When not putting out fires, firefighters do physical training, attend emergency medical calls, do plenty of paperwork, complete maintenance work around the station, and test their everyday equipment and gear.
In fact, call outs to fires are at a historical low. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a comparison of the data from the 1980s and 2018 shows:
- Even though the population has increased steadily, the number of fire breakout services has almost halved. It was around 2,988,000 in 1980 and the number is 1,318,500, in 2018.
Even though the number of fire calls the firefighters get have decreased with time, firefighters are still often very busy. Many fire stations have been closed and consolidated, meaning there are often still many call outs. And firefighters always need to be on their toes because there is no surety when a big fire will break out.
But, when not fighting fires, what else do firefighters do?
Let’s find out…
What do Firefighters do when not Attending Fire Calls?
Here are 11 of the most common things firefighters do on their shift when not attending fire calls:
1. Report Preparation and loads of paperwork
Any profession that deals with public service involve loads of paperwork and report-making!
Firefighters spend many hours of their shift on documentation.
- They record every specific detail of all the events that happened during each call.
- These particular documentations help the fire department to make sure all kinds of data, no matter how small or big, are being recorded for future review and analysis.
- All firefighters must do equipment checks at the start of their shifts and then record the status of the gears.
So depending upon how busy a fire station is, firefighters can spend anywhere between 30 minutes to many hours just on documentation alone in their shifts.
2. Testing the Equipment and Gear
Equipment and gear testing are some of the most crucial parts of the firefighter shift. It is usually mandatory to check the protective gear at the very start of the shift to make sure everything is in the right condition.
They also have to check the additional pieces of their equipment like the masks, hoods, oxygen cylinders and the wide variety of equipment’s kept within the fire trucks to make sure everything is in the right place and is working fine.
Often times, firefighters also go out for inspections around the locality to check on the present condition of the fire hydrants. Fire hydrants act as an important water source in case of a sudden big fire breakout.
3. Truck Maintenance
There is no guarantee when the firefighters will get a call for an emergency. So they need to be prepared to hit the road at a moment’s notice. For this to happen, they need to make sure that the vehicle and other accessory items are in the right working condition.
All these are done to make sure that the firefighters don’t run into any issues during the call that delays or affects their availability. This is because they are called upon in emergencies where the delay of even a few minutes can be very costly.
So regular maintenance of the truck engine, its tires, and other parts, all play a key role to make sure that the firefighters can attend a call swiftly.
4. Intense Physical Training
Being fit and athletic is the number one criteria that one needs to tick off to be a firefighter. It’s something the firefighters need to maintain throughout their career as it’s an absolute necessity in their line of work.
Firefighters have fixed physical training sessions dedicated to their shifts. They are subjected to tough fitness exams to make sure that their body remains in top-notch condition.
5. Responding to Medical calls or Rescue Missions
Firefighters these days get way more calls related to medical emergencies than for fire breakouts. As a result, most (if not all) firefighters these days receive some form of medical training before joining the team. Usually, a firefighter will need EMT training before being accepted into the Firefighter I training program.
The call for the number of medical aid-related services was 5,045,000 in 1980 and it has increased to 23,551,500 in 2018. That’s an increase of about 4.66 times!
So right now firefighters who are not busy fighting fires are very busy dealing with medical emergencies and accidental support.
Firefighters take part in regular maintenance work on the fire station. After all, the fire station has a kitchen, beds, and other amenities you would regularly find in a home.
They not only work on long shifts in the station but spend a lot of time rubbing shoulders with their coworkers under the same roof. This basically makes the fire station their second home.
Firefighters see the fire stations as public properties dedicated to fellow citizens so it is their duty to keep the fire station tidy and clean.
Their work ranges from:
- Cleaning rooms, corridors, windows, etc.
- Mopping the floors
- Getting rid of the regular trash
- Mowing the lawn
- Taking care of the fire trucks
- Lending a hand in basic plumbing and painting.
Go Deeper: Do Firefighters Live at the Fire Station?
This is particularly done by fire stations that are facing budgeting issues.
Times have changed and firefighters these days along with responding to fire calls rush to all kinds of emergencies ranging from small to big accidents, medical crises, and not just for fire-related activities.
But their pay oftentimes can be low and the fire departments can face funding problems owing to sudden budget issues. In such conditions, many firefighters take part in fundraising activities to lend a hand to their department.
8. Education Campaigns
Firefighters take part in regular fire prevention programs all across the local region. This includes schools, colleges, universities, and other learning institutes.
They organize drills and give practical presentations to the students to educate them on various fire safety guidelines. This also helps to recruit aspiring the youths who might want to take up this important profession in the future.
9. Studying for Exams
There are always young firefighters in the fire stations who are actively looking to climb up the promotional ladder. The path to the top is not easy because the exams are rigorous and the selection process is tough.
There are also many kinds of training courses that further enhance their resume. So they need to use every bit of free time they can get for preparing for their exams and courses.
Another great thing about prepping during the free time while being in the fire station is the help they can get from their colleagues. Experienced firefighters can chime in and provide some valuable input from time to time.
10. Spreading Awareness of Fire Safety
Firefighters also help in organizing public demonstrations of fire safety and preventions to spread awareness among the general public.
Even though the rate of fire breakouts has declined in the last few decades, the necessity of fire safety education is still of the same importance.
11. Acting as Station Tour Guides
This is another great way to spread awareness and to maintain positive rapport with the community. Community members who get a tour of the station will get a clearer image of:
- What the daily life of a firefighter looks like.
- The kind of rigorous training firefighters go through during training.
- The types of equipment and gear the firefighters wear and work with on a regular basis.
- The quick and strategic steps the crew takes to deal with emergencies.
Firefighters take great pride in their job as they rightfully should and often host such station tours for the general public to give them a slight taste of what the profession is all about.
So, do firefighters have a lot of free time?
No, absolutely not! Firefighting is a profession revolving around strict discipline. So even if the firefighters don’t get any fire breakout-related calls in their shifts, attending medical emergencies and doing their routine chores take up hours of their time.
Some of the 11 things mentioned here in this post, like doing physical training, engaging in maintenance work of the fire station and fire truck, inspecting the equipment, and filling out paperwork, all fall under the everyday routine duties of firefighters.
Furthermore, even if the number of fire calls has decreased with every decade, the number of medical or accident-related calls has only skyrocketed. So their workload instead of decreasing has only increased. This shows how much people depend upon the firefighters and how hard the job is in reality.