Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Agility Tests For Firefighters Killed Until 2009 Or Later...

Germantown, Political, Quality of Life, Village Board

The Germantown Police and Fire Commission has apparently reversed its earlier decision on the subject of Candidate Physical Agility Tests according to an article in GermantownNow yesterday.  This, according to Village President Tom Kempinski was caused by the lack of funding in the current budget.  Trustee William Seitz was also quoted as questioning the need for the new test, and apparently said that this new test could cause interested applicants to decide against applying. 

The test, commonly referred to as the CPAT, has a cost in the range of $45 to $100 per candidate and that is dependent upon where the test is administered.  Up to this point, the Germantown Fire Department has been administering its own test for candidates desiring to become firefighters.  That was done without a budget line item and was therefore deemed to cost nothing since the people administering the tests would've been on site anyway.  The locally administered test is lacking compared to the CPAT that you'll see described below. 

My recollections are that the Department has something in the range of 45 firefighter positions with some 35 or 36 of those filled at present.  If there were to be 20 people who desired to fill one of those remaining 9 or 10 spots, the total cost would be from $900 to $2,000 for the Village depending upon which test site was selected.  Annual costs would more likely be in the range of $250 to $450 if there were five candidates tested annually.

From the information I've found on the Internet, this appears to be the general test process:

  • During the entire test, the candidate must wear a 50lb. weighted vest simulating the weight of a fire fighter's protective clothing and equipment.  The eight events are
    • Stair Climb (climbing stairs while carrying an additional 25lb. simulated hose pack)
    • Ladder Raise and Extension (placing a ground ladder at the fire scene and extending the ladder to the roof or window)
    • Hose Drag (stretching uncharged hose lines, advancing lines)
    • Equipment Carry (removing and carrying equipment from fire apparatus to fireground)
    • Forcible Entry (penetrating a locked door, breaching a wall)
    • Search (crawling through dark unpredictable areas to search for victims)
    • Rescue Drag (removing victim or partner from a fire building)
    • Ceiling Pull (locating fire and checking for fire extension)

Does this seem an unfair test for a firefighter candidate to be put through?  I know that I would fail this test today but I remember when I would've been confident that I would've passed the test.  I would have trained myself to have the endurence necessary to pass this test if I had desired to become a firefighter. 

Is there any person in Germantown who believes that there isn't at least $2,000 in the current Village budget that could be diverted to this testing program?  Is there never a rush at the end of a budget year to spend what remains simply to avoid 'losing' the money?  There may well be enough money in the current Department budget to handle this expense.  If not, then a fund raiser could be mounted to raise the money.  How long would it take to raise $2,500 for the Fire department?  Not long, I'd venture.

As for Trustee Seitz' concern that the imposition of the CPAT might cause some to avoid applying to become firefighters, I say that would probably be their decision because they knew or highly suspected that they were not physically capable of passing the test.  You've seen the requirements of the test.  Might there be fire fighters still in service who would fail the test?  Maybe, but I've heard nothing indicating that this would be anything but a test to be applied for prospective candidates.

This whole situation smacks of the battle lines that seem to have been drawn originally when Chief Pollpeter was selected and that continue to be delineated today.  And, worse, this all seems to relegate the citizens and current firefighters to the risk that someone will be seriously injured or may die because the testing of a candidate was not as extensive as it might have been.

To steal a classic 'liberal' line, is the loss of even one life worth the savings of $900 to $2,000 per year?  Is an injury that costs the Village or its insurance company thousands and thousands of dollars a better risk?

Please, Village officials, come to your collective senses.  I learned a new phrase in a recent seminar by Byrd Baggett that seems appropriate.  It refers to those of us who hang on too long to those old perceptions of being wronged.

Flush it, and move on!

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