A firefighter responds to fire and medical emergencies. They also work with hazardous materials and clean up chemical or oil spills to control them. Firefighters are usually first responders. Therefore, they may work closely with police personal and additional emergency crew members as they arrive on site.
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How to Become a Firefighter
To become a firefighter, you need a high school diploma or equivalent. Next, you would attain a vocational certification in firefighting or an associate’s degree in fire science. You must also pass written and physical tests and pass a series of interviews. An emergency medical technician certification (EMT) is also needed as you would also be trained to provide medical assistance. The length of time it takes to become a firefighter will depend on whether you pursue an associate’s degree or certification. Some candidates continue their education past their associate’s degree to earn a four-year degree in fire science and may also take the courses necessary to become a paramedic to give them an edge over other candidates.
Job Description of a Firefighter
Firefighters typically work at a fire station when not on an emergency. They sleep and eat there and remain on call during shifts of possibly up to 24 hours. The work is considered dangerous and long hours are often required. A firefighter must be physically fit in order to lift, climb, move heavy objects, run and balance. They must be able to get important information through strong listening and communication skills and be quick to recognize a potential problem.
Firefighters must also be able to communicate valuable information to co-workers, supervisors, or medical and police people. The competition is strong and physically fit people with high test scores in addition to paramedic training would hold an advantage in this job market.
Firefighter Career Video Transcript
Courage, strength, and a cool head under pressure are some of the most important qualities needed by firefighters. Firefighters control and put out fires, and respond to crisis situations where life and the environment are at risk. Firefighters enter burning buildings to extinguish fires and rescue people, sometimes carrying them. They connect hoses to hydrants, operate pumps, climb ladders, and use other tools to break through debris. The majority of calls they receive are for medical emergencies, so many firefighters also provide medical attention.
Some firefighters clean up hazardous materials, such as oil spills and chemical accidents, while others are specially trained to control forest fires. Most firefighters work for local governments. Some work for federal and state governments, or at airports, chemical plants, and other industrial sites. Volunteer firefighters serve the same roles as paid firefighters and account for a large portion of the workforce in this field. Firefighters’ schedules are typically on duty at the fire station for 24 hours at a time, then off for 48 to 72 hours.
Wild land firefighters may work for extended periods to get a forest fire under control. Firefighters have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. They must wear heavy, hot protective gear. Firefighters typically need a high school diploma, valid driver’s license, and an emergency medical technician certification. Candidates must successfully complete interviews, written and physical fitness tests, fire academy training, and, once hired, they must pass random drug tests.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Firefighters.
National Center for O*NET Development. 33-2011.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.