What is a firefighter engineer? It’s a question posed by a lot of new firefighters. This makes sense as it’s not something that usually comes to mind when think of typical fire service personnel.
The complexity of modern fire service has increased and with that there are more professional skills required in the world of firefighting. From rural, urban settings to aboard ships, firemen have become a staple in modern society.
Though there are numerous career specialties within firefighting, a firefighter engineer is arguably one of the most sought after and complex areas of specialization out there.
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So, what exactly is a firefighter engineer?
The engineer is an expert who is responsible for the operation, maintenance as well as the driving of the fire apparatus. These apparatus include fire engines, ladder trucks, rescue trucks and others.
As an engineer fireman, you will be charged with the responsibility of driving the vehicle that transports firemen and pumps water via the fire pump and hoses at the fire scene.
You’ll also be required to repair and maintain various firefighting apparatus. You’ll have to ensure that the vehicle’s engine is in tip-top condition, there is sufficient fuel in the gas tank, all the tools and equipment are effectively cleaned and maintained after every major call.
It is also imperative to mention that as a firefighter engineer, you’ll have to first respond to medical emergencies and offer pre-hospital care to victims of accidents at an ALS/BLS level according to your current level of EMS certification.
You can clearly tell that this is a job that demands lots of technical know-how.
Besides, you must possess some leadership skills as well as management skills because you’ll mostly perform your duties in highly stressful circumstances.
Remember, if you’re crew members are in a fire, they need water and it will be your responsibility to provide that to them.
What’s involved in firefighter engineer training?
If you are looking to become a fire engineer, you must first complete a training program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, (ABET).
Usually, the topics taught in any firefighter engineer training program may include fire detection, modeling, protection, and safety techniques, risk analysis, equipment operation and maintenance, fire barriers, smoke management, assessment methods and pump operations.
The training process is usually divided into intensive class-work and fieldwork aimed at putting your classroom learned skills to real-world job scenarios.
You’ll also learn to analyze both state and local trends in code compliance, establish the link between various building materials and ignition sources, use the computer to successfully evaluate findings and perhaps how to compile data on fire retardants.
How to become a firefighter engineer?
- You must be a holder of a high school diploma or the equivalent GED.
- You must have at least two years of experience as a firefighter.
- At least two years of experience as a certified AEMT, EMT or paramedic (depending on your department).
- Must prove state-mandated continuing education standards, including the current American Heart Association certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Basic life support as well as Pediatric Advanced Life Support, or equivalent.
- Must have completed department’s emergency driving classes.
- Have a valid driver’s license.
- Should have certification as an Apparatus Driver Operator.
Though the requirements are likely to vary from departments to department, firefighter engineers typically should have a post-secondary certificate in fire science, which can be acquired from a number of different community colleges and fire academies.
However, you should be aware of the fact that some departments may only require you to have a high school diploma.
You must also be a minimum age of 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and pass all the tests including drug screening, physical and medical examinations.
As a firefighter engineer, you will also need to have a special certification that shows you can drive firefighting apparatus, which mandates fire service experience, exclusive training on fire vehicles and passing written exams.
Though licensure is not always a priority to become a firefighter engineer, you should get licensed, especially if you want to work independently rather than under the guidance of a professional senior engineer.
To become a licensed engineer, you must take and pass the Fundamentals of an Engineering test. You can then apply for licensure from the jurisdiction in which you want to work.
Keeping in mind that a firefighter engineer’s job entails lots of hands-on experience, any aspiring fire engineer must acquire hands-on job experience by joining a fire academy.
A lot of departments will also require that you have a minimum of four years of field experience, which is usually gained at the department where you currently work.
Apart from the above requirements, engineer firefighters are also required to possess some special skills and abilities including:
- You must have considerable knowledge and understanding of medical and fire equipment, tools, fire ladders and you must also know how to care for and maintain these pieces of equipment.
- You must have the ability to deal with high levels of stress and maintain your composure under a broad range of adverse conditions, witnessing critical injuries and death and experiencing a risk of personal injury or harm.
- Ability to execute appropriate judgment related to procedures and tactics of firefighting and emergency medical services.
- You must have the ability to effectively communicate in writing and verbally.
- You must know how to operate and drive fire trucks of all sizes and types. What’s more, you should be highly knowledgeable about the applicable laws, codes, and regulations related to driving and operating all these apparatuses.
What are the duties of a firefighter engineer?
- Responding to emergency fire, medical and calamitous material alarms.
- Drive fire apparatus, ladder truck, engines, tower, and more.
- Ensure the vehicles and equipment and highly maintained and are ready for work. You’ll also have to carry out regular and emergency repairs, transport firefighting personnel safely to fire and emergency areas, operate firefighting apparatus, nozzles, pumps and supply extinguishing agents at scenes.
- Maintain the daily log of apparatus and equipment.
- Be part of training drills and training sessions as required by the department.
- To operate heavy extraction machines such as spreaders, special saws, pneumatic cutters, and hydraulically powered cutters.
- Participate in routine physical training.
- Participate in public education programs in schools and civic groups as required.
- Participate in life and fire safety inspections of both residential and commercial properties and examine the operating conditions of hydrants.
- Perform general cleaning and maintenance of various equipment and fire station.
- Conduct departmental training programs in civic groups, schools, and other locations as requested.
- Transfer, lift or move patients while practicing the appropriate lifting and safety techniques.
- Operate and drive fire apparatus according to the procedures outlined by your fire department.
- Take part in salvage operation as well as post-fire operations and use the relevant equipment to limit property damage from smoke, heat, water, and gasses.
- Use the city computer system for effective patient care documentation, pre-incident planning, and record-keeping.
Initial firefighting knowledge and skills are usually taught at the local, regional as well as in state-approved fire academies.
Depending on the demands of a particular fire department, extra skills and certifications including pre-hospital EMS and technical rescue can also be acquired during this time.