The jobs of emergency medical service (EMS) professionals are evolving. More often these brave public servants are thrust into more complicated and dangerous situations on the job. Unfortunately, the increased demands on firefighters and first responders have not been met with the proper support from local and state governments. As the jobs of firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMT) grow more dangerous, funding for emergency services has grown insufficiently.
Lack of basic safety equipment for firefighters
We often forget that firefighters and EMTs often stand side by side with police officers as the first line of defense in emergency situations. Unfortunately, firefighters are often not equipped with the same basic safety equipment as the police officers they support on the job. For example, many firefighters are forced to buy their own bullet-proof vests as their departments do not have the funding to provide them. At the same time, firefighters and EMTs respond to the same high-risk emergencies as police officers do, but without the same safety equipment.
The jobs of all first responders are becoming more dangerous as the threats like terrorism and active shooters increase. Unfortunately, government leaders have not provided the necessary funding to modernize the safety equipment firefighters and first responders require.
Compensation not reflective of personal risk
Not only do firefighters and first responders lack very basic safety necessities, but the compensation they receive often does not reflect the level of personal risk they make. The average salary of a firefighter in the United States is around $49,000 per year, while EMTs average $33,000. True, firefighters and EMTs likely do not go into their profession for the money, but the relatively low pay they receive is certainly not reflective of the personal sacrifice. Public servants like firefighters and EMTs deserve fair and competitive compensation, but the reality is that local and state governments, in many instances, have not properly prioritized firefighters and first responders in their budgets.
As the dangers firefighters and first responders face on the job become increasingly dangerous and complicated, local and state governments must begin to prioritize funding to meet the need. The least we can do for these brave public servants is to ensure they are properly equipped and funded.
Learn more about other major issues affecting firefighters in 2019. Read the interview with the board of directors of Firefighters and EMS Fund.