When people consider joining the fire service, most only think about responding to emergencies as a firefighter or medical responder. But have you considered the other roles that are within the fire service that you could strive to become? Let's look at the roles within the fire service and define their purpose. To become good at any of these roles, you must first understand a firefighter's fundamental role. Within this role are the elementary lessons of response, control, and prevention. When responding to emergency incidents, you learn about the problems within your community and how to mitigate them. You learn teamwork and how the fire department works within the community. As a department working with others in the community (police, public works, administration), many roles are assigned to it that require additional training and experience. Let's talk about a few of those roles.
Fire Chief - The fire chief is responsible for the department's day-to-day operation and long-term planning. This includes the budget, personnel management, training, asset management, building management, policy, incident command, emergency management, and more. The people in this role have typically been in the fire service for a long time and have experience and education focused on the administration of a fire department. Because of the complexity of this role, it is common for the fire chief to assign an Assistant or Deputy to help them with the department's administration. Larger departments may have Captains and Lieutenant assigned as well. This is a complex role that requires skill and knowledge in fire administration, personnel management, politics, budget, purchasing, maintenance, incident command, writing, , communications, technology, emergency management, state and federal laws, codes, investigations, education, hazard mitigation, recruitment, retention, and more.
Fire Marshal / Inspector - This is a technical position focused on prevention measures, including inspections, investigations, education, and pre-planning. The fire marshal conducts safety inspections for new and existing buildings to ensure they meet the state fire code requirements. These are laws to ensure that basic building safety and operational measures are in place to prevent injury and property loss. If there is a fire or explosion, they are required by state law to investigate the incident to see how it occurred. Knowing how it occurred helps us prevent it from occurring in the future. This position requires years of training and experience to become proficient. Many fire marshals start as fire inspectors before being promoted into the fire marshal role. The job requires training in state and national codes, standards, and education. As a fire investigator, one must understand fire science, origin & cause techniques, codes, interviewing, report writing, and more.
Fire Educator - The fire educator works to minimize property loss and injury to the community. This person focuses on all hazards that could require a response from the fire department. This position only focused on fire loss issues in the past, but today, they focus on trips and falls, fires, child education, senior living issues, and more. Those in this position understand the basics of fire science and the common response issues within the community. They work hand and hand with the fire investigators to try and educate people on the fire losses seen in the community. If there is an influx of garage fires, the educators work to share the fire loss data with the community, so they do not experience the same type of fire. They watch state and national trends to help educate the community using social media, print, and face-to-face community meetings. This role requires someone who is not afraid to meet with people and speak in front of large gatherings to educate them. They need to be familiar with technology and have proficient writing skills.
Training Officer (TO) - This is one of the most important roles within the firehouse. This person ensures the firefighters are well trained and educated on the hazards within the community. Each community has its issues, and to be prepared for an emergency response to those hazards, firefighters need to learn about them and learn how to mitigate them. From building construction issues, and special hazards, this person must stay informed and find ways to ensure the firefighters are prepared. This role requires keen planning, public speaking, class preparedness, and evaluation skills. Most training officers have been in their role as a firefighter or fire officer for a long time and want to mentor others on what they have learned and know about the operational response.
Becoming a firefighter is the first step in moving up the ladder within the fire service, but there is so much more that we do. We have become the Swiss Army Knife of the community, responding to medicals, fires, explosions, terrorism incidents, weather-related issues, pandemics, and more. Each of these roles will maintain their title as a "firefighter," but they go beyond to better their community and personal growth. If you want to do more, there are plenty of opportunities in the fire service. Consider joining today!