What Does it Take to Be a Firefighter?

A firefighter is a person who works for a local, county, state or federal fire department. The job consists of a variety of duties related to fire prevention, fire suppression and emergency medical services. Firefighters may also be involved in hazardous materials handling and assisting with public education. The primary goal is to protect life and property from the dangers of fire and other unforeseen emergencies, such as earthquakes and floods.

To become a firefighter, a person must meet several basic qualifications. This typically includes having corrected 20/20 vision, a high school diploma or equivalent and a clean criminal record. If a person has these qualities, they can apply to a fire academy where they receive training from certified instructors. Many fire departments have an apprenticeship program that lasts several years, during which firefighters learn to perform the various tasks of their position.

In addition to completing extensive training and testing, a firefighter must have a strong desire to serve the community. They often work long and unsocial hours, with shifts that can last up to 48 hours. They might spend days at a disaster scene to help victims, and they may be required to operate dangerous equipment in high-risk situations. Firefighters are also subject to psychological stress, especially if they witness the effects of a fatal incident.

Firefighters must be able to quickly absorb and apply the skills they have learned in an emergency situation, which can be chaotic and confusing. They must be able to respond as a team, working under the guidance of a crew commander or watch officer. During a crisis, firefighters must use communication systems to exchange information with other fire departments and emergency response agencies such as police or medical personnel.

As part of their job, they must be able to assess an incident and determine what resources are needed and how the fire is spreading. They also need to understand the impact of the disaster on surrounding businesses and the community at large. To ensure that their actions are based on sound knowledge and practice, they must keep up with fire and rescue news and attend regular refresher courses.

Many firefighters are also responsible for preparing reports and other documents regarding emergency incidents. They also use their skills in the operation and maintenance of fire apparatus and other related equipment. Firefighters are also expected to participate in public safety and prevention initiatives, such as visiting schools and teaching people about fire safety and evacuation procedures.

Firefighters can also find jobs with private companies, such as oil or natural gas production facilities. These positions often require them to travel to locations to fight wildfires and assist with oil well fires. Increasingly, firefighters are employed by insurance companies to assist homeowners with claims arising from home and business damage caused by smoke and water leaks.

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