14 Firefighter Skills: Definition and Different Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Firefighters are first responders who fight and put out natural, accidental or deliberately started fires. They also use their unique skill sets for fire prevention, providing emergency medical aid and responding to other emergencies like vehicle accidents, building collapses, earthquakes, landslides and floods. By understanding the various skills that firefighters require to handle emergencies effectively, you can make an effort to develop or acquire these and prepare yourself for a firefighting career. In this article, we discuss what firefighter skills and review some examples of these skills to learn about their usefulness to firefighters in their firefighting work.

What Are Firefighter Skills?

Firefighter skills are the specific sets of skills that firefighters possess and use in various emergencies. With the help of these skills, they can stabilise dangerous situations, carry out rescue operations, provide medical care, take preventive measures and safeguard properties. Whether the firefighters work full-time, part-time or on a volunteer basis in urban or rural environments, it is essential for them to have these skills to provide necessary support in emergencies.

Related: How To Become A Firefighter (With Requirements And Duties)

14 Examples Of Firefighter Skills

Firefighters need the following essential skills:

1. Communication skills

Strong communication skills are crucial for firefighters to share information and collaborate effectively with other firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians and other responders during emergencies. By employing clear verbal, written or telephonic communication, they can ensure that everyone in their chain of command understand what they need to do, follow instructions exactly and complete their tasks without any delays.

They can keep everyone updated about the changing conditions of the fires or other disasters. They can provide details of trapped, rescued and injured victims and ensure that they receive essential aid quickly, including medical care. The communication skills can also prove useful for firefighters when they give presentations in the community about fire safety.

Related: How To Improve Communication Skills

2. Interpersonal skills

Firefighters require well-developed interpersonal skills to deal with different people competently in various social situations. As part of their work duties, firefighters may have close interactions for extended periods with their coworkers. They may spend long work shifts together as a unit in the fire station or locations of disasters. They may eat, sleep, rest and work together.

So, knowing how to get along well with different personalities is essential, and it also helps if they understand how their actions affect other people. If there are any disputes, it is necessary for them to resolve these with tact and not allow them to influence their working relationships.

3. Leadership skills

While firefighters may have different roles in their team, they can all benefit from having leadership skills. In the chaotic conditions of fires, accidents and other disasters, it is easy to get separated from team members or be out of communication range. At such times, the leadership skills can help them remain calm, take charge of situations they find themselves in and make quick decisions to rescue the victims. With strong leadership skills, they can also advance in their firefighting career and assume supervisory roles. They can be confident about leading other firefighters and building mutually trustworthy relationships.

4. Problem-solving skills

Excellent problem-solving skills make it easier for firefighters to analyse various situations and quickly determine the most appropriate action plans. Using their well-developed problem-solving skills, they can identify and assess potential risks in every situation. They can also recognise the benefits of their actions and compare these with the risks they are likely to encounter. During emergencies, problem-solving skills can help firefighters quickly appraise the disaster and choose the safest ways to put out fires, stabilise the situations and perform rescue operations.

Related: What Does A Firefighter Do? Definitive Guide And Career Tips

5. Time management skills

Since firefighters often assume multiple responsibilities and undertake various tasks, it is necessary for them to manage their time well. By employing strong time management skills, they can determine which tasks have more priority and how much time they might require to complete them. They can then handle emergencies with speed and efficiency and ensure that they can rescue victims on time.

They can move them to safety and get them the urgent medical care they need. Time management skills can also enable firefighters to adjust quickly to changing objectives when dealing with fires or other disasters.

Related: Time Management Skills: Definition And Examples

6. Spatial awareness abilities

Spatial awareness allows firefighters to understand their environment and where they are in relation to other people, objects and structures. It can help them study maps and blueprints and remember the dimensions and placements of building interiors. With this knowledge, they can create plans for entering burning buildings and navigating their way through them to rescue people, pets and property. They can also use their spatial awareness abilities to formulate the proper courses of action during other difficult situations.

7. Mechanical aptitude

As part of their firefighting and disaster management work, firefighters regularly work with various tools and equipment. It is necessary for them to have an excellent mechanical aptitude for managing these. Aside from being able to operate the tools and equipment safely, they require enough knowledge to clean, maintain and repair them. By understanding how vehicles and other machinery work, they can handle these competently when they arrive as first responders during accidents and other emergencies.

8. Attention to detail skills

Paying attention to details is an essential skill for firefighters since it can ensure they remain safe and in control in dangerous situations. Aside from regularly checking their firefighting equipment and safety gear, they can prepare themselves for emergencies by having basic plans of action in place. They can learn to be observant about their surroundings and become adept at noticing details that can have life-saving consequences.

For instance, when they are battling fires, they might notice that the air pressure has changed or that the yellow smoke indicates a risk of an imminent back draft. Being vigilant at all times can help firefighters avoid serious setbacks.

9. Physical fitness

Being physically fit is crucial for firefighters since it can affect their ability to perform their duties effectively. Firefighters often work long hours to put out fires and handle other disasters. It is necessary for them to have enough stamina and physical resilience to endure the difficult, unpleasant conditions they encounter during these operations.

For instance, they might work in extremely hot conditions in enclosed, smoke-filled spaces and be in danger of collapsing structures. They may find it necessary to climb to great heights to perform rescue operations. They may be obliged to operate heavy machinery and move debris. Additionally, their work may require them to carry heavy equipment, breathing apparatus and rescued victims. They can better manage these situations if they are strong and fit.

10. Adaptability skills

Given the unpredictable nature of fires, accidents and other disasters, it is essential for firefighters to be able to adapt to their situations quickly. As first responders on the scene, firefighters are responsible for overcoming the obstacles that prevent them from carrying out their duties. Aside from adapting to emergencies, firefighters also require adaptability skills to adjust successfully to new work roles, team members and social environments.

11. First aid skills

When they arrive as first responders to scenes of fires or other disasters, firefighters may find it necessary to provide essential medical treatment to the injured people they rescue and stabilise them until the emergency medical technicians arrive on the scene. That is why they require first aid skills and training in emergency medical technology. Aside from knowing medical procedures and medical terminology, firefighters can benefit from cultivating a compassionate attitude towards the victims.

12. Patience and sensitivity

When handling disasters and undertaking rescue operations, firefighters often work for very long hours in risk-laden environments and under bad weather conditions. Their work can be exhausting and dangerous. They need sufficient patience to continue with it, to persevere despite many obstacles and eventually be able to rescue the victims. Aside from patience, firefighters can benefit from cultivating sensitivity. By being sensitive to the predicament of the victims, they can instil hope in them, encourage them to stay positive and help them endure their difficulties until they can rescue them.

13. Ability to handle pressure

Firefighting and managing other disasters involves working in extremely dangerous situations and making quick life-and-death decisions. Firefighters enter burning buildings, handle accident vehicles, tackle unstable structures and deal with flooded environments. They attempt to rescue people and bring them to safety. All of this can put enormous stress on the firefighters. Being able to handle this pressure well, keep their nerves at bay and maintain their focus is crucial if they are to continue being efficient and effective in their work.

14. Learning skills

Firefighters cannot afford to be complacent about their firefighting knowledge and skills. It is necessary for them to continually educate themselves and gain further mastery of firefighting techniques and equipment. By being willing to keep learning, they can strengthen their abilities, become better at their work and advance in their firefighting career.

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