What Should You Teach Your Teenager if They Want to Become a Firefighter?

Is your teenager showing interest in becoming a firefighter? Then, you should support them and help them achieve their dream, even though this is a high-risk job. As fire rescue personnel, they’ll be responsible for saving lives and ensuring environmental safety in the community. 

As of 2022, 334,200 firefighter job roles were available, proving this career’s popularity and demand. Statistics suggest that there can be 26,400 openings over the next ten years. Moreover, they can earn approximately USD 51,680 every year. 

But how do you show them support while they’re teenagers? You can help them understand more about the job’s expectations, the qualifications required, and its negative side. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss three things you should help your teenager understand before they choose this career path.

#1. Understanding the Requirements of Becoming a Firefighter

Did you know that a high number of firefighters quit their jobs? It’s mainly because they’re overworked and departments are understaffed. Sometimes, aspirants give up because of the industry’s competitive nature and demands.

That’s why you must teach your teenager about the intricacies of this job. Keep these criteria in mind while telling them about the basic requirements and expectations: 

  • They should be 18 years old to start training in a full-time capacity. But they can also start early as a volunteer or junior firefighter. 
  • The aspirant should have a high school diploma or pass the General Educational Development (GED) tests. 
  • Your teenager will either need an EMT certification or a degree in fire science to advance in this career. 
  • They must also graduate from a fire academy after passing a written aptitude exam that consists of multiple-choice questions. 
  • During the hiring process, they should pass a physical ability test. These include stair climbing, hose dragging, ladder raising, equipment carrying, search and rescue, etc. 

Other than these, your teenager shouldn’t be involved in any social or legal trouble. Moreover, you can ask them to contribute their skills to community affairs and volunteer work. 

They should also have some practical and problem-solving skills. Try to foster traits like integrity, communication, adaptability, flexibility, dedication, and tolerance. 

#2. Warning Them About the Dangers

After teaching them about the basic requirements and honing their skills, they can easily land a job in firefighting. But what happens after that? Well, they’ll be operating in hazardous conditions that can lead to heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation, burns, chronic illnesses, etc.

For example, firefighters can get exposed to per-and-polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) from their equipment and fire extinguishers. Unfortunately, PFAS is a forever chemical that’s carcinogenic to humans and harmful to the environment.

The aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) is one such fire extinguisher. It contains a harmful mixture of PFAS and other chemicals. According to TorHoerman Law, the manufacturers didn’t warn the firefighters, even though they knew about the presence of harmful toxins. 

That’s why AFFF was used by various fire departments and military personnel. It could easily reduce the intensity of Class B fuel fires and mitigate re-ignition. 

After continuous usage and exposure during training and fire rescue operations, many firefighters developed cancer, fertility issues, high cholesterol, low immunity, etc. As a result, the victims filed a firefighting foam lawsuit to hold the manufacturers responsible for failing to warn them about the side effects. The plaintiffs are currently seeking compensation for the unprecedented medical bills, emotional suffering, loss of wages, etc.

Other than PFAS, firefighters can also get exposed to arsenic, asbestos, benzene, formaldehyde, cadmium, etc. Therefore, as a parent, you should warn your teenager about these chemical exposures and how to manage them. 

For instance, if they’re exposed, they should clean themselves properly and decontaminate their equipment before returning home. You can also teach them the importance of visiting a doctor to get a preliminary test done to ensure their safety.

#3. Asking Them to Care For Their Mental Health

Most firefighters undergo some type of mental health issue in their careers. It usually results from traumatic events that they face regularly. All that suppressed emotion and exhaustion can surely take a toll on anyone. 

Without treatment, they can develop anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and stress. In some cases, fire service personnel can also have suicidal thoughts and experience substance abuse problems. Forbes states that firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than on duty. Similarly, 85% of career firefighters have reported that they drink at least ten days a month. 

That’s why it’s important to teach your teenager about caring for their mental health. Thankfully, the government has helped develop mental health programs and peer support training for everyone. These make it easy for them to reach out to mental health professionals for emotional assistance. 

As a parent, it’s important to break the stigma at an early age. Any firefighter should be able to seek help for their behavioral health without being looked down upon. 

In conclusion, you’re probably proud of your teenager for considering such a fulfilling career option. But before they venture into the unknown, you should teach them about the various responsibilities of a firefighter. 

As mentioned in this blog, you should inform them about the educational qualifications and other requirements for becoming a firefighter. Moreover, if they’ve been exposed to chemicals, they should wash their equipment and clean themselves before heading home. Similarly, they must visit a mental health professional immediately after a traumatic incident. 

Doing all these will help them succeed on this path and keep themselves safe.

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