Firefighter – Responsibilities, Courses, and Popular Schools

Firefighters play a vital role in saving lives, in cases of accidents and emergencies. They work closely in collaboration with state police departments and local community to spread fire safety awareness. One can become a full-time firefighter or retained firefighters who are self-employed and generally work on the call basis. You need to take a certificate, associate’s or bachelor’s degree course, in order to become a firefighter. Fire protection, fire codes, fire prevention, legal issues in fire service, etc., are some of the topics covered in the training programs. In April 2015 (as of salary.com), the annual median salary of these professionals was $43,291 and median hourly wages was $21.

Responsibilities of Firefighters

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Firefighters perform following duties and responsibilities like:

  • Attending emergency calls.
  • Attending to various road mishaps, floods, terrorist attacks and air crashes.
  • Saving / rescuing trapped animals and people.
  • Taking care of distressed people; administering first aid before ambulance arrives.
  • Cleaning up of the accident site after the procedure is over.
  • Getting acquainted with the local area (streets, popular landmarks) to speed up any emergency process.
  • Check the functionality of fire extinguisher, whether it is working correctly.
  • Checking emergency water supply and fire hydrants.
  • Taking care of personal safety all times.
  • Participating in regular drills and physical training.
  • Informing public about fire safety; making them aware of various rules and regulations of fire safety.
  • Maintaining good relations with local community.
  • Assessment of any situation and deciding the best course of action quickly.
  • Giving proper direction to the crew members.
  • Giving full descriptive incidents report.
  • Investigating about why fire took place.
  • Administrating and controlling the budget.
  • Adequate allocation of the personnel staff to achieve performance targets.
  • Dealing with external agencies and negotiating with representative bodies.
  • Resource management and planning.
  • Coping up with political aspects of Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA).

Requirements to Become a Firefighter

The training of firefighters begins as soon as they are hired by the local fire department/ fire academy. This training lasts for 12-18 weeks and covers some important topics like fire suppression techniques, fire prevention, hazardous materials control, CPR and chain of command protocols.

One needs to fulfill the following prerequisites:

    • Candidates are required to pass written, oral and physical exams prior to the assignment of duty.
    • Aspirants must be at least 18 years of age.
    • Students are supposed to possess a high school diploma.
    • Must pass a rigorous fitness test.
    • Some institutions may require you to possess Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) – Basic certification.

Courses Available for Aspirants

The firefighter training programs include gaining experience in controlled environments such as making forced entries through doors and windows, navigating smoke-filled houses and buildings, and manipulation of hoses and ladders. Major topics of the coursework are fire prevention and equipment use, fire control, fire safety, fire department organization, hazardous material response, etc.

Community colleges offer fire science technology certificates in fire instructor, fire investigator, driver operator, fire officer, etc. Some of the courses available for the aspirants are as follows:

1. Certificate Program

These programs are executed at community colleges and vocational schools, and can be completed in a few months. Advanced certification courses are available for students with experience in fire fighting. This program covers basic topics like fire fighting, fire investigation and fire codes, etc.

2. Associate’s Degree Programs

Topics that are covered as a part of this program are fire prevention, safety concerns, hazardous material and arson. The coursework of this program is designed for both entry-level as well as for experienced firefighters. The course duration is approximately 2 years, and it prepares candidates for professional progression and advancement opportunities. Major topics that are covered as a part of associate degree are – hydraulics of fire protection, management of hazardous materials, fire protection construction, legal issues in fire service, etc.

3. Bachelor’s Degree Programs

This course includes a comprehensive study in fire prevention and protection. Topics like policy integration, human resources, legal issues, and management skills are also covered in this program. Students are also taught to operate various specialized fire service equipments and apparatus.

4. Master’s Degree Programs

Students who graduate to become technical specialists are prepared to assume leadership roles within the fire service profession. Students are made to investigate the nature of fires and explosions, public fire protection, public safety management, strategic fire management, arson analysis, fire and building codes, and fire scene reconstruction.

Procedure to Become a Firefighter

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You need to follow the below-given steps in order to work as a firefighter.

1. Meet the Employment Prerequisites

An aspirant must meet all the prerequisites set by the employer like:

  • S/he must be at least 18 years of age.
  • S/he must possess a driving license.
  • A high school diploma is must for a firefighter.

Coursework done at the college level can boost your chances of getting job as a firefighter in urban and forest areas.

2. Earn an EMT Certification

Choose the EMT program that makes you eligible to sit for the national exam. It’s mandatory to clear the exam conducted by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, in order to obtain the certification. Some fire departments hire you and permit you to complete your certification along with job.

3. Complete a Degree Program

Associate and bachelor degree programs are available for people who wish to pursue their career in fire science, paramedics, and advanced leadership roles. Classroom teaching is combined with field internship in some accredited apprenticeship programs hosted by some fire organizations.

4. Pass the Screening Test

Fire department conducts screening events which consist of first round of test followed by subsequent round of interviews. At least two exams are required to enter the training program – a written exam and a Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) test. The written test comprises 100 multiple choice questions which are related to reading comprehension, logic, observation and memory, spatial awareness, and mechanical reasoning.

5. Complete Fire Academy Training

After getting hired, your training begins at the fire academy. The coursework of the training cover – practical as well as theoretical aspects of emergency procedures, hazmat control, anti-arson techniques, building codes, fighting fires, prevention techniques, etc. After completion of graduation, you become eligible to work as a firefighter.

6. Advance Your Career

After becoming a firefighter, additional training can be taken at formal EMT programs or paramedic certification programs which last up to 2 years. Based on your educational level and time served in the organization, your career graph advances, and you may climb the ladder as fire engineer, lieutenant, captain and battalion chief. You might need a bachelor’s degree in fire science or public administration to become an assistant chief, deputy chief or chief.

Some Popular Firefighter Schools in the USA

Some of the popular institutions which provide firefighting education in the USA are as follows:

Name of School Address Phone No. Fax No. Official Website
Miami Dade College – Inter American 300 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33132-2204 (305) 237-8888 http://www.mdc.edu
Houston Community College 3100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002 (713) 718-2000 http://www.hccs.edu
Lone Star College System 5000 Research Forest Drive, The Woodlands, TX 77381 (832) 813-6500 http://www.lonestar.edu
College of Southern Nevada – Charleston Campus 6375 West Charleston Boulevard,
Las Vegas, NV 89146
(702) 651-5000 http://www.csn.edu
Riverside Community College 1533 Spruce Street,
Riverside, CA 92507
(951) 222-8000 http://www.rccd.edu
Austin Community College 5930 Middle Fiskville Road, Austin, Texas 78752-4390 (512) 223-4ACC(4222) (830) 997-1762 http://www.austincc.edu
City College of San Francisco 50 Phelan Avenue, Cloud Hall 119 (1st Floor), San Francisco, CA 94112 (415) 239-3200 (415) 239-3065 http://www.ccsf.edu
American River College 4700 College Oak Drive, Sacramento, California – 95841 (916) 484-8011 http://www.arc.losrios.edu
Pima Community College 4905 East Broadway Boulevard,
Tucson, AZ 85709-1010
(520) 206-4500 https://www.pima.edu
East Los Angeles College 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, CA 91754 (323) 265-8650 http://www.elac.edu
Santa Ana College 1530 West 17th  Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706-3398 (714) 564-6000 http://www.sac.edu
Mt. San Antonio College 1100 North Grand Avenue, Walnut, CA 91789 (909) 274-7500, (909) 594-3447 http://www.mtsac.edu
University of Cincinnati – Main Campus 2600 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45221 (513) 556-6000 http://www.uc.edu
El Camino Community College District 16007 Crenshaw Boulevard,
Torrance, CA 90506
(310) 532-3670 http://www.elcamino.edu
Long Beach City College – Liberal Arts Campus 4901 East Carson Street, Long Beach CA 90808 (562) 938-4111 http://phonebook.lbcc.edu
Tidewater Community College 121 College Place, Norfolk, VA 23510-1938 (757) 822-1122, (800) 371-0898 http://www.tcc.edu
Palomar College 1140 West Mission Road, San Marcos, CA 92069-1487 (760) 744-1150 http://www.palomar.edu
Pasadena City College 1570 East Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91106 (626) 585- 7123 http://www.pasadena.edu

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