If you are still in high school, your school counselor, science teachers, and librarian should be able to provide you with some introductory information about the various careers in fire protection, safety, and prevention. You can visit your local fire department, look at the equipment, and talk with the firefighters and their commanding officers. In some departments, you may be able to gain experience by working as a volunteer firefighter.
Some fire departments have Fire Explorer Posts for those interested in the career. Local or community colleges also have fire science and prevention courses open to high school courses.
Courses in lifesaving and first aid also offer helpful experience. Summer jobs as aides with the government park and forest service are available as well. In these jobs, you may learn about fire prevention, control, and detection in forest and grassland conservation work.
It is usually possible to arrange a visit with an insurance company to learn about the huge economic losses caused by fire. Large insurance offices often have agents or officers who can describe fire technician jobs or services in inspection, fire insurance, rate setting or claim settlement, and fire-prevention services. You can also obtain part-time or summer jobs with fire-equipment manufacturing, supply, and service companies.
Fire safety technicians are employed by local fire departments, fire insurance companies, industrial organizations, government agencies, and businesses dealing with fire-protection equipment and consulting services.
Fire safety technicians who are employed by local fire departments spend a lot of time working with the public. By working with the public through schools, businesses, and service clubs and organizations, they can expand their level of understanding about the dangers of fire and teach them methods of fire protection and fire prevention.
Fire science specialists employed by insurance companies make recommendations for fire protection and safety measures in specific buildings. As part of their duties they provide information that helps companies set insurance rates, examine water supply and sprinkler facilities, and make suggestions to correct hazardous conditions. They may be part of an arson investigation squad or work with adjusters to determine the amount of personal injury or property loss caused by fire.
In industry, fire safety technicians are often part of an industrial safety team. They inspect areas for possible fire hazards and formulate company procedures in case of fire. They periodically inspect fire-fighting equipment such as extinguishers, hoses and hydrants, fire doors, automatic alarms, and sprinkler systems. An important part of their duties is to hold fire prevention seminars to keep department heads and key workers aware and alert to potential fire hazards in their particular areas. Technicians also teach these employees what to do in case of fire or other emergencies.
Because of the large number of people occupying their facilities, many restaurants, large hotels, and entertainment or recreational centers employ fire safety technicians. There is a great hazard of fire from food cooking in kitchens, lint in laundries, and sparks that fall on draperies and bedding. The possible loss of life from fire makes it necessary to have the best possible fire-protection program.
Many government agencies employ fire safety technicians. They are largely responsible for inspecting government buildings, property and storage, or handling systems for reducing fire hazards. They arrange for installation of adequate alarm systems and fire-protection devices. They may be required to organize a fire-fighting unit in a government agency or assist with designing sprinkler systems in buildings.
Companies that manufacture fire-protection devices and alarm systems employ many technicians. Their training enables them to explain technical functions to customers and to give advice on installation and use. They also help to place smoke detectors and other fire prevention or extinguishing devices in the correct locations to give the greatest protection from fire, and they service fire protection devices after they are installed. Fire extinguishers, for example, must be regularly inspected to be certain that they function properly. Fire extinguisher servicers are technicians trained to perform inspections, tests, and maintenance of fire extinguishers and may also instruct people on their use. Private companies specializing in fire-safety equipment often employ them.
The following paragraphs describe specialties in the field.
Fire insurance inspectors inspect buildings and offices and make recommendations for fire protection and general safety conditions.
Fire insurance underwriters help set rates to conform to company policies and building codes.
Fire insurance adjusters determine losses due to fire and compute rates for adjustment and settling claims.
Fire protection engineering technicians draft plans for the installation of fire protection systems for buildings and structures. Using their knowledge of drafting and fire-protection codes, they analyze architectural blueprints and specifications to determine which type and size of fire-protection system is required to meet fire-protection codes and then estimate its cost. During building construction, they work with the superintendent to ensure proper installation of the system. They may specialize in a specific kind of fire-protection system, such as foam, water, dry chemicals, or gas. After a fire they may inspect fire-damaged buildings to check for malfunctioning systems.
Fire inspectors check fire-fighting equipment and report any potential fire hazards. They recommend changes in equipment, practice, materials, or methods to reduce fire hazards.
Plant protection inspectors inspect industrial plants for fire hazards, report findings, and recommend action. Fire alarm superintendents inspect alarm systems in government buildings and institutions.
Fire service field instructors hold training sessions throughout a state to keep firefighters up to date on fire-fighting methods and techniques. They may also inspect small fire departments and report on personnel and equipment.