily it’s less taxing than the stair climb, and as long as you stay on the appropriate side of the obstacles, you should be able to finish if you push yourself.
  • Equipment Carry Drill:  This part of the exam is also self-explanatory.  You get to carry your gear.  Make no mistake, this is still a taxing part of your drill, but it doesn’t have to do with how fast or how nimbly you make it to the other side.  It has everything to do to how well you listen.  Take your time and make sure you listen to your proctor.
  • Ladder Raise Test:  This is not a complicated exercise.  You will be tested on raising the ladder appropriately and to do this you will need to be patient (which is hard to do when you are being timed) and you will need to make sure you maintain complete control of the ladder.  You won’t have any problems if you take a little time here to make sure you stay focused and do it the right way.
  • Forcible Entry for Safety:  During this part of the CPAT you will be required to train on breaching some type of surface that you weren’t meant to breach.  Most times you will be breaching a door or a window or even a car.  Make sure that you take your time here and don’t rush.  It’s not a difficult part of the exam, but you need to make sure you maintain focus and don’t hurry yourself no matter how tempting that is.
  • Search Training:  During this part of the exam you will learn how to appropriately search a building or residence that’s darkened to simulate what it would be like for you to navigate dimly lit or smoke filled areas while trying to save lives.  You may be doing some crawling through a corridor, so be prepared for squeezing around tightly confined areas.
  • Rescue Training:  This portion of the exam is designed to test your ability to drag an unconscious body to safety out of harm’s way.  This is where all those sprints come in handy if you’ve been doing them like I recommended in my firefighter workout routine.  Feel free to move a little quicker on this part of the exam so that you might make up for any lost time you have during the search training exercises.
  • Ceiling Breach:  During the ceiling breach exercises you are going to be tested on your ability to breach a ceiling.  You will be tested to see if you can pull it down to check for fire after the main fire has been extinguished.  You will be tested on this typically using a Breach and Pull machine.  I mention this part first because outside of the stair climb, most firefighter trainees seem to have problems with this part of the exam.   It’s hard to determine if it’s because of the physical taxation of this part of the exam, or if it’s because this is the last part of the exam for most testing centers.  Exhaustion definitely kicks in and this is one of the most demanding parts of your exam to cap off the CPAT.  If you’ve managed to pass this part of the test, you are on your way to becoming a firefighter.
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