Requirements to Become a Firefighter (page 2)
This article provides information about the steps necessary to become a firefighter. Although specifics may differ from one fire department to another, the basic procedures are, for the most part, similar.
Requirements to Become a Firefighter
There are several minimal qualifications or requirements to become a firefighter in most municipalities. These requirements are summarized below.
Age—Usually an applicant must be at least 18 years of age at the time the exam is taken and at least 21 to be hired.
Background—The applicant's past records are reviewed, including driving history, residency, educational transcripts, arrests/convictions, etc.
Character—Applicants will need to supply references from honorable and distinguished members of the community.
Citizenship—Applicants must be United States citizens.
Criminal Record—An applicant's record is reviewed; any felony or misdemeanor arrests and convictions may be grounds for ineligibility.
Discharge from the Armed Forces—A dishonorable discharge from the armed forces may make an applicant ineligible.
Driver's License—Applicants should have a driver's license valid in the state in which they are taking the exam.
Drug Screening—Tests are conducted to discover candidate use of marijuana, amphetamine, anabolic steroids, cocaine, heroin, methadone, morphine, Quaaludes, etc.
Education—Usually applicants are required to have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED). More and more municipalities are requiring college credits and pre-hospital care (EMT/paramedic) certifications.
Language—Applicants must speak and understand English.
Legal Status—Applicants should not have any legal impediments (felony conviction, for example) to their ability to perform the job functions of firefighter.
Medical and Psychological—Candidates undergo medical (including vision and hearing tests) and psychological examinations to determine if they can perform the functions of a firefighter. Reasonable accommodation is made to enable candidates with disabilities to take these exams.
Polygraph—A polygraph, or lie detector, may be used to review a candidate's qualifications and suitability.
Proof of Identity—Applicants must provide proof of identity (birth certificate).
Residency—A candidate may be required to reside within the area in which he or she is seeking employment; preferential residency examination credit may be granted for candidates living in the area of employment.
Learning About the Job
It is important to learn about the qualifications, duties, and responsibilities of the firefighter in the jurisdiction in which you wish to apply. There are several ways to learn about the job.
Consider joining one or more ancillary organizations. Volunteer fire departments provide the knowledge and training to perform many, if not all, firefighting duties. Membership in a volunteer fire department is an ideal way to "learn the job," and, incidentally, to demonstrate to interviewers that you are serious about becoming a career firefighter.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program is another way to learn about what a career firefighter does. This program trains men and women of all ages to respond to emergencies and give critical support to first responders. CERT training includes disaster preparedness, fire suppression, basic medical operations, and light search-and-rescue operations. The Boy Scouts of America administers the Fire Explorers, a program for children and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21 that provides valuable insight into the firefighting profession. High schools and colleges may have a Firefighter Cadet Program that provides curriculum and training to school-age children and young adults in firematics. Completion of a cadet program in some jurisdictions leads directly to appointment as a probationary firefighter.
The American Red Cross and local Volunteer Ambulance Corps and affiliates also provide courses in first responder emergency medical care ranging from basic first aid to advanced life support procedures.
A visit to the local firehouse is also helpful. Introduce yourself to the firefighters and ask about the possibility of your being able to spend some time with them to observe training sessions and drills.
The public library and the World Wide Web are other sources of information concerning the career of a firefighter.
The examination announcement is the official description of the career of a firefighter. It typically lists common firefighter tasks, including response and performance at fires and utility and medical emergencies, maintenance of the firehouse, apparatus, tools, and equipment, fire prevention inspections, participation in training activities, hydrant inspection and maintenance, and public fire safety education.
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