In a perfect world, the dispatches for our calls would sound something like this:

“Medic 2, on Five Adam, for a difficulty breathing, 123 Fubar Street.”

“Medic 2, be advised, your patient weighs four hundred twenty pounds and is in the back bedroom on the fourth story of the townhouse. The hallway to the back bedroom is narrow, much furniture will be in the way. Your patient will be unable to stand or walk. There is no elevator. The stairs are narrow and unlit.”

In the real world, of course, the first sentence is about what we get. It is after all Dispatch, not the Psychic Friends Hot Line. But all the other stuff could be true, too. To the extent we can, therefore, we anticipate.

Since we don’t receive such detailed information (“Sven! Ahnold! Put down the fire truck and go with the ambulance for a lift assist!”) we the crew must be able, within reason, to handle the physical end of things

Fire guys have their physical tests, and so do EMS folk – the EPAT, or Emergency (rescue technician) Physical Abilities Test. Generally administered in the dawning time of a system’s hiring process (each locale – city, state, county – is called a “system”) the EPAT strives to find if, in general, a candidate is minimally qualified to do the kind of stuff EMS does all the time.

The particulars of such tests vary between locales, but one local system conducts the EPAT test thus:

The candidate will

  • go twice up and down a flight of steps (3 landings) with 25 lbs of equipment in each hand, no skipping steps;
  • perform CPR on a mannequin for one minute at a timed rate;
  • “rescue” a 165 lb mannequin in fire fighter gear by lifting it and dragging it backwards 30 feet;
  • hoist a 100 lb bag and carry it thirty feet, up a stairs, back down, and another thirty feet.

The candidate is given 165 seconds to complete the aforementioned, after which he must

  • lift one end of a Reeves stretcher, with a 165 lb patient, above his head and lock his elbows;
  • lower same in a controlled manner;
  • push a weighted (400 lb) cart sixty feet and pull it back (60 feet) in a controlled manner.

The total time allotted for ALL tasks is five minutes – but if one misses the 165 second mark on the first set, the test is over – “Thank you, come again.”

“DTs, my mind is calmed,” I hear you say, “To know that my girthy Aunt Bertha will be carried safely by no Caspar Milquetoasts. But why mention this test?”

I mention the test because, on Saturday, I have the wonderful opportunity to take it. Last week DTs took the “practice” – same test, same timing requirements – and passed. His feeble suggestion at the time that “this should, you know, count” was brushed aside, though, and so it is all to do again.

Truthfully, DTs took the test last year, and passed as well, so one would expect a breezy attitude. It is to laugh – Test Anxiety is ever the hobgoblin. And so he daily retreats to the dim and sweaty corner of his abode wherein resides the Gym Stuff, slurping noisily at chocolate Mus-L-B-Big shakes.

Away with him, then – back to the cables and pulleys to prepare.


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