Authored by Phil Dotree in Careers and Employment
Published on 10-16-2009
The only time most people see firefighters is when they’re actively rushing to the scene or when they’re off duty. Many people are curious as to what goes on when there aren’t any fires, and how often fires happen. If you’re considering a career as a firefighter, you’ve probably asked this question once or twice. Here’s a look at the daily job requirements and life of a firefighter.
Maintaining Equipment and Health. Firefighter work shifts vary from area to area. In some cases, firefighters may be on call for twenty four hours at a time, and calls don’t always come in constantly (firefighters hope for a boring day). When they have free time, a firefighter might check equipment and vehicles to make sure they’re up to spec, or they may work out as the job requires intense physical conditioning. There are often sleeping quarters in a fire house, but on a typical work day a firefighter usually doesn’t sleep or lounge around for extended periods of time. There are no breaks for lunch or dinner as these would take firefighters off call, so food is usually provided in a kitchen area. Shifts usually start and end early in the morning.
Standard Calls. Many people don’t realize that a typical firefighter responds to many calls that aren’t fire related. In most large cities, EMTs, firefighters, and police respond to each call simultaneously. Firefighters have to be ready to drive out to the scene as quickly as possible. Often, they’ll practice drills if there aren’t many calls coming in to ensure that they can leave quickly without any issues. Firefighters are usually trained EMTs, and many fire departments have ambulances in addition to fire trucks.
On a standard call, firefighters arrive, tend to any injured persons, and quickly evaluate a scene for hazards. They’re often first on the scene at car accidents, and they’ll hose down any fluids leaking from cars to prevent a fire from starting. They may drive victims to the hospital in some cases, or work with police to get an accurate idea of what had happened leading up to the call. The number of calls on a typical day for a firefighter varies greatly depending on the city or town that they work in, but can be around 15-20 for some.
Serious fires are few and far between, and a firefighter must know how to deal with every situation. It may be safer to let a certain home burn, for instance, to save neighboring houses, depending on conditions. Every firefighter needs to be extremely knowledgeable about fire because in their careers, it is the biggest challenge.
Ending a Shift. At the end of a day, firefighters may retire to the quarters to sleep. However, they’re still on call and ready to load into a truck almost instantly. Non-job related activities are allowed for later hours when calls aren’t coming in. Following a day on call, firefighters will often have a day or two off. A firefighter can work about 56 hours a week. This varies, again depending on the fire precinct.