Hosed by the Fireman (Dirty Work)
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Women considering the fire service may be discouraged if all the firefighters they know or see are men. What are some of the attributes of a good firefighter? No one person has all of these attributes. If all firefighters were the same, as a group their strengths would be redundant and their weaknesses would be magnified. But everyone is different.
Each firefighter brings individual strengths to the team, and it is this variety of strengths that gives the team multiple options and balances out any individual weaknesses. It is also important to note that these traits are not specific to men or women. Women have been functioning successfully as career firefighters and officers for more than 25 years, and as volunteers for much longer. In the first place, most fire departments only give an entry-level hiring test every two years or so, and it may be several months after that before the first recruit class is hired from the resulting list.
More importantly, your approach to your firefighting career should be even longer-range than that. This will give you time to prepare yourself to be a good candidate for the job, as well as to decide if firefighting is really right for you. In school, make sure you have the basics in place: good reading comprehension and writing skills, computer literacy, basic math and typing. Chemistry and biology, shop, auto mechanics, carpentry and drafting will also be useful. If your community or the one where you hope to work as a firefighter has a significant linguistic minority, learn that language.
In the U.
Step Two: Holding the Line
Useful for all firefighters to know are the basics of American Sign Language, the language used by deaf and hearing-impaired people in every U. Colleges in every state offer degrees in fire science or fire protection engineering, and a few have residential firefighting programs that give students the chance to get hands-on experience and training. If you are pursuing a degree in a different area, look for other courses that may help, such as public speaking, basic psychology, anatomy, and government. Colleges sometimes offer their students help in developing their test-taking and job-interview skills; be sure to take advantage of these.
Education happens outside of school, too. Seek out opportunities to be trained as an EMT Emergency Medical Technician ; volunteer fire departments and state agencies sometimes offer this training.
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This takes time and money, but it can considerably enhance your chances of being hired. Depending on where you live, you may also have the option of putting yourself through basic firefighter training. And many departments put all newly hired firefighters through recruit training, regardless of what prior training they may have.
A Photographer Inside the Wildfires
But in states such as Florida, where vocational schools and other agencies offer basic firefighter training to any interested student, many fire departments give hiring priority to applicants who have completed this training on their own. Another way to get firefighter training, and to find out how much you enjoy the work, is to become a fire cadet or a volunteer firefighter. Some fire departments have cadet programs or Explorer posts that allow high-school students to learn basic firefighting skills and spend time in the stations.
For those over 18 or in some cases 21 , service as a volunteer firefighter can provide excellent experience, education and connections to job opportunities. If your area is served by a career-level fire department, find out if the department has any programs that involve community volunteers, such as checking residential smoke detectors or teaching CPR. If you have your EMT or paramedic certification, check out options for volunteering in hospital emergency rooms.
Actual firefighting takes up only a small percentage of the time firefighters spend on duty, but that small percentage can demand extremes of strength and endurance from everyone involved. Despite all the progress that has been made in equipment and technology, fighting a fire is still strenuous, hot, dirty and often dangerous work. Becoming a firefighter means a lifelong commitment to physical fitness, and the earlier you make this commitment, the better.
Get involved in sports teams, regular workouts, and other activities that will develop your strength and fitness and give you confidence in physically demanding situations. Your training routine should involve a weightlifting program as well as aerobic activities. Some towns and cities give firefighter hiring preference to candidates who already work for the municipality, which can be a significant advantage.
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Working as a dispatcher at the alarm center is another good introduction to firefighters and their work. If you are a student or for other reasons have summers available, consider applying for a seasonal job with wildland fire crews. Whatever your job, if it is not one that keeps you physically fit, be sure to integrate sports and other physical activities into your life outside of work. Read our page about Choosing a Department. Taking any fire department test you can, just for practice, is a good idea to help make you a better test-taker: even though tests differ considerably, people usually improve by taking them.
Having gone through a few tests gets you used to the process and helps you feel less nervous when you take the one for the department you want to join. On the other hand, you run one significant risk: you may do well enough on the test to be offered a job. The financial security of having a firefighting job right now can be very appealing in comparison with the possibility of maybe getting on your chosen department a year from now.
The exception to this would be if you plan to work there only a short while and then move on to another department. This may be the option that best suits you, especially if you desperately need a job now. The negative side to getting on just any fire department is that if it is a very badly run department, you may get turned off to the fire service or may not be able to stand being on the job long enough to get hired elsewhere.
Women particularly run risks if the department is badly managed and fails to control or punish ugly behavior such as sexual harassment. Working in a hostile environment can harm your mental health or even, in the worst cases, put your physical safety at risk. Discriminatory behavior by co-workers and managers can result in you receiving poor training and bad evaluations that will harm your chances of getting hired elsewhere.
Not many fire departments like this are still around, but they can be found here and there. Working for one of them is not the best idea, even in the short term. Get on a mailing list to receive their job announcement, if possible, or watch the classified ads or other places where openings are posted. When a fire department on your list announces a hiring opportunity, get a copy of all the available information and make sure you understand everything on it: dates, deadlines, qualification requirements.
Different departments use different application processes. Some will mail out their application forms; others distribute them only in person, and sometimes only at a specified time and place. Find out what you need to bring when picking up your application, such as a drivers license or proof of residency. Sometimes the department will limit the number of applications given out; if this is the case, plan to be on hand very early to wait in line.
Sometimes applicants with severe financial constraints can ask for this fee to be waived. Some fire departments, particularly in California, now use lotteries to reduce the number of applicants. Instead of bearing the expense of testing all firefighter applicants which sometimes number in the thousands for only a handful of positions , they randomly pick an allotted number of the applicants to continue through the process.
This is an unfortunate practice and justifiably frustrating to the candidate who has prepared herself or himself for a firefighting career and expects to be able to compete for a job on the basis of qualifications, not chance. Nonetheless, it is a fact of life for the present, and unless it is successfully challenged in court, there is little or nothing the candidate can do about it except try not to be too disappointed. Find out everything you can about the hiring process.
How many steps does it involve, and what are they?
Many variations are possible, but a typical process will look something like this:. The test is announced and applications are accepted. In some places, applications are taken only on the day of testing. Never lie on a job application. If you are asked for information that you feel may be harmful to your chances of being hired, write an explanatory note or ask to make an appointment with someone in charge to explain the circumstances.
The physical abilities test is administered, either to all applicants or to those who passed the written test. In the past, fire departments often held the written and physical tests on the same day, but this is becoming less common. If you are traveling a long distance to go through the hiring process, you may have to be prepared to make several trips. Applicants are given a psychological evaluation.
Only a small percentage of fire departments use this step. Candidates who make it through these steps successfully are placed on a hiring or eligibility list. The order in which names appear on the list and the rules that govern the order in which candidates can be hired vary from place to place. The list may be kept for one year, two years, or longer, depending on local policies and needs.
When the department is ready to hire from the list, it will make a conditional offer of employment to the selected applicants, and send them through a medical evaluation,which sometimes includes a drug screening. Only after all of this has the applicant earned the right to be hired as a fire recruit. Smaller departments, or those that hire only certified firefighters, may hire applicants as probationary firefighters rather than fire recruits. Written tests for entry-level firefighter candidates are usually general-knowledge, civil-service type tests.
A few fire departments may still use tests on firefighting subjects, based on a study guide distributed in advance. In Canada, so-called mechanical aptitude tests may still be given; in the U. Take advantage of any study groups or preparatory test-taking assistance the fire department may offer, particularly if you are uncomfortable with written tests or if English is not your first language. We drive and operate fire fighting apparatus and respond to aircraft and vehicle incidents.
We keep fire-detection and suppression systems in working order, respond to hazardous material spills and maintain self-contained breathing apparatus. MAINVILLE: It takes courage and commitment to be a military fire fighter, but there are many rewards— great pay, world-class gear, global travel, opportunities for promotion and being part of one of the most highly-trained and versatile firefighting teams in Canada.
Every time the bells sound, your adrenaline rushes and you prepare to respond, without many details on the emergency. It could be an aircraft in distress, a fire in a hangar, a medical emergency in the building next door. MAINVILLE: We may not have the call volume that you see in a civilian department but our skill set is something that each one of our civilian counterparts would dream to have. The training is incredible; it covers so many different skills because fighting fires in the military is unique.
And as a military fire fighter, you can deploy and see the world, something no other department can match. Military postings and domestic operations take you across the country, including Canadian Forces Station Alert, and with overseas deployments taking you to every corner of the globe. The Canadian Forces Fire and CBRN Academy is an accredited institution that has been recognized as one of the best in the world — with 11 levels of accreditation.
Everyone puts you through your paces when you first come to a hall. After that, you have the daily maintenance to complete, which includes ensuring fire extinguishers and fire alarm systems are in proper working condition. We maintain fire suppression systems and we inspect a number of different job sites to make sure fire prevention is enforced, providing a safe working environment for everyone on the base.