Firefighting is not just for men

firefighter training

Firefighting is not just for men

Some women may grow up with an interest in pursuing firefighter basic training so they can do their part in one day battling blazes and saving lives. However, if these individuals have ever watched a fire truck loaded with male firefighters speed by, they may abandon their dream, thinking that this profession is reserved for men. If they believe this, however, they are wrong.

Female firefighters do exist
Even if firefighting is a male-dominated line of work, there are women who tackle fires alongside men. In the U.S., around 6,200 women hold jobs as full-time, career firefighters and officers, according to the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services. The levels of firefighter training and titles vary among these women, but many of them serve as lieutenants, captains and district chiefs.

Not only do women hold jobs as firefighters in the U.S., but around the world as well. For example, in Great Britain, more than 200 women currently serve as career firefighters. Female firefighters can also be found in countries such as Canada, Japan, South Africa and Australia.

Many female firefighters are making history
Part of the reason why misconceptions about female firefighters exists is that in some areas, women suiting up and rushing into burning buildings is still unheard of. However, several women are making history and, in the process, helping eradicate these myths.

For example, Connecticut resident Kaitlyn Burrows recently became the Plainville Fire Department’s first female firefighter, The Plainville Citizen reported. Burrows’ gender has had zero impact on her performance as a firefighter, as she is known to be hardworking, does not complain and is always ready to learn.

“The first time I was on the truck with the lights and sirens going, it was a feeling like no other,” Burrows told the news source. “I knew this was for me. I knew this was what I was meant to do.”

Challenges women may face
Still, firefighting is not a career that any woman, or man, can excel in. Lt. Jeff Gauthier of the Milwaukee Fire Department told WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio that female cadets struggle more than men when it comes to developing certain firefighting skills. However, this does not mean they cannot master them over time.

“Typically with women, we find that it’s slightly less upper body strength, smaller biceps,” Gauthier said. “But once the students learn that if they use the techniques we teach them and follow the program that we put forth, if they’ve got the heart and the desire we can get them through the program.”

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Firefighters should watch for stress symptoms

Firefighters should watch for stress symptoms

Firefighters should watch for stress symptoms

Individuals who wish to complete firefighter basic training and become professional rescue workers understand that this line of work comes with many challenges. As firefighters put their lives on the line every time they strap on a helmet, it should come as no surprise that this occupation has the potential to be incredibly stressful.

One of 2013’s most stressful jobs
Recently, job website CareerCast identified what it believes to be the 10 most stressful professions of 2013. In the third-place spot, just behind enlisted military personnel and military general was firefighter. Overall, this occupation had astress score of 60.45, which was based on multiple factors, including the role’s competitiveness, hazards encountered, amount of required travel and physical demands.

Why is firefighting so stressful?
According to CareerCast, the risks associated with rushing into burning buildings and dropping into forest fires are not the only reasons why firefighting is so stressful. There is also the fact that professionals in this line of work have a responsibility to protect people and property – not to mention themselves and their fellow firefighters.

A report from the U.S. Fire Administration and the International Association of Fire Fighters explained that despite advancements in the fire service industry, rescue workers are still losing their lives or becoming injured on the job.

The effects of stress
If individuals complete firefighter training and are unsure as to whether or not the stress of the job is taking a toll on them, they may want to figure out if they are showing the symptoms of this negative reaction to life’s demands. According to the Mayo Clinic, headaches, fatigue and sleep problems are all symptoms of stress. At the same time, it is not uncommon for individuals to feel restless, irritableor depressed, or become socially withdrawn.

Finding ways to cope with stress
A decade ago, firefighters and other first responders may not have acknowledged the stress they were feeling, Robert Czerwinski, fire chief for Massachusetts’ Pittsfield Fire Department, told The Berkshire Eagle. Today, however, individuals who hold these occupations are being taught to recognize their stress.

“Our heartbeat goes flying high and there are stressors building up in the body and the adrenaline is rushing while you’re driving to the scene,” Czerwinski said.

In Pittsfield, firefighters have an opportunity to meet with counselors through an employee assistance program, so that stress does not get the best of them.

Christmas Eve shooting raises questions about firefighter safety

Christmas Eve shooting raises questions about firefighter safety

Christmas Eve shooting raises questions about firefighter safety

On Christmas Eve, William Spengler Jr. allegedly set a fire in Webster, New York, to lure firefighters into a trap. Spengler Jr. ended up taking his own life, but not before fatally shooting two firefighters and wounding two others, CNN reported.

This tragic incident is a reminder of the dangers firefighters face every time they put on their gear and respond to a call. For some, it serves as an example of why rescue workers need to be armed.

The case for firefighters with firearms
While firefighters already receive firefighter basic training, Kip Teitsort, a veteran police officer and paramedic, would like to see these individuals receive the same level of preparation as law enforcement, KY3-TV reported. Even though incidents similar to the one that occurred in New York last month do not happen frequently, Teitsort said these professionals are attacked on a daily basis. As a result, Teitsort believes firefighters and emergency medical technicians should be trained to carry and use firearms.

“… When I hear this sort of thing I get frustrated, because there is no change,” Teitsort told the news source, in reference to the recent shooting. “There is no recognition that violence in medicine exist. It is like this dirty little secret.”

Firefighters understand the risk
News of the Christmas Eve shooting may have shocked those who have never completed firefighter training, but professionals in this line of work, such as Florida’s Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, understand the risks that come with rescue work.

“The moment you step out the door on a rescue, or truck, or ladder, you’re in a dangerous situation,” Wyse told First Coast News. “It could happen anywhere. So we always have to be mentally prepared to go into those situations.”

As firefighters are often the first people to arrive at the scene of an emergency, they never know what they will encounter. It is not uncommon for these unarmed professionals to be threatened by the very people they are trying to help.

While details from the New York ambush are certainly unsettling, Jacksonville firefighters are very familiar with tragic incidents involving rescue workers. In 1934, a firefighter was fatally shot when he responded to a call, while another firefighter was murdered in the 1970s on the night before he was set to retire.

Proper fire truck training essential for firefighters

Proper fire truck training essential for firefighters

Proper fire truck training essential for firefighters

Throughout their firefighter training sessions, emergency personnel acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the duties of firefighters. This means more than just putting out blazes, as firefighters are responsible for rescuing and treating victims when necessary, as well as operating fire trucks and other emergency vehicles.

For these professionals, quality training is vital, as firefighters are more likely than many other professionals to become injured, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Traffic accidents are among the potentially dangerous situations these emergency workers may encounter.

Recently, firefighter Mark Haudenschild II of Indiana’s Washington Township Fire Department lost his life while driving a fire truck, Frost Illustrated reported. It is believed that the 26-year-old emergency worker lost control of his vehicle as he attempted to make a westbound turn on his way to a brush fire. The vehicle rolled over and struck three utility poles, trapping Haudenschild inside and ultimately killing him.

At this time, the true cause of the accident is still under investigation, but the incident serves as an example of how important firefighter basic training can be to rescue workers’ long-term safety.

Firefighters fired up over new helmet policy

Firefighters fired up over new helmet policy

Firefighters fired up over new helmet policy

For many firefighters, the helmet they wear not only protects their head in dangerous environments, but also serves as a badge of honor. This piece of equipment, and the soot that collects on it, is a reminder of all the times they put themselves in harm’s way to save lives and protect property. That is why many New York City firefighters are furious over new regulations that ask them to part with their helmets after 10 years.

According to The New York Post, Big Apple firefighters with helmets over 10 years old must return them by November 6 in order to receive a replacement, free of charge. If these professionals prefer to keep their headgear, they are required to pay $100, with those on the force for more than 20 years only having to pay $50. Firefighters who have served for 30 years or longer do not need to pay anything at all.

At the same time, it is important for firefighters to have the best equipment possible when reporting for duty. In 2012, there were a total of 488,256 fires in the Big Apple, according to the New York City Fire Department’s website.

With such a high volume of incidents in just one city, firefighters are reminded of the importance of staying abreast of the latest safety developments in their line of work. Firefighter basic training and Firefighter safety training may be able to provide the information necessary to update their skill set.

Can Firefighters Nationwide Really Do More With Less?

Budget Cuts Rip Through Fire Departments as Wildfires Blaze in Mid-West

Some towns are starting to see the consequences of the budget cuts that rippled through fire departments across the nation.

While wildfires ravage the mid-west from Montana to California, fire departments across the country face severe budget cuts. Some departments—like the Westfield Fire Department in New Jersey—have suffered as much as a 25-percent cut over the past two years. Vacancies are not being filled, nine-man shifts become seven-man shifts or less, and the effects are potentially life threatening.

Per National Fire Protection Association recommendations, four firefighters should be on duty for each piece of fire equipment that’s dispatched to the scene of a fire, whether it’s an engine or a ladder truck. But when shifts are short one or two people, certain rescue equipment can’t be used. This means neighboring towns and volunteer departments—which are farther away—have to send both manpower and equipment to assist. The association also advocates that response teams send 15 firefighters to a scene within 12 minutes. Sadly, that’s not always the case.

In an effort to urge the town council to hire more firefighters, one Westfield citizen recounted the fire that destroyed her house. Due to the “two in, two out” law, which requires two firefighters to stay outside for every two who set foot inside a burning building, Westfield firefighters had to wait outside the house for a full 15 minutes before firefighters from Plainfield, N.J. arrived as backup.

West coast cities and volunteer departments are also experiencing budget cuts that could have harsh consequences.

Last year the Los Angeles city council denied filling some 318 vacant firefighting positions. The federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, a program that gave $1.9 billion to various states and saved an estimated 13,000 jobs, spared some cities. But others, like Westfield, are seeing slower response times and higher levels of destruction due to local government penny-pinching. Since so many fire departments are facing serious budget cuts, it’s more important than ever to make sure firefighters are well trained.

Although President Obama showed support through his efforts to extend federal health insurance to about 8,000 temporary wildland firefighters, most firefighters still have to do more grueling work for less. That means firefighter basic training must be foolproof. Firefighter basic requirements haven’t changed much, but departments are tasked with scouring for quality firefighter skills training that’s also cost-effective. Online firefighter training is one possible solution, especially when one person must now fill the roles of several.

In 2011, volunteer firefighters in Texas had to buy their own gear and gas to drive the fire trucks. If departments can’t even invest in volunteer equipment, they must invest in firefighter training courses. Neither fire departments, municipal governments, nor local citizens can afford not to.

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