Training for the First Responder
By: James P. Smith, Deputy Chief (Ret.)
Firefighting and emergency medical services (EMS) go hand-in-hand and provide excellent benefits to the citizens of our communities. Though they present different challenges, they offer exciting and personally rewarding careers to firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs). The bonuses of performing these jobs can be a simple thank you or a broad smile from a child.
Proficiency requires training and it is the backbone of firefighting and EMS organizations. Whether it is firefighting training, or EMS training, it starts on day one and continues throughout one’s career. Those who excel in their profession will continually seek information. It becomes second nature to be constantly observant for hazards and dangers whether on or off duty.
There are career opportunities in both fields, or one can serve as a volunteer in their city or town. Fire and EMS agencies seek members who strive to continue their training and constantly improve upon their skills. Firefighting and EMS are sought after careers due to many factors. The greatest reason is the tremendous satisfaction gained from the challenges faced and accomplishments achieved. There are also the attractive working hours, salaries and retirement benefits. Career personnel can often retire and receive a pension at an earlier age than most occupations.
Today, fire departments and EMS agencies are finding that with the large number of applicants seeking employment, they can be highly selective in their hiring process. Many agencies are demanding higher entry-level requirements. This increases the competitiveness for these positions and applicants are finding that requirements include not only the basic skills taught in fire academies and state training courses, but advanced education found in college curricula including fire science and EMS degrees. This change in hiring practices has seen more personnel being hired with college degrees.
Not only are degrees being required for new hires, but also for those seeking promotions within the organizations. Agencies may differ in their promotional process; they may require a degree as a basis to apply for promotional positions or give additional points to applicants who have achieved them. In any case, the value of these degrees is easily understood. Salary and pension are based upon an individual’s rank. Promotions to higher ranks will be accompanied by salaries commensurate with the roles and responsibilities of those positions. The ability to be successful in firefighting or EMS, and the incentives that accompany those promotions, make it an added attraction to advance within an organization.
All types of training are encouraged and important, but obtaining a fire science degree or an EMS degree is an indication of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. As the past director of the Philadelphia Fire Training Academy, I observed that the best cadets and candidates for promotion were those who had fire and EMS degrees. These individuals had gained additional knowledge that was not typically known to the other cadets or candidates. It allowed those individuals to excel and easily grasp advanced concepts.
The internet allows one the ability to take college courses in the comfort of their own home. This ease of education permits one to apply the degrees that they earn by seeking employment and advancing in their chosen profession. As a professional firefighter for close to 50 years I realize that training and education is an ongoing quest for know-how. We must continually seek information to ensure the safety and protection of ourselves and our brother and sister responders.
About Columbia Southern University
Columbia Southern University is an accredited, family-owned university that is well known for its quality education, exceptional student service, and caring, supportive culture. A pioneer in online learning, CSU provides engaging degree programs that fit the lives and learning styles of working professionals. Our curriculum is taught by industry experts to provide the knowledge and skills students need to excel in today’s workplace. Find out more about our Emergency Medical Services program.