Minimum Standards for Firefighters
Across the Nation, State to State, City to City, town to town, and fire department to fire department the meaning of the term “firefighter” is different.
Merriam Webster defines it as “a person who fights fires” source
That about sums it up doesn’t it…Goodnight!
Wait a minute…that is way to easy. You mean that I have devoted my life to a profession, a job, a career, a lifestyle and that is all I get in the damn dictionary?
What about real life? What is a firefighter?
Without going into every discipline a firefighter might be trained in I will name a few – Fire suppression, high rise fires, ventilation, salvage, overhaul, wildland firefighting, pump operations, heavy technical rescue, trench rescue, rope rescue, EVOC, confined space rescue, collapse rescue, emergency medical services (ALS and/or BLS), HAZMAT, IMS, investigation, and so on and so forth.
What are the minimum standards for being “a person who fights fires”?
The short answer is there aren’t any. The long answer is that in various localities and some States “minimum” standards do exist.
For the majority of “career” firefighters the minimum standards are typically set forth by the locality they work for.
Many States have certificate levels of training, but the departments do not have to abide by any standards of certification.
To put it bluntly, some “firefighters” are not any more of a firefighter than joe schmoe who uses his water hose to put water on a fire before the fire department gets there.
That is right! Some firefighters have no more training than “learning” on actual fires by other firefighters.
This is a real problem. This problem might not be very bad in urban areas, but it does exist in a lot of places.
Many who read this might find it hard to believe that fire departments let members operate in suppression activities without proper training. It happens every day.
Why we need minimum standards
We need minimum standards for several reasons. Mostly so that when the public calls on their FD, they are ensured getting qualified “firefighters”. However, the reasons can be as far reaching as getting legislation to cover line of duty injuries and deaths.
We all know how dangerous our jobs can be. Why in the world would we not want some form of a minimum standard set to ensure firefighters are not endangering themselves on calls without the proper training.
What should be the minimum standards?
That is the million dollar question.
To me, the answer is simple:
The minimum standard for riding in fire apparatus and operating on emergency incidents should include basic firefighter training. In Virginia (my State) this would include at least Firefighter I.
Other classes that should be a necessity are Incident Command, EVOC, Haz Mat, and at least a first responder level EMS certification.
Without that “firefighters” should not be riding on rigs.
Furthermore, there should be an age requirement on operating inside an IDLH (immediately dangerous to life and health) atmosphere.
This “minimum standard” should be at least State certified if not Federally Mandated.
Are you required to have training as a firefighter? Who requires it?