The profession of firefighter is a dangerous one and requires extensive physical and educational training. In addition to fighting fires, firefighters may be called to respond to emergency incidents such as accidents (automobile, industrial or aviation), building collapses and natural disasters. They are also responsible for rescuing people and animals, inspecting structures for safety and security, and conducting rescue operations in hazardous conditions. They are able to communicate with each other via voice radio equipment and have extensive knowledge of safety procedures and fire suppression techniques.
Firefighters typically work shifts lasting more than 24 hours and understand the hazards associated with their jobs. They may be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) during their shifts, including a helmet and mask that prevents water or other debris from entering their respiratory tracts. Firefighters are trained to use a variety of tools and equipment to battle blazes, including fire hoses, ladders, pumper trucks, rescue blankets, salvage covers and forcible entry tools. They must be able to operate and maintain these tools as well as the fire truck’s pumps and other related equipment.
In addition to fighting fires, firefighters also spend much of their time on community outreach and education. They provide safety talks to children, visit elderly people and conduct home fire safety checks. The aim is to help people plan for emergencies and be prepared to evacuate their homes if the need arises.
To ensure their own safety, fire fighters must follow a strict code of conduct at all times. This code of conduct includes a ban on smoking, wearing high visibility clothing and avoiding alcohol and drug abuse while on duty. They must also take regular medical tests to assess their fitness and health.
Firefighters collaborate with law enforcement officers, often assisting them during potential arson investigations. They may also be called on to offer expert testimony in court cases involving accidental or deliberate fires. They are also knowledgeable about fire-starting chemicals and can read a fire’s progression through the structure to identify possible ignition sources.
While some firefighting tactics might appear destructive, they are vital to the preservation of life and property. For example, firefighting tactics such as ventilation can help to prevent poisonous gases in a burning building from building up and possibly causing asphyxiation. In addition, opening windows and doors can increase interior visibility to assist in locating trapped occupants.
Firefighters must keep meticulous records for each call they respond to. This can include patient care sheets for emergency medical calls, vehicle accident reports and detailed reports on fires after an incident. These records are necessary for assessing the damage, determining the cause of the fire and creating training programs to prevent future incidents. They are also used for insurance claims and fire investigations.