Thank a firefighter for all that they do

Thank a firefighter for all that they do

Dr. Jim Surrell

We all need to be extremely grateful for the fire fighters who protect and serve us so very well.

Of course, there are many firefighters who have chosen this potentially dangerous occupation as their full time job. Further, in smaller communities, there are also those who serve as volunteer firefighters who give unselfishly of their time and talents to protect their fellow citizens. The term firefighter is usually defined as a person extensively trained in firefighting, primarily to extinguish hazardous fires that threaten life, property, and the environment, as well as to rescue people and animals from dangerous situations.

The job of a firefighter includes many duties to serve us all. Of course, firefighters are emergently contacted to control and put out fires and respond to emergencies where life, property, or the environment is at risk. When on the scene of fires and other emergencies, their work can be very dangerous. When they are not on the scene of an emergency situation, full-time firefighters remain on call at their fire station, where they sleep, eat, and perform other duties during shifts that often last 24 hours.

Both full-time and volunteer firefighters also work to keep their vehicles and all their equipment in top shape, so they can quickly and effectively respond to fires and other emergency calls.

So, how does a person actually become a firefighter? Applicants for firefighter jobs typically must be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license. They must also pass a medical exam and drug screening to be hired.

After being hired, firefighters may be subject to random drug tests and will also need to complete routine physical fitness assessments. In most states, firefighters need a high school diploma and training in emergency medical services. Most firefighters receive training at a fire academy, and they must pass significant written and physical tests, complete a series of interviews, and also hold an emergency medical technician certification.

Our firefighters are also trained to communicate very effectively when on the scene of a fire or other emergency situation. They are frequently called upon to communicate conditions at an emergency scene to other firefighters and to emergency response crews. Firefighters, like EMT’s, paramedics, and other emergency responders often need to also provide emotional support to those people they encounter in various emergency situations. Firefighters are also called upon to make quick and difficult decisions in an emergency. The ability to make good decisions under pressure can potentially save a person’s life. As you would expect, firefighters may have to stay at disaster scenes for long periods of time to rescue and treat victims. Our firefighters go to great lengths to stay in good physical shape because of the many demanding physical requirements of their potentially life-saving job duties.

The demand for volunteer firefighters is high throughout the country and in the State of Michigan as well. Volunteer firefighters are truly dedicated men and women who offer their time to serve our critically needed fire departments in many rural areas throughout the Upper Peninsula. Volunteer firefighters also are required to go through significant education and training to serve their communities in this capacity.

According to the National Fire Department Registry, there are a total of 966 registered fire departments in the State of Michigan, and nearly 66 percent of these are volunteer departments. Further, they report that about 21 percent of our Michigan fire departments have both full time firefighters with the support of some additional volunteer firefighters serving their communities. If a person is interested in becoming a firefighter, or you wish to support our firefighters in any way, please contact your local fire department.

Thank you, firefighters, for all you do to save lives and protect us all.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at