We recently had a chance to sit down with the board of directors of Firefighters and EMS Fund to discuss some of the major issues affecting firefighters in 2019.
Training and Certification of Firefighters
One issue we discussed was regarding the training and certification of firefighters. Nile Porter, Fire and EMS Fund Executive Director, discussed the challenges he faced while training to become a firefighter.
Porter said that firefighters go through a battery of physical tests in order to be hired. This includes drills such as running with a 12 pound weighted vest, completing the CPAT physical aptitude test with up to 50 pounds of equipment, and climbing stairs for three minutes.
Porter said that the tests require firefighters have a strong mental fortitude in order to pass the tests.
Lack of Organizational Structure
When asked about the structure of a fire department, the answer was very surprising. Porter said that there is no real organizational structure in a fire department compared to a police department. Every city has their own structure on the rank of firefighters.
Some fire departments have their members become emergency medical technicians. This requires additional certifications and training. Porter said that sometimes fire departments require firefighters to be certified as emergency medical technicians (EMT). Some fire departments hire EMTs that are separate of firefighters. Firefighters also deal with additional tasks such as being the first responders in emergency calls. The fire department is usually the first responder of emergency calls in most municipalities.
Short of Funding
No matter how big or small a municipality is, an ongoing issue with fire departments is improving response times to service calls. Robby Lamers, Treasurer of the Firefighters and EMS Fund, agreed with Porter’s sentiments that funding can affect how quick firefighters can respond to service calls.
Both Porter and Lamers agreed that funding can affect the number of firefighters out on the street. Porter also expressed concerns that back-to-back service calls can affect the health of firefighters, providing a direct link between funding and health.
Continuing on the issue of funding, both Lamers and Porter talked about the size of firefighting crews. As municipal governments are dealing with budget issues one issue that has been on the chopping block is the size of firefighting crews.
Lamers, who works with a fire truck manufacturing company, said that some trucks can hold up to eight people. A crew size of six is considered to be an optimal size for a firefighting team. Major cities such as Milwaukee have made cuts to a four-person crew.
Other major cities like Chicago are also dealing with aging equipment that could raise questions on a department’s effectiveness.
We thank both Nile Porter and Robby Lamers for their time in discussing the challenges facing firefighters in 2019. Check back on our website for the latest developments affecting the firefighting industry.