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What Does a Firefighter Do – Firefighter Job Description And Duties

Wondering what does a firefighter do? The duties of a firefighter expand significantly beyond simply putting out fires, and the average fireman should expect to carry out a large variety of tasks if they want to be successful. Below is a very detailed firefighter job description.

At The Station

Duties that take place at the fire station include:

Firefighter Watch Duties

Watch duties are all the non-maintenance things a firefighter does while in stand-by mode at the fire station, and these include:

  • Monitoring of incoming alarms and answering 911 calls
  • Handling department/station specific matters, keeping equipment organized and in working order, handling internal issues
  • Informing other station personel and firefighters of the need for responding to an alarm

Cleaning Duties

Much like soldiers, a fireman must be self-sufficient when it comes to basic tasks, making cleaning a part of the firefighter job description:

  • A firefighter must keep all of his/her equipment clean and rust-free.
  • Must keep the fire apparatus clean, both inside and outside.
  • His duties also include keeping his or her private station quarters clean.
  • Must be able to do basic yard work, including trimming grass.

Equipment Maintenance Duties

This involves cleaning all your fire and rescue equipment to ensure it’s constantly in operational condition:

  • Making sure all of your equipment is as close to the fire truck/engine as possible.
  • Checking the functionality of all EMT/Paramedic equipment, including EKG machines, defibrillators, expiry dates on drugs and chemicals.
  • Making sure all extension ladders are functional and rust-free.
  • Firefighters must also regularly inspect any lights, cables andcords, energy generators, fans, pumps and power equipment.
  • The hose on your equipment should be constantly inspected as well

Vehicle Maintenance Duties

What does a firefighter do if his vehicle isn’t in top-working condition? Preventing such a situation is definitely a part of the firefighter job description:

  • Constantly checking oil levels, engine, greases, battery levels, fuel, lubrication.
  • Extra care should be taken to ensure perfect working condition of the truck breaks, tires, sirens and ladders.
  • Testing water pressure and the engine’s ability to pump water as required.
  • Filing malfunction reports when necessary and scheduling repairs when required.

Filing Reports

Yes, there is no escaping reports.

  • Preparing reports on the latest emergency call.
  • Preparing reports on equipment that should be temporarily taken off service due to a malfunction.
  • Preparing reports on new equipment that should be purchased by the department.

Firefighter First Response Duties

What does a firefighter do between intercepting an alarm and reaching the scene?

Pre-eliminary preparation

  • Evaluating the type of reported incident based on the alarm and call received
  • Determining the type of equipment and number of personell that should be taken to the scene
  • Put on all protective gear as quickly as possible

Driving To The Scene

These are the duties that take place from the moment the fire apparatus leaves the station and to the moment it is parked near the emergency scene.

  • Having knowledge of your local traffic laws and traffic conditions during various times of day
  • Using maps and GPS navigation, determining the quickest and most direct route to the scene of the emergency
  • Park the vehicle as close to the alarm site as possible

On-scene Firefighter Duties And Activities

What does a firefighter do after reaching the emergency scene? No firefighter job description would be complete without the below; this is where the bulk of your duties will be carried out.

Communicating With Other Firefighters

Communication and coordination between you and your teammates is critical; without it, even the easiest mission can fail. Some duties will include:

  • Remaining in communication with the fire station and relaying information / commands back and forth.
  • Providing other fire personel on your team with information regarding apparatus and equipment location for quick access.
  • Coordinating sweeps of an area during a search & rescue.
  • Warning other firefighters at the emergency scene about danger zones, restricted pathways, etc.

Operating Water Pumps

  • Opening and checking the functionality of a fire hydrant.
  • Connecting pump(s) and monitoring all signals incluing pressure, temperature of water, pump fuel levels, etc.
  • Connecting the water supply line and keeping it unobstructed.
  • Controlling the flow of water through the hose (on/off) as needed and as instructed.

Operating Fire Extinguishing Tools

What does a firefighter do? “He puts out fires” is what most people would say. While this is definitely not the extent of a fireman’s responsibilities, it is certainly one of the most important aspects. The duties of operating fire extinguishing tools include:

  • Picking the right size and number of the hoses/nozzle required for the emergency, and connecting the hoselines to the nozzles.
  • Using a foam or water extinguisher when and where necessary, to either extinguish or contain fires, or to make room for a search & rescue operation.
  • Making sure the hoseline is constantly in working condition throughout the mission and that no obstructions come into play.
  • Properly operating the fire-supression water pipe located on ladders during a fire extinguishing operation.
  • Using your sense of smell, hearing and seeing to locate gas leaks and/or the epicenter (seat) of a fire so that extinguishing operations can be applied quickly.
  • Operating Ladders

    These firefighter duties are critical for rescuing people from burning buildings, providing for easier ventilation of structures, etc.

    For manual ladders:

    • Figuring out the proper placement of the ladder, as well as the ideal size and type of ladder to be used in a given emergency situation.
    • Securing the ladder to prevent it from moving or tipping over.
    • Positioning the ladder and climbing it for a search & rescue as well as other tasks.

    For mechanical ladders:

    • Climbing ladders (fear of heights will be an issue) during a search & rescue.
    • Operating a mechanical ladder, either from the ground or the ladder platform.
    • Avoiding trees and branches, power lines, and oher constructions while extending the ladder.
    • Keeping the ladder-elevating apparatus stabilized, mostly with the use of jacks, wheel chocks and pads.
    • Ensuring proper rescue equipment is readily available for firefighters climbing the ladder.

    Forcing an Entry

    What does a firefighter do when he can’t immediately gain access to the emergency scene? He forces his entry:

    • Using rabbit tools, hammers, power tools, axes and hooks to gain entry into a building, house, vehicle through a door, wall or window in order to reach entrapped victims and to properly perform search & rescue duties.
    • A firefighter must figure out the perfect location to force an entry.
    • Must be able to pry doors open using a pry, halligan tools, and a battering ram where necessary.
    • Must use bolt cutters, a sledge hammer and other tools to get rid of chains, locks and padlocks.
    • When there is no door to pry or window to open, the firefighter might need to use power tools to cut through other structures so the fire team can gain access to the victims.

    Search & Rescue

    This is a critical part of what firefighters do at the scene; their primary role after all is to save lives.

    Searching for victims:

    • Each firefighter on the search team will be assigned a search area that he must stick to.
    • The firefighter should choose the most appropriate strategy and pattern to cover the search area assigned to him or her as quickly as possible.
    • Staying on the lookout for any dangers, including fires, gas leaks, chemical spills and other hazards.
    • Locating victims requiring help, be it conscious or unconscious.
    • At times and where vision is restricted, the firefighter must use special tools or his/her legs to try and locate unconscious victims lying on the ground.

    Rescuing victims:

    • Helping move people from the emergency location, be it due to fires, fire hazards, the possibility of an explosion, a chemical spill, a gas leak, etc.
    • Determining the best evacuation method: emergency stairs, fire escapes, mechanical or manual ladders, prying a door, or creating a new exit.
    • Determining the type of evacuation equipment to use: ropes, baskets, harnesses, safety belts, type of knot, etc.
    • Gaining access to victims trapped in vehicles, aircrafts, tunnels, caves, pipes, using the appropriate equipment: drills, power tools, shovels, expandable air bags, pry bars, torches, spades, etc.
    • Rescuing dorwning victims with the help of flotation devices and other specialized equipment / trained personel.

    Providing Medical Care

    The vast majority of firefighters in the US must have an EMT, and sometimes even a Paramedic certification, so that victims can receive proper medical care on the spot:

    • Performing an evaluation of the physical state of all victims and prioritizing those with dire need of assistance.
    • Providing for assisted breathing / oxygen therapy if the victim requires it.
    • Stabilizing the neck in case a spinal injury is plausible.
    • Determining whether stretches
    • Checking the pulse of unconscious victims and, in case of its absence, administring CPR, defibrillation, and using other resucitation techniques.
    • Recognizing serious bleeding and providing the victim with appropriate care.
    • Determining whether a victim requires emergency transport to a medical facility and arranging for the transport.
    • Performing various field tests on the victims in order to determine their physical state; using a stethoscope to locate any breathing or pulse problems; conducting tests to determine the victim’s responsiveness to external stimulus.
    • Working directly with the victim to ease his/her mind, to keep them calm and assure them they are receiving proper medical care.

    Determining wiether the victim must be transported using stretchers or not.

Property Protection

A firefighter’s duties also entail protecting properties at the emergency scene from further damage:

  • Using covers to protect store merchandise, house or business furniture, expensive home appliances, computers and other electronics.
  • Moving certain properties to new locations to prevent them from suffering further damage.
  • Redirecting or blocking water to prevent it from causing additional damage to property and building structures.
  • Temporarily stabilizing walls, roofs, floors and other structures that require it; tearing down weakened and damaged structures that pose a danger to people or to other property.
  • Making sure no small hidden fires remain at the scene of the emergency by turning over debris with the use of axes and other tools.

Equipment Pick-Up Duties

This is what a firefighter will do once the emergency has been handled, all victims attended to and all property protected:

  • Making sure all fire personell is accounted for and that all fire crew members are healthy.
  • Removing any ropes, harnesses, tools, ladders and hoses from around and inside the emergency area.
  • Rolling all the hoses for easy transportation.
  • Cleaning all equipment and returing it to the appropriate vehicle.
  • Going through all the equipmend piece by piece and making sure nothing is missing.
  • Cleaning the fire truck/engine before it is driven back to the station.

Other Firefighter Duties

Apart from the duties of a firefighter mentioned above, there are a few other things firemen are required to do:

Constant Development

  • Subscribe to fire service publications to keep yourself constantly updated on the latest changes in the industry.
  • Remain updated on the latest fire service equipment and technology so you know what you’re likely to be using soon at your own station.
  • Get as many extra certifications as you can and which could help you in performing your duties both on- and off-station.
  • Whenever there’s an opportunity to participate in firefighting training, be it at your own fire department or otherwhere, jump at the opportunity.
  • Consider educating yourself on the chemical nature of different compounds and materials that you work with on a daily basis, and which you are likely to be in contact with while responding to an emergency (gases, hazardous chemicals, etc.).
  • You must remain in top shape; especially when it comes to your aerobic capacity.
  • Do some basic stretching every morning and continue to stretch lightly a few times throughout the day, so that when you need to respond to an emergency you don’t feel “rusty.”
  • Keep yourself updated on the latest developments as far as fire control goes, and in regards to materials currently being used when building structures in your city, and how these materials behave in the event of a fire or chemical / gas leak.
  • Stay on top of any changes happening at your station or fire department. If there is a newsletter to subscribe to, do it. If there is a bulletin board somewhere on the premises, check it daily. Ask your chief to let you know of any upcoming changes whenever possible.
  • Reads and learns about dealing with distressed victims; how to sooth them psychologically and keep them calm.

Fire Inspections

Many will argue that preventing fires is much more important than putting them out. As such, the duties of a firefighter also include carrying out fire inspections:

  • Upon request by a business entity or a citizen, a firefighter should carry out a fire inspection of the building, which includes: checking adjacent fire hydrants, inspecting sprinklers and fire alarms, checking for the obstruction of emergency exits, checking for improper storage of hazardous chemicals/materials, recognizing violations of fire safety codes, checking that an adequate number of fire extinguishers are available and located in the right places, etc.
  • A similar investigation to the one outlined above will be conducted by a firefighter if there is reasonable evidence indicating a building is in violation of certain fire safety codes (details differ from one state to another).
  • A firefighter should attempt to educate other citizens on the subject of fire safety and how to avoid fires.

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