Can training class completion enhance Biddle physical ability test performance in structural firefighter candidates? A pilot study

Robert Lockie, Tomas J Ruvalcaba, Jennifer Meloni, Megan McGuire, Erika Hernandez, Rob Marc Orr, Jay Dawes, Joseph Dulla

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The Biddle Physical Ability Test (BPAT) is an entry level test used to identify candidates with the abilities needed to become a structural firefighter. This test simulates firefighting tasks which must be completed in succession in ≤9:34 minutes:s. Based on the demands of the BPAT, some community colleges will offer semester-long training classes for candidates. However, it is not mandatory for candidates to complete any training or practice prior to attempting the BPAT. Purpose: To determine whether completing a physical ability training class improves BPAT performance in structural firefighter candidates. Methods: This pilot study involved retrospective analysis of 32 structural firefighter candidates (30 males, 2 females) who attempted the BPAT in 1 session. All candidates received instruction on how to complete the BPAT, which was performed in the following gear: turnout coat; helmet; gloves; breathing apparatus; athletic clothes; and tennis shoes. Individual BPAT events were timed and collated to provide total time. The events were: dry and charged hose drag; halyard raise, roof walk, and attic crawl; roof ventilation and victim removal; ladder removal and carry; stair climb with hose bundle; crawling search and tower exit; stair climb with air bottles; hose hoist; and return to ground floor with air bottles. Independent samples t-tests (p < 0.05) and effect sizes calculated BPAT differences for individual events and the total time between candidates who completed a training class and those that did not. Candidates who failed (via a slow time or disqualification) were also detailed. Results: Twenty-nine candidates passed the BPAT, of which 6 completed a training class. The 3 candidates (2 males, 1 female) who failed the BPAT did not complete a training class. There were no significant differences in BPAT times between those that completed a training class and those that did not (p = 0.10–0.83). There were moderate effects for the between-group differences in roof ventilation and victim removal (∼57.83 vs. ∼62.48 seconds; d = 0.89), ladder removal and carry (∼33.50 vs. ∼41.35 seconds; d = 0.95), and the hose hoist (∼47.17 vs. ∼54.48 seconds; d = 0.74). Candidates who completed the training class were faster in these events. Conclusions: The results suggest, that while not always the case, those who attend a training class are less likely to fail the BPAT. Although there were no significant between-group differences (possibly influenced by the sample size), it was notable that BPAT tasks that are more physically demanding (victim removal, ladder removal and carry, hose hoist) were finished faster by candidates who had completed a training class. The effect size differences may provide some initial evidence of better skill acquisition for those candidates. Further, training staff have anecdotally noted candidates often struggle with the ladder removal and carry. Candidates who completed the training class were 19% faster in this event, and the female candidate who did not pass the BPAT was disqualified at this event. Practical Applications: This pilot study indicated potential benefits of physical ability training classes for structural firefighter candidates, and a need for more research in this area. Certain candidates may be able to complete the BPAT without specific training. However, for candidates who may find the physicality required for the BPAT difficult, they should consider enhancing their task-specific fitness and skills in a training class.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberV310
Pages (from-to)e379-e380
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Event44th National Strength and Conditioning Association National Conference and Exhibition - Orlando, United States
Duration: 7 Jul 202110 Jul 2021
Conference number: 44th


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