Saturday at work: PAT and thankfulness

We ran almost 20 applicants through our Physical Agility Test this morning. We use a modified version of the firefighter combat challenge. Trained and certified proctors, as well as some OT helpers, administer the test in the parking lot behind one of our stations. It’s always interesting to watch but I can’t help but feel badly for anyone who fails. Even then, I’d say it’s about 75% mental and most who fail probably just don’t want it enough.

The one overwhelming thought that always hits me when we do these PAT rounds: I’m so glad I’ll never have to do that, and the whole hiring process, again (I hope).

What about your department, what physical testing do new hires have to pass to get a job?

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6 Responses to Saturday at work: PAT and thankfulness

  1. Doug says:

    Thankful that you don’t have to do it again, eh?

    I’d venture to guess that one of the root causes of the issue Josh discussed in his recent post (regarding declining fitness once one is on the job) could be mostly mitigated by requiring everyone in the department to complete the entry-level PAT annually, thereby allowing both the department and the individual to assess his fitness for duty. A failure results in automatic special attention from the department’s health and wellness program. If I was in charge (which, of course, I’m not), this annual evaluation would also include completion of the individual and company job performance requirements (based on department-specific SOPs) rehearsed and tested during recruit school and/or the probationary period.

    Before you balk, keep in mind that validation of the testing model not only keeps us out of legal hot water, it also gives street-level credibility to the process as one enters the system, and lets the guys depending on us know that we’ve still “got it.”

    Now, let’s go eat at that place where I order the Sancho Panza (huge chopped sirloin steak stuffed with spicy stuff) and the Chocolate-Chocolate Cake a la Mode for dinner.

  2. Patrick says:

    I have a real problem, especially, with individual and company JPR’s. Everyone should be able to perform those skills/tasks from Day 1 on the street. You should’ve learned those things in the academy. What are we accomplishing by testing the crews on those standards? We’re proving they can still do what they learned to do in the academy and have been doing in the real world for many years. If you really need to test those skills then your training program and your company officer leadership are both inadequate.

    The best way to master a subject is to learn beyond it. If we train on advanced skills then competence in the basics will take care of itself. If you want the crews to master, really master, pulling an 1.75″ speedlay then you should make that the foundation of a more advanced drill. The more advanced skill cannot be performed without the basic skill being performed perfectly and in that way you learn new skills and old ones become second nature (i.e., performed from muscle memory, i.e., overtrained).

  3. Patrick says:

    I got so exercised by the JPR discussion that I forgot the fitness issue. Fitness is extremely important (as I’m digesting lunch from Wendy’s) to our job. I’ll have to agree with the position of so many IAFF locals that fear continued physical agility testing will be used to drum out older members who cost the cities/counties/boards more money.

    Other than that, I don’t see too many problems with the idea. As long as you use a validated test, like the CPAT or the modified FF combat challenge, and figure out a way to ensure that it won’t be used to save money by firing senior members, then I think it’s a good thing. But how can you do that?

  4. Doug says:

    If our JPRs are nothing more than reiterations of the FF1 and FF2 performance skills, then we are already doing something wrong. JPRs need to be modeled from specific, fundamental components of our department’s operating guidelines, riding assignments, company arrival order, etc. They are the task-level ways we work toward tactical objectives. Use them as warm-ups to battalion or shift training, etc. It is incorrect to assume that muscle memory is built by incorporating somewhat complex fundamentals into even more complex objectives; this is why every shooting session should begin with something like the dot drill.

  5. JD says:

    JPR’s are a must for probationary Firemen. My latest rookie (an active volunteer/TCFP certified firefighter basic/EMT-B) could NOT properly catch a plug, start a chainsaw, or operate a weed eater! All of this was identified during mandatory JPRs conducted on his probationary period (and promptly corrected).

    Fire academies are now on-line with very limited “hands on” time. Not so bad for the active volunteer that runs with a busy department, not so good for the average Joe off the street who wants to ride on the big red truck.

    I do agree with Doug about company/battalion level JPRs. Although all fire scenes are different, there are certain musts that should be done at every scene (per department operating guidelines and Company Officer specifics):
    – Pulling a secondary RIT line
    – Assigning a RIT/IRIT
    – Putting a fan at the front door (not pressurizing the structure until called for obviously)
    – Throwing ladders on multi-story structures
    This should be muscle memory. If you fight a structure fire every other shift, you’ve probably got the basics down. If you are like me and go months on end without seeing any fire, training is the only way to stay up on these skills.

    My Paramedic teacher Jerry Reichel gave the perfect analogy on training:
    Do you think a soldier out of boot camp can kill you? Of course he can. But why? He has never been to war, out on the line, fought for his life. Because he has been trained to. Long hours of P.T., hand to hand combat, weapons training, etc…

    As for mandatory fitness throughout ones career, I agree with Patrick. I think that system gives “the man” more excuses to get rid of seasoned guys. I think the best solution is for the department to set aside work-out time each shift. This is time that training and/or other activities will not be scheduled so companies can schedule in P.T. into the daily activities (assuming the tones [dial tones in my case – a whole other issue] don’t go off). Just like everything else is life, there will never be a perfect situation.

  6. Patrick says:

    I’m not sure that JPR’s can be effectively formulated at the battalion level, let alone the company level. By definition, your JPR’s should be standard across your organization (i.e., universal) if they are to be used as performance minimums.

    JD may also be talking a separate issue when he talks about probationary members working with JPR’s. Those guys (and girls) come in without any background and we have no idea what they can or cannot do. The JPR’s help us flesh that out in a fair and standard manner so that non-performance issues can be formally adjudicated. That’s not the same as checking a 10-year veteran to make sure he can still do what he learned to do in the academy. Why stifle the creativity of local (i.e., small unit) drilling by delineating every last step? Like Josh noted, you’re training the solution out of people when you teach them to be so rigidly conformal to a checklist.

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