Now that you have decided you want to pursue a career as a full-time firefighter what are you going to do now about it? Are you just going wait for the next recruitment to be posted to start preparing for what they are going to throw at you? The smart thing to do would be to start preparing now. Don’t wait for the posting, by then it might too late. Some fire departments spread out their testing procedures over a long period of time, sometimes as long as a year. Other fire departments would rather compact their testing all into one to two months. If you are not preparing now, you may not have enough time to get ready. This article will focus on the physical testing you may face in the recruitment process.
Pick four or five fire departments that you wish to apply to and do some research into their recruitment process, specifically, what is involved in their physical testing. Is it CPAT, Fit-Tech, combat challenge, swim test, running, psycho-motor testing, Firefighting job- related testing or a combination of these? Most fire departments will list their recruitment process on their website and if it’s not there, check the city website. Go in and talk to the recruitment officer and talk to the guys on the floor. Ask them about the physical test, find out which test holds more weight. The guy you really want to talk to at a fire department is someone who got on in the last hire. The testing will more than likely be similar to what he did compared to a guy who has been on the floor for 15 years.
All of these tests focus on different muscles and levels of cardio. Your workout routine should line up with the testing you are soon experience. Set your workout goals to match. No, scratch that. Set your workout goals to BEAT the passing marks in the physical test. If you don’t know what to work on, take a copy of the physical test to the gym with you and talk to a fitness consultant there. The consultant will be able to set up a workout program for you that will focus on the muscles and level of cardio that will help you improve your score at the recruitment.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Don’t let the first time you do the testing be at the recruitment. Practise the testing on your own. Practice leads to confidence. Confidence will lead to a higher score. A higher score could get you into the interview. If you don’t have access to certain equipment, improvise; figure out something to make it work. For example for the CPAT you are on a stepmill stair-climbing machine for three minutes at a rate of a step per second. If you don’t have access to a stepmill, find a set of stairs that is at least two or three storeys high and practice taking a step up every second. During CPAT you are wearing a weighted vest. If you don’t have one, carry a backpack with books it. The more you can simulate the actual test the more confidence you will build. Don’t go into the test blind. Be prepared.
Now is the time to start preparing for your dream job. Don’t wait for the posting; give yourself the best opportunity for success by working at your fitness levels now. It doesn’t matter if the hiring is six months, a year or even two years away. If you are focused on improving your fitness levels now you will be so much farther ahead of everyone who waits for the posting to start training. If you feel like the time, energy and/or costs are too much to prepare for this job, just remember that there are always others else ready to make these sacrifices for a shot at their dream job. What are you willing to do to make it?
Aaron Brouwer has 17 years of combined experience in structural and wildland fires. A graduate of Trinity Western University with a Bachelor’s of Human Kinetics, he is an instructor with Canwest Fire. E-mail him at
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