A firefighter works to prevent and combat emergencies such as natural disasters, accidents and human-caused incidents. This career requires a significant amount of skill, physical fitness and emotional strength to deal with the demands and pressures that come with it. Firefighters are often portrayed as heroic figures who bravely face danger and fear, yet they are also vulnerable to the effects of job-related stress and PTSD.
Firefighters use a variety of tools to control and extinguish fires, including fire trucks, rescue vehicles and ladders. They also work with other emergency response professionals such as police and emergency medical services. Depending on the nature of an emergency, firefighters might investigate the cause, provide first aid and help manage incident sites.
Some firefighters serve in the military, responding to emergencies on bases and in war zones. These firefighters often use more specialized equipment, such as weapons and protective gear.
The qualifications for becoming a firefighter include formal training, physical fitness and a strong work ethic. Candidates must pass a written and hands-on physical exam to be considered for the job. Those with military experience are preferred. Many firefighters train as EMTs, gaining valuable emergency medical skills that they might use in their professional careers.
During training, firefighters practice using equipment and tactics for various types of fires. They also learn to read and interpret maps and blueprints to locate the location of an emergency. In addition to these skills, they must have a high level of mental alertness and quick thinking during emergencies. They must be able to communicate effectively with other firefighters and respond quickly to instructions.
As a firefighter, you can expect to be exposed to dangerous chemicals, products and substances, as well as blood-borne pathogens. You may also be at risk for heat exhaustion and oxygen depletion. In addition, long periods of time spent on duty can result in musculoskeletal disorders.
A firefighter’s responsibilities also include working with the public to educate them about fire safety and prevention. You might also be required to perform routine maintenance on your fire department’s equipment and conduct physical fitness training. Some firefighters are required to perform investigations on suspected criminal activities and arson cases.
The most successful firefighters are reliable, trustworthy and highly motivated to work hard. They have good interpersonal communication skills and enjoy being part of a team. They also possess a great deal of self-confidence and demonstrate mechanical aptitude. These traits allow them to operate and troubleshoot their equipment in adverse conditions. In a crisis, firefighters must be able to make decisive decisions that might save lives. They must be able to handle a range of emotions, including compassion and empathy. They must be able to calm and comfort injured or scared people, as well as direct their crew members during emergency situations. They must also be able to keep themselves physically fit in harsh environments. They must have the physical strength and stamina to carry heavy equipment over long distances and work in strenuous positions for lengthy periods of time.