Become a Firefighter and Help Others by Bill May

Although a firefighter's salary will pay the bills and put food on the table, it will not place you in an extremely high tax bracket. In fact, a lot of full-time firefighters work an extra job on their days off. A person does not become a firefighter just for the money.

Secondly, people do not decide to be a firefighter because they want a stress- free job. Responding to 9-1-1 calls that often involve literal life or death situations does not bring about calm and serenity. Likewise, crawling through a burning building full of super-heated gasses and throat-choking smoke is really not the most relaxing day at work.

Sure, every job has some stress, but nothing compared to that of a firefighter. The desire to be a firefighter is not due to the relaxing work environment. While we are on the subject, people do not become a firefighter because it is a healthy profession.

Each year, approximately 100 fire fighters die in the line of duty. About half of these fatalities are due to heart attacks. Both stress and extreme physical exertion contribute to these statistics. Finally, nobody becomes a firefighter because they will be able to spend more time with their family once they join the fire department.

Most members of the fire service are on a 24/48-hour shift. Working a firefighter's schedule means spending a third of your life at the fire station. Because of the constantly rotating shifts, a firefighter ends up being away from home on nights, weekends, holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. Being a firefighter often creates a huge strain on family relationships.

So, after pointing out some of the negative aspects, why would anybody still want to become a firefighter? Because firefighters help people.

When we think of the many ways in which a firefighter helps others, one of the first things that come to mind is fighting fires. We have all seen the TV shows or movies where a heroic firefighter saves someone from a raging inferno.

Although the Hollywood depiction of what a firefighter can actually do is often exaggerated, the truth remains that when it comes to being trapped in a fire, a firefighter is definitely your best friend. Even if the fire does not require the saving of a life, firefighters still have a crucial role in helping others.

A quick extinguishment of a house fire will help to save treasured items that otherwise could never be replaced. Family heirlooms and personal photographs are just some of the items that fall into this category.

And don't forget the pets. To some people, their beloved cat or dog is considered to be a member of the family. There are countless stories of how firefighters have rescued an animal that would have otherwise succumbed to the smoke and flames.

Any individual who wants to become a firefighter should be aware that today's fire service does more than just fight fires, a lot more. For example, many of our local fire departments respond to medical calls involving car wrecks, falls, near drowning and heart attacks. The men and women who work these medical emergencies often times are able to provide the help that will save a victim.

Even if the situation is not life threatening, the actions of the fire fighters can lessen the severity of the injuries and decrease the patient's recovery time. Without a doubt, this service is truly a help to others. In addition, firefighters are a huge help to others through their community education efforts.

Teaching people the importance of having a working smoke alarm in the home is an excellent example of how educating the public can save lives. The early warning from a smoke detector will give family members a head start in escaping injury in the event of a fire. Hundreds of lives are saved each year as a result of these alarm systems.

Another way in which members in the fire service help others is through raising funds for various charities. Many departments will conduct a "boot drive" where firefighters stand at a busy intersection, rubber boot in hand, and collect donations. The efforts of these firefighters help to support such agencies as the Burn Foundation and special camps for children with thermal injuries.

Although this form of help is not as dramatic as running into a burning building, it is still helping others none-the-less. As we can see, there are many ways that firefighters help others. Wait a minute, what about those negative aspects of the job that were mentioned earlier? Good point. Let's take a quick look at each of them.

The first concern is that of a firefighter's salary. Even though an individual may be hesitant to become a firefighter strictly from a monetary sense, the help that they can provide to others is very rewarding.

Being able to save a person's property and possessions in the event of a fire pays big dividends in knowing that you made a difference. Even more so, to be able to save a person's life, well, there is no way you could put a price on that. What about the stress that comes with the job?

Although there are ways of reducing the amount of stress, unfortunately, there is no way to totally eliminate it when responding to 9-1-1 emergencies. However, as a firefighter gains experience on the job, he/she will become more confident in their abilities to perform certain skills. Through this increased confidence, a firefighter is able to reduce a certain amount of stress.

Although eliminating all stress is impossible, having a strong emotional support system, such as family members and religious beliefs, helps to lessen the impact of the stressful events that do occur.

Note: A person who wants to become a firefighter must have an adequate means of dealing with stress.

As mentioned earlier, the fire service is not exactly the safest profession when it comes to health issues. Not only do firefighters encounter emotional and physical stressors, they are also subject to coming in contact with contagious diseases as well.

Life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS and hepatitis serve as a constant reminder of the dangers to members of the fire service. It is not uncommon for a firefighter to respond to a medical emergency involving a patient who has a deadly disease. Blood and other bodily fluids that can be found at the scene are the main culprits in spreading the more serious illnesses.

By practicing good safety precautions, firefighters can reduce the health risks that come with the job. Precautions such as wearing gloves, masks and other protective clothing, help to prevent the spread of contagious diseases when providing care to an injured patient.

In addition to the external precautions, firefighters must maintain their overall health through proper eating and exercising. To help reduce the chance of developing heart problems, fire service personnel should practice a disciplined life-style that targets the cardiovascular system. A healthy heart will help to reduce the number of firefighters who die from heart attacks each year.

Probably the most important thing to consider when deciding to become a firefighter is the impact on the family life. Once you do become a firefighter, there is a good chance that additional strains will be placed on your relationships. Everything from the stress of the job to the irregular work schedule will work against a happy home. It is important that all family members are aware of this possibility when making the final decision to become a firefighter.

Good communication and quality time together go a long ways in keeping relationships strong. By discussing stressful events that occur on the job, a firefighter will enable family members to have a better idea of the emotional roller coaster often experienced by fire service personnel. It helps to talk about it. It is also important to be willing to seek additional help from clergy and other professionals when relationships are threatened.

Like any job, being a firefighter has its pros and cons. But for the majority of men and women who are in the fire service, it is a job they love. It is a job where they can go to work and help people. So, if you are a person who wants to become a firefighter in order to help others, you've come to the right place.

Bill May has over 24 years experience in the fire service. To learn more about firefighters or how to become one, visit his website at [ redirected].

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