So You Want to be a NYC Firefighter?

Thousands try, but few make the grade. The FDNY is a particularly demanding employer, because they can be. New York City anticipates over 40 thousand potential candidates will apply (filing ends 9/15/11) for what might turn out to be fewer than 2000 positions. Yes... the FDNY is the big league, and any body who knows anything about the fire service, knows it. Busier than the next three biggest departments combined, "the job" has no equal.

What It Takes to Pass
Getting hired is not a simple process, but one that unfolds in many stages. I like to think of myself and my coaches as expediters, or people who helps the young candidate get past each mental and physical hurdle.

The first step is the written exam. Make sure you're prepared for the written by monitoring the FDNY website for any announcements as to the type of test they'll use, or any written materials that may be distributed. If you haven't been in school (and testing) in a while, consider this Firefighter Exam Prep Book to get a head start. As of this moment, the written exam, and information on it, is not officially available, so very specific preparation will have to wait until the test format is released. We'll have all officially distributed materials available.

The next step is the physical entrance exam, or CPAT (candidate physical abilities test). CPAT is based on 8 firefighter specific tasks that starts out with a graded step mill and 75 pounds. It includes a hose drag, equipment carry, forcible entry, ladder raise, search, rescue, and ceiling breech, all performed in sequence in under ten minutes. Nationally, the failure rate for CPAT is 70 percent. Most people are just not ready for this test.

If or when you pass CPAT, there's another major obstacle, the very thorough FDNY Medical Exam, which calls for another bout on the step mill, but this time for five minutes and while connected to a heart rate monitor. If your heart rate exceeds a preset limit, you get skipped over for the next candidate in line. The medical exam also includes a very strict weight limit (weight to height ratio), as well as strict standards on blood pressure, hearing, vision, and blood tests. Get yourself healthy.

Last, but not least there's the legendary Fire Academy, is by far the hardest part of the process, simply because it's five months long. Get ready to perform endless push ups, running, dragging hose, climbing ladders, high pressure testing, ALL DAY LONG. The Academy is tough, and you need to really be ready for this aspect of the hiring process, as the drop out rate is quite substantial. On Academy Day One there is a another physical test that includes push ups, pull ups, and sit ups. That's not to mention the mile and half run in 12 minutes you need to complete before they let you in.

There is also the background check (be prepared to be squeaky clean) and psychological exam that every candidate needs to pass. But stay positive, because the seemingly endless road blocks that you must pass is what knocks out all but those who really want the job, and preserves the never ending integrity of the FDNY. Stay focused, keep doing what's necessary, one step at a time.

If you'd like help preparing for the FDNY physical (the first step), check us out at