Finally, some progress!

Yes, I'm aware my blog posts are roughly a month apart. Unfortunately, due to the incredibly slow progression of the Washington, D.C. Fire Department (in particular, Human Resources), I don't collect enough relevant material to post every week or so. This will, of course, change once the academy starts. Not to worry! 

Regardless,
I finally received a myriad of paperwork and phone calls last week that
organized the next few steps in the sequence. My physical agility/CPAT test was
this past Saturday, and I'm happy to say that I passed (a few people wanted to
know my final time—we were only given ten minutes and twenty seconds to
complete all eight events—but for me, I didn't bother to ask. A passing score
is a passing score, as far as I'm concerned.) 

In case
anyone is curious, the test is broken down as follows:

Everyone
is given a helmet, gloves, and 50 lb. weight vest to wear throughout the
duration of the event. As I said before, you have ten minutes and twenty
seconds to complete the following eight events:

1) Stair
Climb

         Climb
on a Stairmaster for three minutes, at a rate of one step per second. Oh,
and as an added bonus, you get another 25 lbs. placed on your shoulders for
this one, representing a bundled hose pack. It's a hell of a way to start the
test… even the fittest of the eleven men testing that day were breathing
heavy.
Just grip your hands near the neck section of the vest and zone out.
I have no idea why, but I was singing "Ain't Too Proud To Beg"
silently to myself throughout the entire three minutes.

2) Hose
Drag

         Pick
up the nozzle of a section of hose, run about 25 ft., make a 90ş turn around a
plastic drum, then drop to a knee after another 25 ft. Pull the hose as quickly
as you can until you've brought another 50 ft. of hose into a big pile near
your knees.
Try not to smash yourself in the crotch with the hose coupling
that marks the half-way point. It really, really hurts.

3)
Equipment Carry

         There's
two big power saws on a chest-high shelf; grab each ("One at a time,"
the proctors will be sure to remind you) and place them on the ground. Pick
them up, walk them about 50 ft. and around a cone, and return to the starting
point. Reverse the process to put them back on the shelf.
Uhh… don't drop
them? It's fairly straightforward.

4)
Ladder Raise and Extension

         Raise
an aluminum ladder from ground level to upright, using
only the
rungs (and yes, it's a fail point if you don't use every single one in an
organized, hand-over-hand fashion. No touching the side rails!) Once that's up,
extend it fully with the rope halyard and bring it back down, both in a
hand-over-hand fashion. 
May God have mercy upon your soul if you lower
the extension section by letting the rope sliiiiiide through your hands. You
might as well just go home.

5)
Forcible Entry

         Pick
up a 10 lb. sledgehammer, and smash the everlovin' sh*t out of a big rubber
sensor thing. Once you've satisfactorily hit it enough times, it cries mercy in
the form of a buzzer that means you can move on.
Try not to let it fly out of
your hands.. but the proctors still stand back for a reason.

6) Search

         There's a 60 ft. wooden tunnel that's three feet high, four
feet wide, and dark as hell inside. It contains two right turns, various panels
of plywood, metal bars, even more narrow sections, and other anomalies designed
to trip you up and disorient you. Just make it through and you're almost home
free.
I tried feeling around with my hands to anticipate hazards, but I
pretty much abandoned that tactic after the first turn. Eventually, I just
allowed my helmet to crash into stuff, and I dealt with it from there. Not the
best, but it worked. 

7)
Rescue

         Drag
a 160 lb. rescue dummy around a drum placed 50 ft. away, and then drag him
back. Thankfully, he has handles placed conveniently on his
shoulders/collarbone area.
By this point, you're so damn tired that you may
just want to use one hand (allowable) and walk sideways; I thought I was going
to fall on my ass if I simply dragged backwards.

8)
Ceiling Breach and Pull

         Take a pike pole (big metal hook/spike combination) and use it
to perform two functions: pressing up on a 40 lb metal door, and pulling down
on a counter-weighted 80 lb. metal rail. It simulates smashing the pole up
through a ceiling, and pulling down plaster and other
I'm-not-crying-I-just-have-stuff-in-my-eye material to look for any fire you
didn't extinguish the first time. You have to do four cycles of
three-pushes-then-four-pulls.
You think you're almost home free, but be
quick about this last one. It's a big time-waster, since you have to do four sets
of this stuff with Jello-like arms. 

So
that's it. Everyone was pretty spent; we all trudged out of the testing center
wondering when we'd start doing this stuff day-in and day-out for thirteen
weeks. 

As a final note, my physical (yes, the "turn-your-head-and-cough" one) and psych evaluation are tomorrow and Wednesday, respectively. The psych eval sounds… well, I'll just have to tell you after that barrel of laughs is over and done with. 

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Alex Capece

Washington, D.C. Firefighter and Paramedic

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"For anyone who ever wanted to grow up and become a firefighter... from someone who did just that."
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