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10 Essential Skills Needed to Become a Firefighter

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Anyone who has decided to become a firefighter knows that there is a lot of hard work ahead of them. It starts early, with a rigorous selection process that includes a written exam, a physical agility test, a background check, a medical and psychological evaluation, and a final interview. Then there’s academy training, where you’ll learn and practise firefighting and prevention techniques, survival training, and emergency medical procedures.

You’re probably more focused on the value and rewards of this career path, however. After all, bravely facing danger and saving people’s lives makes firefighters heroes to kids and adults alike. Before you sign on to all the challenges this role brings, however, be sure you have what it takes to succeed. To help guide you, we’ve compiled a list of 10 essential skills needed to be a firefighter.

1. Teamwork Skills

Teamwork is an essential skill for most career paths. Employees that trust each other, take their share of the responsibility and respect each other’s strengths can tackle projects more quickly, efficiently and successfully than a bunch of people trying to go their own way. This is exponentially truer in the realm of firefighters, where a fracture in the group dynamic can jeopardise everyone’s safety.

Going through the firefighting academy offers the perfect opportunity to practise your teamwork skills with other aspiring first responders. Leadership and initiative are important skills for a firefighter to have but remember that you will always need backup to tackle emergencies.

2. Working Under Pressure

Fearlessly running toward a burning building or vehicle is only one part of being a firefighter. You’ll need to carry out your assigned tasks once you get there, as precisely and efficiently as possible. Responsibility to your fellow firefighters, dangerous conditions including smoke and unstable floors, and a very short time limit can add up to an immense amount of stress.

One of the questions during your interview for an entry-level firefighter position is likely to be how well you work under pressure. You’ll want to assure them you thrive in tense and chaotic situations. You will also need to explain how you keep the nerves at bay and retain laser focus in dire circumstances. Be prepared with examples of your stress tolerance skills from your training or internship.

3. Adaptability Skills

A huge aspect of the job is dealing with the unexpected. You might be doing routine equipment maintenance at the firehouse one minute and be called to an industrial fire the next. Once at an emergency scene, the plan of attack could be derailed by weather, the sudden instability of a building, or unpredictable actions by victims, bystanders or perpetrators.

Whether on the fireground or off, firefighters need to remain calm, ask the important questions about the situation and be able to quickly switch from an expected course of action to an alternate solution.

Easily transitioning to a different squad and setting new goals to excel there or planning alternate routes out of a rapidly burning building are two ways you can demonstrate adaptability skills on the job.

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4. Problem-Solving Skills

This skill goes hand-in-hand with adaptability. Being willing to change your perspective and roll with the punches is the first step. Next is having the ability to recognise, analyse and overcome obstacles.

Firefighters must learn to gather all pertinent information, inventory available resources, use logic to find a potential solution, and weigh the costs and benefits of each plan. You may need to find a substitution for malfunctioning equipment, figure out how to compensate for too much weight on an unstable staircase, or find a way through or around a blocked exit. The more knowledge, expertise and experience you have with all aspects of firefighting, the easier it will be for you to problem-solve in stressful situations.

5. Mechanical Skills

Part of that necessary expertise is having mechanical skills. Firefighters use tools, specialised equipment, vehicles and machinery in all aspects of their work. It is essential to know how to operate, maintain and repair this equipment.

Fires and other emergencies can take place in all types of buildings and environments. Aspiring firefighters benefit from coursework in subjects like auto mechanics, welding and electronics. Knowing how a variety of machines work, and their related safety protocols, can greatly assist in emergencies at factories, construction sites and automotive accidents.