If you’re thinking about becoming a firefighter or know someone who is, you may be wondering what the importance of firefighters is and how the work that a firefighter does fits in with their community as a whole?
Firefighters are important because they save lives. That’s the simplest answer, of course, it’s not the whole answer and, in fact, there are many good reasons that firefighting is considered to be a highly skilled profession that makes huge contributions to the community that it serves.
This is what you need to know.
Table of Contents
Why Are Firefighters Important?
Firefighters are important because they fulfill five essential functions that are not fulfilled by other members of the emergency services:
- Life safety. The primary purpose of firefighters is to help ensure the safety of lives and that means saving people’s lives by preventing and extinguishing fires and it also means by offering medical care during emergencies. It’s worth noting, that in 2021 a firefighter is more likely to be on an emergency medical call (EMS) than fighting fires because fire prevention efforts have been hugely successful over recent decades.
- Incident containment. Any incident can go from small, to medium-sized to huge in a matter of minutes if it is not managed effectively. Firefighters may not be able to put an immediate end to a situation, but they should be looking to ensure that a small problem doesn’t become a bigger one. They learn to reduce threats and minimize the potential harm from them as part of the job.
- Property safety. Lives matter more than property, but property is not unimportant, and the fire service spends a lot of its time trying to ensure that property is conserved. This isn’t just protecting property from fires; it’s also trying to protect property from the fire fighting efforts themselves. After all, if you had a very small kitchen fire and the fire service flooded your entire home, you probably wouldn’t be very happy, would you?
- Environmental safety. Not every firefighter is involved with efforts to contain wildfires, but many are and when they are, they will also be involved in the acts of trying to conserve the environment when fighting those fires.
- Educating the public. When they’re not attending emergencies and trying to save lives and property, the fire service is actively engaged in educating others in the importance of fire safety and CPR. This is very important work because the more that fires are prevented before they are started, the safer everyone will be.
How Do Firefighters Help Us?
Firefighters undertake a huge range of tasks, many of which we’ve already outlined above, but they may also get involved in any activity which benefits people and involves quick thinking combined with physical prowess.
For example, a firefighting team might get called out to free people from elevators that have become stuck in a building, or they might be asked to help rescue survivors from a collapsed building, or they could be called in to free a trapped animal.
Every day firefighting brings new challenges and new activities and there’s no “one size fits all” handbook for a firefighter’s life.
Whenever they’re needed, firefighters do their best to be equal to the task and ensure the safety of the public and their fellow firefighters.
Are Firefighters Brave?
It is hard to say what emotion each firefighter feels in any given situation, what is bravery for one person might be routine for another.
However, it seems fair to say that at some point in their career, every firefighter will be called upon to perform duties that a regular person would consider an act of bravery.
Entering a burning building, for example, would be something that most of us would see as courageous but for a firefighter, it’s their job.
Are Firefighters Really Heroes?
Not every firefighter considers themselves to be a hero, in fact, most don’t. And they certainly didn’t take up the job in order to be a hero.
However, there’s no doubt that the majority of the public consider firefighting to be a heroic job and there’s a general acknowledgment that while this kind of work may not make you famous, it requires plenty of courage.
Why Are They Heroes?
Operation Warm, a charitable organization that works with the IAFF Firefighters to ensure that every child in America has a warm coat to rely on, offers five solid reasons that firefighters can be considered heroes.
- While others run away, firefighters run towards the danger. You can’t put out a fire from the other end of the road, a firefighter’s job always involves moving toward a fire and even though they know things might not turn out right, they do their job anyway.
- Firefighters don’t give up until the job’s done. A firefighter can work 24 hours or more when the job demands it to put out a fire. They don’t complain, they don’t moan and their families know that sometimes, their needs have to take a back seat when a blaze is raging.
- A firefighter brings brains as well as brawn to the party. All firefighters are fire scientists, they are able to assess what the cause of a blaze is and what the best techniques for tackling that blaze are in the blink of an eye. And after a fire is out, they can employ their scientific training to evaluate whether or not there was foul play at hand when the fire started.
- Firefighters inspire others to be special. There aren’t many jobs out there that command near universal respect from members of the public but firefighting is one of them. Every class at school has one little boy or girl that wants to be a firefighter. They know that firefighters do the extraordinary everyday and that people can rely on them to be there when others would not be.
- Firefighters do many more awesome things than just fight fires. If you’re stuck in a crashed car, the odds are good that firefighters will help you get out. If you need emergency medical treatment, it may well be a firefighter that provides it.
And most of all, firefighters do this every day of the year without expecting or demanding individual recognition, they do it because they know that their work makes a difference to the communities that they serve.
Reasons Firefighters Are Important To The Community
There are many good reasons that firefighters add value to their community. FirefighterNow offers these 10 great reasons:
- Firefighters tackle all sorts of fires. It doesn’t matter if your home is burning, or your office or your local forest is undergoing a wildfire event, firefighters will turn out to tackle the blaze as soon as humanly possible. And they’re not winging it, they’re trained to understand the complexity of these fires and tackle them in a way that is safest for both the public and the firefighters.
- Firefighters work with their community. Nearly every fire station has an open day which lets the community in through its doors to see the work that firefighters do. And almost every fire service has members of the service out in the community building relationships with the individuals that make up that community. This brings about an environment of trust and potential success.
- Firefighters can also act as EMTs. Nearly every firefighter is now trained as an EMT or even as a paramedic as well as a firefighter. That means if you need medical assistance, it may very well be a firefighter that responds to the call. It also means that if someone is hurt in a fire, that medical help is close at hand.
- Firefighters may help animals too. You shouldn’t call your local fire service about cats in trees (cats are natural climbers, when they want to get out of a tree, they will) but the fire service is often brought in to help with other animal incidents and when they’re needed, they respond without complaint.
- Firefighters can also be useful in road traffic accident management. When a road traffic accident (RTA) takes place, firefighters may be asked to help with managing the scene and also with freeing people who are trapped in their cars, etc. and of course, they can also add their EMT skills to the mix when they’re needed.
- Firefighters can deliver safety talks. In fact, firefighters regularly deliver safety talks regarding fire safety. Most commonly this will take place at educational establishments and in nursing homes but if there’s an identified need for safety talks then the fire service might be asked to deliver them anywhere. Who better to talk about fire safety than the experts, right?
- Firefighters can be tasked with handling hazardous materials. Firefighters need to understand the dangers and risks of hazardous materials as many of them are highly flammable or potentially explosive and even if their risks are not directly fire-related, they need to know, for example, if corrosive substances are likely to cause harm during the course of their duties. This makes them useful when hazardous materials need handling during the course of non-fire related incidents.
- Firefighters help to inspire the next generation. Every kid in the country, or nearly every kid, will attend a fire station open day at some point or another. This allows children to ask the questions they have about firefighting and to see what the environment operates like. Done well, these events help to inspire thousands of children to pursue firefighting as a career when they grow up.
- Firefighters can undertake specialist training. Not all forms of firefighting are the same, for example, fires on boats require firefighters that know how to handle water and sea rescue as well as marine fire prevention skills. You’ll find dozens of these specialist needs across the firefighting remit and firefighters are capable of tackling them all with the right support and training and they do.
- Firefighters help to enforce building safety. The best work that a firefighter does is not tackling fires but preventing fires from starting in the first place. Fire departments help to implement the NFPA standards and codes that make buildings, homes and workplaces safer. They also help to ensure compliance with these standards in the long run.
What Is The Life Expectancy Of A Firefighter?
According to MarketWatch, assuming that a firefighter lives to the age of 60, they can expect to live to the age of 84 if they are a man, and to the age of 86 if they are a woman!
This isn’t as long as it sounds, it’s about a year less than the average life expectancy in America of someone who is not a firefighter or law enforcement officer.
Do Firefighters Die Young?
Firefighters, in the recent past, have been known to adopt unhealthy habits that lead to heart disease and cancer on the job.
However, there’s much more focus now on healthy eating and regular exercise in the fire service.
Thus, while it’s fair to say that some firefighters will die young (as will some of any group of people, mind you) and that firefighting is a riskier profession than say “receptionist”, most firefighters don’t die young and will get to enjoy a pleasant retirement as most other people do.