1. MEET BASIC REQUIREMENTS TO BECOME A FIREFIGHTER
In order to become a firefighter, you will typically need to meet the following basic minimum requirements:
- Be a United States citizen
- Have no felony convictions
- Possess a high school diploma or equivalent (GED)
- Possess a valid driver’s license
- Have a valid social security number
- Applicants must be at least 21 years of age to be eligible for hire and less than 35 years of age, unless exempted by statute
Tri-State FPD requires all of the above basic requirements.
Part-time, paid-on-call, combination or volunteer fire departments often have cadet programs for those under the age of 21 who want to begin their firefighting careers early. Some full-time departments will hire at age 20. Tri-State FPD is a full-time department and does not have a cadet program.
2. MEET (AND EXCEED) EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS
At the very minimum, you will need to obtain a high school diploma or GED. Many firefighters earn a degree in fire science to advance their career. It is also wise to become an EMT. Having both a fire and EMS background will improve your odds of being hired. EMT classes are held at most of the regional community colleges. Some departments might even require an EMT certification; larger departments may require a paramedic’s license. Tri-State FPD requires an EMT-Basic license at time of application and a paramedic license at time of hire.
3. GET IN GOOD PHYSICAL CONDITION
Becoming a firefighter requires passing a physical ability test. The physical ability test consists of two components; CPAT and a ladder climb.
The Candidate Physical Ability Test, or CPAT, is a standardized test created by the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs to assist fire departments with the recruitment of candidates who are physically capable of performing the essential tasks of a firefighter. The CPAT is acknowledged as a reliable indicator of an individual’s ability to function at the scene of a fire.
The CPAT events are stair climb, hose drag, equipment carry, ladder raise and extension, forcible entry, search, rescue, ceiling breach and pull. Prepare yourself for the physical nature of the job as well as the demands of the test.
The CPAT requires firefighter candidates to engage in the following activities:
- Stair Climb (climbing stairs while carrying an additional 25 pound simulated hose pack)
- Hose Drag (stretching uncharged hoselines, advancing lines)
- Equipment Carry (removing and carrying equipment from fire apparatus to fireground)
- Ladder Raise & Extension (placing a ground ladder at the fire scene and extending the ladder to the roof or a window)
- Forcible Entry (penetrating a locked door, breaching a wall)
- Search (crawling through dark unpredictable areas to search for victims)
- Rescue (removing victim or partner from a fire building)
- Ceiling Breach & Pull (locating fire and checking for fire extension)
All of these exercises must be completed in less than 10 minutes and 20 seconds. Candidates wear a hard hat, gloves and a weighted vest to simulate the weight of firefighting equipment throughout the test. Candidate success is measured on a pass/fail basis.
The following area agencies perform CPAT testing:
Homewood FD-MABAS 24 CPAT
17555 Ashland Ave.
Homewood, IL 60430
1200 W. Ogden Ave.
Naperville, IL 60563
11118 Main Street
Huntley, IL 60142
Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training
2300 Patriot Boulevard
Glenview, IL 60026
The Ladder Climb test is not a requirement of CPAT, rather it is a separate physical test required by the State of Illinois.
On August 4, 2011, the State of Illinois enacted Public Act 097-0251, which mandates new firefighter candidate physical ability test requirements. Candidates are now obligated to participate in a ladder climb exercise and demonstrate an ability to operate from heights.
Tri-State FPD requires both the CPAT and ladder climb.
4. STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
At one point in your life, you have probably done something you are not proud of. How you have acted to rectify your mistakes will be important when applying to become a firefighter. If you are asked about your past record during an interview, do not lie. Instead, take ownership for your mistakes. Explain to the hiring panel how you have changed and what you have done to change. Also, be up front about your driving record – include dates, locations and outcomes of tickets and accidents.
5. KEEP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA NOSE CLEAN
If you use Facebook or other social media platforms, be mindful of what you post, repost, comment on and like. You should expect all potential employers to scan your social media presence. If there is embarrassing, immature, risqué or otherwise inappropriate posts on your pages, remove them. Ask your friends to remove any such posts involving you from their pages. In some cases, it makes sense to close out your accounts.
6. PROVE YOUR FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY
This is often overlooked, but the required background check covers credit score. Bad credit will hurt you. Be disciplined about improving your score if need be.
7. GET INVOLVED IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Working in public safety is all about community service. Volunteering your time for a great cause is one way to prove you are ready to serve your community. And it doesn’t matter if it’s fire-related or non-fire related. There is many great opportunities out there for you to make a difference. The American Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity are two excellent options.
8. PASS THE WRITTEN EXAM
Study, study, study. In addition, when in doubt, study some more. The written exam consists of multiplechoice questions and is divided into categories.
9. PREPARE FOR A PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION
You cannot study for this one. This evaluation will look at your mental and emotional stability to withstand the stresses associated with firefighting.
10. GRADUATE A FIRE ACADEMY
Getting your state entry-level firefighter certification (Basic Operations Firefighter) is a great move. You will still need to attend a department’s academy once hired, but this gives you a leg up and helps you learn the book and practical skills of the job. Joining a volunteer or paid-on-call fire department is one way to get into an academy. Tri-State FPD does not require Basic Operations Firefighter at hire, however new firefighters without this certification will be sent to a regional fire academy during their first year of employment and must obtain certification.
Tri-State FPD does not require Basic Operations Firefighter at hire, however new firefighters without this certification will be sent to a regional fire academy during their first year of employment and must obtain certification.