What it takes to be a Fire Fighter
What it takes to be a Fire Fighter
The whining sound of the alarm pierces the air throughout the station just before a voice calls out the emergency over the loudspeaker: An accident has occurred on the interstate, involving two passenger cars and a truck hauling an "unknown substance". One car is crushed and the truck has overturned; smoke is coming from "somewhere" at the scene; there are reported injuries with a possible fatality. Instantly, firefighters who have been inspecting equipment, reviewing procedures or restocking supplies within the fire station, stop what they were doing and race towards their assigned equipment and vehicles. Within 5 seconds of the alarm, the first response teams emerge from the station: a fire truck, the Haz-mat unit and a rescue truck. With sirens blazing, and lights flashing, they head towards the scene of the accident, dodging oncoming traffic, to save lives and to match their skills against a dangerous situation that holds many "unknowns" that might present more danger to others in the area - and themselves.
Once at the scene, a clear strategy will emerge and, with diligent, methodical work they will quickly have the situation totally under control: it's what their extensive training has prepared them to do. They do it well - and Opelika citizens can be proud because these are your firefighters! And they are among the best in the State of Alabama!
The public sometimes has the misguided perception that being a firefighter is an easy job - especially in communities outside of the major urban areas where there are no daily house / business fires and such to handle. And because folks "can't imagine" what a firefighter could possibly do with all of that "free time" between fires in the area (because many don't understand that our firefighters do so much more on the job than just wait around for house or business fires) they assume they do little more than sit around the fire station, playing cards or lounging around and watching TV and "having a good ol' time."
Nothing could be farther from the truth! The TRUTH is, not everyone could make it as a fire fighter. They couldn't handle the physical training, pass the exams or master the variety of skills one must in order to become a certified fire fighter, which is the law in Alabama.
So what does it take to be a firefighter for the City of Opelika? To even be considered for employment one must be at least 18 years of age, have a valid drivers license, pass a background check, be recommended by the Opelika Fire Interview Committee, pass or have current CPAT (Candidate Physical Agility Test), pass a medical exam, pass the city's drug test requirements, and pass or meet other requirements established by the City of Opelika and/or the Opelika Fire Department.
Once all of that takes place, the candidate begins his/her training in earnest in the certification process. The Opelika Fire Department hosts certification classes right here in Opelika because we have one of the best training facilities in the State of Alabama! (In fact, our instructors not only train our own force of fire fighters, they also help the State by training fire fighters from other communities in Alabama as well!)
Opelika's Certification training takes a total of 500 hours (the state only requires 400) and includes the following subjects: Orientation and safety, Fire Department communications, building construction, ropes and knots, loss control, fire behavior, personal protective equipment, ladders, ventilation, forcible entry, water supply, portable extinguishers, fire hoses, rescue and extrication, sprinkler and alarm systems, fire streams and foam streams, fire control, hazardous materials, protecting evidence, and fire prevention and public education. Fire fighter candidates are tested in all of these areas and must pass their exams before certification.
In addition to this, the National Registry Emergency Medical Technician course is taught. Their training in this area includes: CPR training (including the use of automated external defibrillation), vital signs, taking a patient's history, correct procedures in lifting and moving patients, basic training in diabetic emergencies, injuries, bleeding and shock, general pharmacology instruction, and other courses too numerous to mention.
Once certified, these new firefighters join the proud ranks of those who, like Opelika's police officers and linemen with the light and power department, are willing to put their very lives on the line to keep you - the citizens and businesses of Opelika - safe and secure in your environments! They learn and memorize all of the subdivisions, streets, businesses and hydrant locations in our community. They maintain fire hydrants, constantly inspect the fire hoses, learn the art of arson detection, and continually review their basic training to maintain and improve upon the skills they've learned. They do very little sitting around!
The City of Opelika wants all of those who serve our community in the Opelika Fire Department to know just how proud of you we are! Partly because of your excellent training Opelika enjoys a Class 2 Insurance rating (one of the top ratings in the state, which also keeps our insurance rates at a minimum!). We also have the added assurance that if an emergency ever happens that requires the skilled hands of a fire fighter, we've got the best of the best answering the call!