Fire Safety Technicians
Most fire safety technicians are employed by public or private fire departments and the rest work for large corporations that oversee the design and operation of fire-prevention systems. Insurance companies hire fire safety technicians to survey the facilities they insure and to perform research, testing, and analysis. Fire safety technicians and fire protection engineers work in various levels of government and in branches of the armed services, where they help develop and enforce building and fire-prevention codes. Fire safety technicians also are employed by fire equipment and systems manufacturing companies, hospitals and health care facilities, industrial and chemical companies, testing and certifying laboratories, transportation companies, and universities and colleges.
Graduates of two-year programs in technical colleges, community colleges, or technical institutes usually secure jobs before they graduate. They are hired by company recruiters sent to school career services offices, which arrange interviews for graduating students. The placement officers or fire science instructors usually keep contacts open to help place their current graduates.
Some schools have cooperative work-study programs where students study part time and work part time for pay. Employers who participate in cooperative programs provide experience in different tasks so the student learns about various aspects of the job. Cooperating employers often hire students in such programs for permanent jobs.
Some students may find jobs in fire departments that are large enough to need special technicians outside the ranks of regular firefighters. Others may choose to become firefighters and advance to technical positions.
Some fire departments place new employees on probation, a period during which they are intensively trained. After training is completed, they may be assigned to specific duties.
Students with a high school diploma or its equivalent can enter a fire department apprenticeship program. These programs run from three to four years, combining intensive on-the-job training with active fire-fighting service, and include related study in the science and theory of firefighting. These apprenticeship programs may or may not be union-sponsored.
Even after completing an apprenticeship program, fire safety technicians seeking to advance to the level of supervisor or inspector must continue to study. Part-time courses are available in community colleges or technical institutes.
In some small communities, applicants may enter through on-the-job training as volunteer firefighters or by direct application for such an appointment.
Examples of advanced positions are described in the following paragraphs.
Fire prevention analysts analyze overall fire-prevention systems in an organization and confer with fire inspectors to obtain detailed information and recommend policies and programs for fire prevention.
Fire protection engineers combine their engineering and management skills to perform a broad range of jobs. Some work as fire protection designers, creating systems that automatically detect and suppress fires. Some design fire alarm, smoke control, emergency lighting, communication, and exit systems. These engineers also perform fire-safety evaluations of buildings and industrial complexes. Some research the behavior and control of fire. Others analyze risk management and assessment for industrial applications. Fire protection engineers also investigate fires or explosions, preparing technical reports or providing expert courtroom testimony on the facts of the incident.
Deputy fire marshals inspect possible fire hazards and analyze the amount of loss resulting from a fire. If necessary, they have the authority to condemn buildings. They report cases of arson and work with district attorneys to prosecute arsonists. This is an appointed position, although those holding the position usually have considerable fire experience.
Fire captains work under the supervision of a fire chief on a military base or in a municipal area. They are responsible for fire protection in a specific location. Fire chiefs are responsible for all fire-fighting units in a municipal area. Several fire captains may report to and support the activities of this administrator.
Advancement can also include an officer position in the fire-prevention bureau or moving to the building department.
Owners of fire equipment or consulting businesses employ fire prevention and control technicians and specialists, who contract for, deliver, and install equipment and provide training and other services in fire prevention.
Tips for Entry
Read Fire Protection Engineering (https://www.sfpe.org/page/Magazine), National Fire Protection Association Journal (https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Publications-and-media), and Fire Technology (https://www.sfpe.org/page/Journal) to learn more about careers in the field.
Become certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, National Fire Protection Association, and the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards established by your industry.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings: