We all have an image of firefighters as some of the bravest civil workers in society.
And this is undoubtedly true: firefighters put their well-being and lives on the line to protect others. If you’re thinking of becoming a firefighter, you may be wondering what the duties of a firefighter are.
firefighters are highly skilled women and men who work in matters regarding fire safety.
They fight fires, of course, but also part of the firefighter job description are: working towards fire prevention, investigating causes of fires, and serving as emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
Furthermore, firefighters are the first responders to fire scenes, as well as other emergency incidents like car accidents. Here’s our full guide to firefighter duties.
What Does a Firefighter Do?
The duties and responsibilities of firefighters can be divided into four parts:
- Extinguishing fires;
- Emergency rescue and care for injured and sick individuals;
- Taking measures for fire prevention, such as implementing safety regulations;
- Investigating sources of fires, especially when arson may be involved.
Let’s closely look at each responsibility.
The primary duty of a firefighter is fighting fires. Once notified about the occurrence of a fire, a firefighter dons their personal protective equipment, and then boards or drives one of many different kinds of fire trucks.
Some trucks store and dispense water, and some come with aerial ladders which can be raised to the tops of tall buildings. There will also be some trucks to transport victims of fires to emergency medical centers.
Once the firefighter reaches the emergency site, he or she carries out specifically assigned duties under a commanding officer. Some of these roles of a firefighter position are:
- Hose Operator: Responsible for connecting fire hoses to fire hydrants and then directing the water flow towards the fire in order to extinguish it;
- Tiller: Guides aerial ladders to the top floors of buildings;
- Rescuers: Enter buildings to rescue victims of the fire;
- EMT: Provides emergency medical care or uses emergency medical techniques to stabilize victims.
Emergency Medical Services and Search & Rescue
Note that, regardless of their job duties, all firefighters are required to have EMT certifications, although some specialize in carrying out emergency medical procedures.
In emergency conditions, such as car crashes, where there is no fire involved, firefighters will use their EMT training and expertise to provide emergency medical services or first aid to victims before an ambulance arrives. They may also be the first responders in medical emergencies if no other responders are available.
Additionally, firefighters perform search-and-rescue functions in natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes.
Fire Prevention & Fire Safety Awareness
Beyond fighting fires and providing search and rescue services, firefighters are responsible for preventing fires by educating the public and carrying out training and drilling sessions.
They are also responsible for inspecting buildings for potential fire hazards, ensuring that residences and businesses do not commit fire code violations, and ensuring that fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire escapes, and sprinklers are in place and in working order.
Moreover, they must also check for the presence of hazardous materials and hazardous chemicals in the buildings which they inspect.
Some firefighters also receive training to work as investigators wherever arson is suspected.
What Are a Firefighter’s Job Requirements?
Firefighters are constantly in unknown, dangerous situations: they don’t always have the exact details regarding a fire, such as what’s on fire, what the layouts of burning buildings are, whether the building’s roof might collapse on them, if they will run out of air, or if their equipment will fail.
But firefighters are, first and foremost, tasked with saving lives: and to do this, she or he must enter these hazardous situations.
All of this to say: firefighting can be a singularly taxing profession, so you have to know if you’re up for it.
It’s not just about having the right professional qualifications and certifications, or even just about being in top-notch physical shape: you must have the mental capacity, as well.
With all that out of the way, here’s a comprehensive bulleted list of a firefighter’s job requirements:
- A high-school diploma or above;
- Driving skill and license with which to operate emergency vehicles;
- Working knowledge of fire apparatus and equipment operation;
- Emergency medical technician certification and working knowledge of first aid and CPR;
- High stamina and physical strength;
- The ability to maintain physical condition;
- The ability to carry heavy firefighting equipment and injured victims who are unable to walk. They must also be able to carry victims who are injured or cannot walk;
- The ability to swiftly move obstructive debris at the site of an emergency.
- The ability to gear up and respond quickly;
- Ability to adhere to legal rules, guidelines, and firefighting standards;
- Effectively handling and operating assigned equipment;
- Sound intellectual capabilities;
- Good scores in written tests, as well as psychological and physical tests;
- Optional: a degree in fire science (increases your chances of getting a promotion!).
Outside the above-mentioned requirements, prospective firefighters are also required to pass through a drug screening test and medical examination before they are admitted into a formal fire training program at a station or academy.
In some places, aspiring firefighters are required to work as apprentices for 3-4 years before they get a position.
Even after a firefighter has gained ample experience, he or she will continue to undertake practice drills in order to maintain their knowledge and skills.
Firefighters who wish to upgrade their skills in order to attain higher positions may undergo additional certification or advanced training programs.
For a more detailed idea about both mandatory and advanced fire service training services, check out the National Fire Protection Association’s Training and Certification resources.
What Skills Does a Firefighter Require?
Besides fire fighting, firefighters are people who possess a distinct and specific set of qualities. These firefighter skills are outlined below:
Because firefighters are required to communicate clearly in fire scenes (as well as other emergency scenes) to other firefighters and emergency responders, having good communication skills is part of the firefighter job description.
Part of fire fighting is also being able to effectively deal with situations with ambiguous conditions and maintain effective working relationships.
Almost every firefighter will, at some point in his or her life, have to make a swift and smart decision in an emergency situation where human life may be at stake. This is why a firefighter must have the ability to make sound decisions under pressure.
Having a courageous character is an essential aspect of the firefighter job description.
When emergency calls, firefighters are required to enter dangerous and hazardous situations where they may die; as such, a great deal of courage is required. And, because firefighters have to respond to emergency situations at any time, mental readiness is also essential.
What Kind of Personality Should a Firefighter Have?
As you may be able to guess, firefighters tend to have very distinct personalities. The hands-on and immediately engaging nature of the profession requires firefighters to be real individuals who are stable, independent, practical, and persistent.
Fire fighting is the all-important task of protecting life, so firefighters also tend to be altruistic beings who are active in their community and may be recognized easily as generous, kind, cooperative, caring, patient, and empathetic individuals whether they are in uniform or in civilian dress.
Firefighters are usually people who do well with tasks that can be categorized as athletic, tactical, physical, or mechanical. As such, they are well-suited to tasks that involve working with tools and machinery and/or building or fixing something.
They are also good at identifying hazardous materials.
What Is a Firefighter’s Workplace Like?
Most firefighters live, for extended periods of time, in the same fire stations where they work. One shift usually lasts for 24 hours, which ensures that in the event of a fire or other emergency, a full team is present to respond rapidly.
On average, a firefighter may work 9 to 11 shifts in total in a single month.
If a natural disaster occurs, a firefighter may be required to work even longer hours.
Additionally, firefighters work on weekends and holidays to ensure the safety of their community.
The essential duties of a firefighter dictate that she or he will have to work in an unpredictable emergency firefighting environment where they will likely be in personal danger.
Although they don’t typically live at the fire station, volunteer firefighters respond quickly on a needs basis.
After learning the duties of a firefighter, you may be feeling dissuaded, or more sure than ever, about wanting to work in fire safety.
Remember, considerable courage, physical capabilities, and mental strength are all part of the firefighter job description.
Still unsure about this career path? We recommend checking out the U.S. Fire Administration for more about the world of firefighting. Good luck!