Are You Ready For A Firefighter Job?
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of my great aunt’s 90th birthday celebration. A tough old woman, she’s raised two kids of her own, practically raised my dad, and a handful of grandkids to boot. In fact, on this day, I was rather nervous walking into the party, knowing full well that there would be upwards of twenty people I hadn’t seen in early ten years. Among these people was my second cousin Sean. Only two months apart, we were practically glued to the hip growing up, before he and his family took off for the northern party of the state, leaving me behind.
Catching up is something I’ve never been very good at. I know what questions to ask, but somehow I get lost in all of the details, never knowing when to just shut up and let someone talk. This was not the problem between Sean and me, however. When asked what he was up to these days he filled me in on the who, what, when, where, and how of his life, letting me know that he was actually in the midst of trying to get into the fire academy. My jaw dropped. How hadn’t I known? Better yet, why was I so surprised? At twenty-six, Sean is in great health (he was on the road to play pro-baseball before an injury a few years back), strong, and always ready to help others in need. I stood there, listening to the rigorous testing requirements, the physical toll, and a handful of other things before he said the strangest thing of all: I wonder if I’m ready for this job.
I’ve known a lot of firefighters in my life. I’ve mentioned several of them throughout these posts, in fact, but for each firefighter I’ve known, I have yet to meet one who truly grasped the concept of what it was they were about to do. A firefighter job is nothing to be mocked, nor is it just a dream that you think of as a kid. It’s quite stressful on the body, mind, and spirit, and incredibly deadly when not handled correctly. So how then, do you know if you’re ready for the job?
You Want To Give Back To The Community
Firefighting, in a nutshell, is heroism at its most basic root. It requires giving time and energy to a community for—let’s face—not very much money. Your line of duty as a firefighter is to the community and therefore something you must be ready to do. Understand that a tiny fraction of your time spent as a firefighter will be spent actually fighting fires. Your dream of being a firefighter should not be based on a desire to fight fires, but rather to protect and help your community in any way possible.
You’re Physically Fit—and Will Continue To Be
When my cousin mentioned his apprehension about the profession, he semi-jokingly referred to whether or not he was prepared to constantly creep into small, smoke-filled spaces. He and I both laughed before getting serious, because the fact of the matter is that it is serious. Being able to get into those tight, cramped spaces requires you to be physically fit. As a firefighter you’ll need to be in top-shape and continue to be throughout your turn on duty. Maintaining your peak physical shape is crucial to performing under the anaerobic and aerobic stress that fighting fires puts on your body. Do not underestimate the amount of time you’ll spend working out for the next twenty or so years, and seriously consider if this is right for you.
Your Family Is Ready For the Job
Just as you shouldn’t underestimate how much time is spent working out, you also shouldn’t kid yourself about the amount of time you’ll be spending away from your family. Many times you’ll find yourself spending 1/3 or more of the week at the firehouse, for 24-48 hour increments. When you have a spouse who works more traditional hours, it might be straining on both of you to be for such odd times and for such long hours. Not to mention how tired you’ll be after you’ve returned home from duty, the timespent working out, and those times that you’re on call throughout the holidays. Consider whether or not your family is ready for you to make the commitment, or if you don’t have a family of your own yet, whether it’s what you want for a potential family.
You Were Practically Made for the Job
You’ve heard your friends’ talk about how they and their significant other are made for each other, but instead, all you can think about is how you and firefighting were made for one another. You know that you’re an extrovert who enjoys public speaking, talking to strangers, and genuinely being around others. You’ve spent your whole life playing on sports teams, engaging in physical activity, and enjoying being a part of a team. You don’t put the focus on yourself; instead you focus on what’s best for the team and what could be for the team in the long run. If this sounds like you, then you just might be ready to join the ultimate team: the firefighting one. A firefighter job relies heavily on working like a team and treating each other as such. In many ways you’re even closer than a sport team and need to commit to each other even more closely than you have before.
Being a firefighter isn’t about driving the big red car or wearing the helmet and carrying an ax. It’s about protecting others at all costs, including those you go into fires with. Weigh your options heavily before considering a firefighter job as an option and prepare yourself in the best way possible. If you think you have what it takes, then read over what your next steps are to apply for the job.