If you were to ask most people what does a firefighter do all day, they would probably say that they spend all day out on their trucks fighting fires. That said, firefighters do more than just respond to fires.
So, what does a firefighter do all day?
- Equipment Checks
- Gear Inspections
- Vehicle Maintenance
- Continuing Education (Con-Ed)
- Physical Training & Drills
- Station Maintenance
- Writing Reports
- Run Reviews
- Relax & Eat
- Public Safety Education
- School Talks
- Station Tours
In this article, I want to talk about some of the other jobs and daily tasks firefighters take on during their shift.
If you’d rather watch a video as opposed to read an article here is a video I made for the FirefighterNOW YouTube channel about what firefighters do all day, when not fighting fires.
Fighting fires may be the literal job description, and most important role of a firefighter, but there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes at the station.
Don’t believe what you may read about personnel just lounging around waiting for a call. Firefighters are actually very busy with many important duties.
My list below talks about some of the important tasks that occur at the station, such as checks, training and paperwork. I will also talk about some of the additional tasks that come with a firefighter’s role in public service and education.
What do firefighters do all day when they aren’t on call?
First of all, I want to talk about the different chores and tasks that firefighters deal with when at the station.
There is a lot to consider making sure that the station runs smoothly, and they have fast response times.
Without the following checks and tasks, they could put themselves and the public in danger. Also, the running of the department wouldn’t be anywhere near as efficient.
1. Equipment Checks.
Fire crews can fit an unbelievable amount of equipment onto one truck.
Everything has its place and its purpose. But, firefighters can’t assume that everything is in that right place when they start their shift.
Detailed inventory checks can account for all the necessary tools and ensure they are ready for the next job.
These inspections may also highlight problems and faults with tools that could prove dangerous. The solution here is to either fix the fault or replace the item.
Dirty tools also need to be cleaned carefully to avoid contamination risks.
2. Gear Inspections.
All firefighters need to check their gear when they start their shift.
This means testing all their protective clothing and apparatus for damage and cleanliness. Items that pass the test can be worn on the next job.
Items that don’t are either repaired, cleaned or retired from service. The latter may be necessary with serious damage to PPE in order to keep crews safe.
Regular checks are essential because previous users may not have noticed a rip in their turnout gear when they returned from the last job.
These checks also mean ensuring that all additional gear, such as oxygen masks, are secure and in the right place.
It is also important to make sure that all the gear from the last job was cleaned effectively. If not, they need to clean it again, as cancer risks are high in firefighting due to contamination.
3. Vehicle Maintenance.
These checks at the beginning of the shift also mean some checks on the engines and other vehicles assigned to the station.
These trucks need to be fully operational and ready to head out on the next call.
Every department will have a detailed fire engine check sheet that they need to check off every day.
This can include basics like the amount of oil, the temperature of the engine, the tires and more.
It is better to locate an issue before heading out, so crews can bring in replacement engines or fix the faults.
4. Continuing Education (Con-Ed)
Firefighters may also use their time at the station to work on their personal and professional studies.
Those that want to progress in their careers may take additional training courses and other subjects to succeed.
This requires a lot of hard work and knowledge. Firefighters can work on these sessions and build knowledge in this professional space with the guidance of other team members.
Continuing education, otherwise referred to as con-ed, is crucial for firefighters to maintain their certifications and stay up to date on the latest trends in the industry.
5. Physical Training & Drills.
Training sessions continue with physical fitness training as well as simulated training.
Firefighters need to be fit and strong if they are to have the lung capacity, strength and stamina to handle a fire. After all that’s the purpose of the CPAT.
Don’t underestimate the power in those hand lines.
Regular physical activity is essential to maintain the right amount of strength and fitness.
Those that don’t have time to do so after their shift can take advantage of training areas in the station.
The brotherhood of the crew also means that this can be a more advantageous space in which to work out.
6. Station Maintenance.
Firefighters spend a lot of time in the station.
This is their home away from home where they take care of business and conduct all these tasks. It is in use 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, as there is always someone on call.
Therefore, it can take a bit of a beating in terms of wear and tear and rubbish.
They don’t own the station. Instead, they are responsible for looking after it for the city and its citizens.
This means plenty of housekeeping tasks to keep all the communal areas and apparatus bays clean and tidy.
There is also a lot of washing of gear and equipment to reduce the risk of dangerous contaminants from fires.
Small DIY jobs like fixing paintwork and lightbulbs may also be on the chore list.
7. Writing Reports…. Lots of Reports.
It is surprising just how much paperwork goes into the daily routine of each individual firefighter at the department.
If you thought that firefighting was a good way to avoid a desk-job, think again.
Each incident that firefighters attend requires an incident report.
This means that the department can keep track of everything that occurred for future records. This is the same for major fires and smaller cases, such as people trapped in elevators.
Each report can take up to a half-hour depending on the complexity of the incident. This could easily add up to hours of paperwork on busy days.
8. Run Reviews.
If that wasn’t enough, firefighters also need to read up on the incidents and reports from the previous shift. Constant improvement is the name of the game in the fire service. This includes NIOSH reports as well as run reports from previous incidents of other crews.
Reports from the previous on-duty crew will flag any issues with technology, communication, equipment, documentation or any small housekeeping issues.
Those starting the next shift can take over and make a note of these issues and either avoid or correct them where appropriate.
This level of communication helps to create a well-oiled machine where everyone can respond at their best.
9. Relax & Eat.
I admit that this sounds like an obvious thing to add to a list of daily tasks.
However, firefighters need to make sure that they eat healthily and get adequate amounts of rest at the station.
The downside of being a firefighter is that you never know when a call will come in.
They can’t tell people to call back after the lunch hour.
Still, regular rest breaks and meal times are important for them to maintain their energy, nutrition and their mental health.
Stress can be a big problem with firefighters dealing with such trauma. A little self-care goes a long way.
Tasks outside of the station.
When discussing what does a firefighter do all day, it’s also important to mention some community projects.
Public outreach is another important part of a firefighter’s duties.
Regular engagement with the local community across different demographics can improve awareness of fire safety. T
his could be as simple as reminding seniors to check their smoke alarms or letting kids climb aboard an engine during a field trip.
Memorable, informative talks can stick in the mind and save lives.
10. Public Safety Education.
Public safety demonstrations at community events can help neighborhoods learn more about fire safety. This is the number one priority of the fire prevention bureau.
Firefighters may take equipment and engines out to the public, so they can learn more about the job.
These public events may also inspire others to sign up to firefighting training in the future.
These community events allow residents to converse with firefighters and understand more about the fire service.
In turn, this may reduce the number of fires in the area.
It also doesn’t hurt that there is often press at these events. This can create some positive media coverage for the station to promote its efforts.
11. School Demonstrations.
Another way that firefighters can connect with the public outside the station is through school talks/demonstrations.
Local schools may call on fire departments to spend a little time talking to children about fire safety and the firefighting profession.
The information given may change the way that kids think about emergency situations and the role of firefighters in the community.
They could learn valuable skills about preventing fires, staying safe during a fire and how to call for help.
An increased level of respect for the crew could also help to reduce the rates of hoax calls in some areas.
12. Station Tours.
An alternative approach here is to bring the press and the children to the station.
This is a great way to show people exactly what happens and how fire crews respond to a fire. This could include a little time in an engine, challenges to put on the gear and other activities that will stick with visitors for a long time to come.
Under the right circumstances, it might also be possible to showcase the training areas and allow visitors a chance to test out the equipment.
Again, this could provide a greater sense of respect for what the crew can do.
So, what does a firefighter do all day when they’re not fighting fire?
My aim with this list was to show the daily life of a firefighter from two different angles.
First of all, I think it is important that the public knows exactly what goes on behind closed doors.
Public perception of firefighters often ends once the fire is out and the sirens stop blaring. It is easy to underestimate the work involved in a full day at the station.
With that in mind, my additional aim here was to show future firefighters exactly what awaits them if they decide to take on firefighting as a career.
As this list shows, it is a tough job being a firefighter and you need a lot of additional skills to be successful.
There is actually little downtime other than designated rest periods.
“Spare” time is spent building on skills, learning your craft and ensuring that every piece of equipment is ready for the next call.
Firefighters never know what the day will bring in terms of incidents. But, these daily tasks keep them grounded and ensure that they are ready to fight another day.