A career as a volunteer firefighter is not suited for everyone. Desire alone does not guarantee that it will be a good fit for you. The daily pressures, emotional strain and dangers separate it from many other volunteer positions. Before you consider applying to become a volunteer firefighter, you should ask yourself:
Am I willing to represent the fire department at all times?
Firefighters are expected to represent the values of the department at work and in their personal lives.
Am I comfortable engaging with all members of the community?
Firefighters regularly engage with the public at emergencies, community events, or while speaking with children and adults about fire safety.
Am I able to take direction without questioning why I’m being asked to do something?
The Fire Department is a paramilitary organization where rank decides who does what. As a new addition to the department, a probationary firefighter will be given all types of tasks by the senior members of the crew.
Is physical fitness a way of life for me?
Being a volunteer firefighter requires minor to significant physical effort most every day. Committing to a high level of fitness and nutrition means firefighters are able to successfully complete the required tasks.
Am I willing to work long hours?
Volunteer firefighters are on-call 24/7 which means you can be called out on an infrequent basis. When you commit to becoming a volunteer firefighter you are sacrificing your personal time to help others. Talk this though with the important people in your life before applying because they will be impacted.
Am I uncomfortable with heights or being in confined spaces?
Firefighters are often required to participate in activities where height is a factor. They are also often required to participate in activities that require being in very tight, very dark spaces. They wear a mask that covers their entire face while performing duties in these environments. If you have identified that these situations can be a concern for you, you may want to seek support to overcome them before you apply. Reach out to a local firefighter for tips and pointers.
Do I understand that I will likely encounter tragedy on the job?
Firefighters are present on some of the worst days of a person’s life. Witnessing tragedies, and the people impacted by them, may have a negative impact on you as well. While firefighters have the opportunity to feel good about providing assistance, they also need to be very resilient and have constructive ways to manage the stress of the job. Having a strong support system, both on the job and in your personal life, will help you deal with difficult calls.
Are you willing to wear a uniform and follow the personal appearance policies?
Being in a paramilitary environment requires wearing a uniform any time you are representing the Fire Department whether at the station, volunteering, or attending special events.