Updated: May 27
Most people would consider the firefighter's role is to, well, respond to and extinguish fires. Although that may have been true in the past, the "firefighter" of today does so much more. Some question if the title being used is placing a barrier on the community's perception of what the fire department has to offer. The best firefighters understand that responding to fires is a tiny piece of what they do. Modern firefighters have become the Swiss Army Knife of the community, responding to all types of incidents, training on various emergencies, and adding value to service-driven programs.
On top of that, they must stay in touch with the advancement of technology and what is occurring within their communities. A new multi-story structure could drastically change the training needs of the department. How will they firefight a fire on the third floor? How will they get a patient into the elevator? How will they get someone out of an elevator stuck between two floors? Do they have occupants stay inside their apartments if there is smoke (defend in place), or have them leave and potentially clog the hallways? One new structure can add a lot of training and equipment needs for the fire department.
Firefighters must also understand the use of technology. The 911 dispatch systems can connect to phones and send critical data to firefighters instantly. Maps, previous calls, hazards, and details of the incident are a click away, and firefighters need to engage in the modern public safety system, or they will be left behind. Once they clear an incident, firefighters must document what they witnessed and the actions taken at the incident. Their records management systems tabulate data so they can see trends. It also protects them if their actions are challenged. In today's world, people question actions, which are hard to remember years later.
Let's look at several roles a firefighter plays in the community.
1. A PUBLIC FIGURE –
When you become a firefighter, you become a public figure working for the community. That comes with expectations from the community as you represent them. There are State laws that protect you while you are in your role, and we have a responsibility to one another to maintain the best representation of the community we serve. The firefighter has been one of the most trusted individuals in the United States for many years, and it is the firefighter's role to ensure it remains.
2. A PUBLIC ADVOCATE –
Firefighters play a role in advocating for better public safety. They participate in open houses, safety fairs and provide expert information to the community, such as what type of smoke alarm to use and age-appropriate education for infants to our elderly. If you wear the badge, you need to know the essential elements of preventing incidents. Our number one role is PREVENTION!
3. BE A CONTINUAL LEARNER –
Only one other person can help a firefighter if they call a MAYDAY; it is another firefighter. Because of that reason alone, firefighters have a responsibility to pay attention during training and continue their education. The fire service demands change regularly, and the firefighter's role could need to be tweaked to meet the demands. Those who fail to remain current with their training can risk their fellow firefighters and the community. Modern firefighters read articles, seek new knowledge, and pay attention to what is occurring in the area.
4. A POSITIVE REPRESENTATIVE –
There is nothing positive about responding to someone's emergency, and over time, that can lead some into a negative mindset. The fire service works so closely with one another that a single firefighter displaying negative attributes regularly can burden all the team members. As a firefighter, it is vital to realize your attitude can play a big part in your team's success. We all have bad days; I am not talking about those. I am talking about those who continuously disrupt the mood of our organizations. Part of the role of firefighters is to do all they can to add positive value to the team. They need to stay in their lane of responsibility and play their part in team dynamics, or they become a burden on the team, which causes good people to be less productive, and maybe even leave.
5. A QUALITY EMERGENCY RESPONDER –
The primary role of the firefighter is to respond to community emergencies. Everyone wants the fire service to win. Whether they are responding to a medical emergency or a structure fire with people trapped, the firefighter's role is to be prepared to stop the loss. They need to understand how to work all the equipment and make quick decisions to mitigate the incident. The firefighter had nothing to do with the cause of the incident; it was occurring before they arrived. They have a lot to do after they arrive on the scene, as they put their training into place, using the supplied equipment to make things better. This pattern of response has been going on for hundreds of years. A firefighter who does not want to train, or participate in calls, becomes a risk for all. The firefighter's role is to remain current, join their team, and ALWAYS be prepared to assist those needing your assistance. At times, there is no other agency that can help in some of the more complex emergencies. The Modern firefighter is proactive in their decision to serve. They simply want to make a positive impact.
6. BE A GOOD CITIZEN –
When you are hired to become a firefighter, volunteer, or career, you become part of the enormous solidarity of community service. That level of responsibility requires all of us to protect the respect entrusted to us. Blending the role of a firefighter and the rights of being a citizen requires all public safety officials to remain conscious of their actions.
Our communities are full of hazards, many of which the average citizen is unaware of. The underground utility line that is transferring natural gas under extreme pressures, the hazardous materials stored inside the manufacturing facility, or the product moving across the railway fifty times per day is within with role of all firefighters. It is their job to prepare for things that can harm their neighbors and mitigate them when they occur. That responsibility comes with great respect, shown each time a firefighter dies in the line of duty.
When you decide to take on the role of a firefighter, you join a fantastic team of community servants and support the continual need to serve your neighbors. This role is strictly about serving the community above all. If you're looking for a way to improve your community awareness, add respect to your resume, and meet some amazing people statewide, this may be a role you want to consider.
Learn more about becoming a firefighter by going to www.mnfirehire.org