Firefighters have one of the most high-pressure and high-risk jobs out there. They possess specialized skills to put out fires and prevent them from reoccurring, investigate possible sources of fire (especially if arson may be involved), and conduct rescue missions for the sick, elderly, and injured.
Firefighters are typically the first responders when an accident occurs or during an emergency. While most firefighters are career professionals, many also perform voluntary firefighting work for the safety and wellbeing of their communities. As of 2018, there were 1,115,000 professional and volunteer firefighters in the United States.
Should I Be a Firefighter?
There’s no definitive answer to this question. The high incidence of fire-related accidents and emergencies means that it’s never a bad idea to recruit more firefighters. However, if you’re really considering a career in the firefighter department, you need to know that theirs is a high-risk job that requires several months of rigorous training. In fact, you’ll still be training once you begin actively performing calls and doing on-site activities.
Moreover, it’s important to differentiate between want and should. Wanting a career in this noble profession may seem like a good idea, but desiring it alone isn’t enough to make you a good firefighter. Just because you want to be a firefighter doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it.
The question you should ask instead is am I cut out to be a firefighter? Do you understand the nature of the work, and the qualities required to be a good firefighter? Do you check off the requirements? If you do meet the criteria, or are committed to making lifestyle changes that’ll allow you to meet it, then by all means, proceed!
What’s the Work Schedule Like?
Firefighters work long, varied hours. While they do have regular shifts, the work hours often stretch beyond those because of emergencies or crisis situations that may occur. As a result, it’s quite common for firefighters to work overtime in the line of fire—literally.
Relax, this doesn’t mean you’re going to be working 24-hour shifts around the week. However, that may be a possibility on some days. For firefighters who combat forest or wildland fires, this may even extend for longer. Firefighters are often required to stay at the site for a couple of days—or even weeks—in case a wildland fire breaks out.
So, do you think you have what it takes to pursue a career in the firefighter department? Here are a few notable qualities that make a good firefighter.
Working in the firefighting department is not at all like a desk job. Firefighters are almost always on the move, ready to tackle a blazing wildland fire or a rescue mission. This means that they need above-average agility and strength to be able to perform their duties effectively.
Maintaining a high fitness level is a crucial requirement for firefighters. With all the strenuous exercises and motions involved, they need to be physically fit so that they can stay safe and keep others safe when they’re on a call. They also need to be quick on their feet. If they take too long to reach a dangerous room within a burning building, they may not be able to save the ones trapped inside or get hurt trying.
Firefighting training focuses heavily on physical fitness. Even when you’re not on duty, you’ll be required to undergo regular training exercises to stay in shape and build strength and agility. If you hate hitting the gym during the week or going for a run frequently, this may not be the job for you.
Courageousness & Self-Sacrificial Behavior
Firefighters do one of the most selfless jobs, protecting the community from harm and putting people’s needs above their own. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous jobs in which they’re at a high risk of burns & injuries that may be fatal. Stepping into a building that’s ablaze to rescue its inhabitants is no easy feat! It requires a certain level of bravery and selflessness to put themselves in that position and go ahead with the task at hand.
A good and effective firefighter is courageous and self-sacrificing. They know that they need to be responsible for the wellbeing of others as well as their own, and that they may need to put themselves in a risky situation to help the ones they’ve vowed to protect. They’re willing to take risks and volunteer readily when it comes to addressing difficult situations, even if it means they’re likely to get injured on the job.
Firefighters don’t work alone. They’re part of a unit that works together as a team to get the job done in the most effective and efficient manner. This means that you need to be fairly social and adaptable to be able to thrive in the group dynamic.
Individuals who’re easily able to adapt to their social surroundings and genuinely enjoy working with other people are best suited for the job. You need to be empathetic, have an acute awareness of social cues & body language, and be sensitive to others’ feelings & moods. This doesn’t just apply to your squad, but also the people you’ll be interacting with when you’re making a call. Firefighters should be able to easily communicate with the people they meet during a rescue mission and possess the persuasion skills necessary to help them get out of a dangerous setting.
You must also be willing to adapt to new setting and changing routes and job descriptions, as your duties may change from time to time. Most importantly, you need to be able to adapt to stressful situations and work with your team to get through those.
Become a Part of the Nation’s Bravest Heroes
Being a firefighter isn’t easy, but it sure is satisfying. If you wish to be a part of the esteemed NYC Firefighter Department, you’ll have to clear the FDNY exam.
Civil Service Success helps aspiring candidates prepare for the NYC firefighter exams through their prep classes for civil services. For more information about our online sessions, call at 631-218-0889 or visit our website to check when registration opens for this exam.