Firefighters in Leawood respond to approximately 3,400 calls each year, for an average of just over 9 calls per day. Of course, some days may only have one call, while a busy day could have a dozen or more! Have you ever wondered how those firefighters stay busy between calls? Since each shift of firefighters works for 24 hours, standby time is that time between calls when those on-duty firefighters must be with their assigned units, ready to respond to any call for help. This standby time is filled with a variety of duties and responsibilities such as training, vehicle and building maintenance, fire inspections, and special projects. In addition, since the firefighters work 24 hours, they also eat meals and sleep at the fire station during their shift.
The primary responsibility for any firefighter is to be prepared to respond quickly to any call for help. In order to respond quickly, crews must stay close to their assigned vehicle and be prepared. While those vehicles are often in the fire stations, crews will also leave the station for training, to perform fire inspections on City businesses, or even to make a trip to the grocery store or hardware store. Being out in the community ensures that firefighters are familiar with their response area and are visible to the citizens they serve.
Training is a big part of each firefighter’s day. With the ever changing multitude of calls that the fire department responds to, ongoing training and education is critical. Firefighters must continually review and practice their skills, as well as learn to use new techniques and equipment. Besides the in-house training that Leawood firefighters do, they often train with firefighters and paramedics from surrounding agencies so that our response to major incidents will be effective. When you call for help, you probably won’t know if it’s one fire department, or crews from three different departments. Your emergency will just be handled in a professional manner, regardless.
Each firefighter must maintain a high level of fitness, not only to perform on the emergency scene but to maximize their health and wellness. All three fire stations have fitness equipment such as treadmills, stair climbers, and other exercise equipment available so on-duty firefighters can exercise each shift. Firefighters are required to stretch each morning before beginning the shift, and must exercise at least one hour each day. Occasionally, you might also see a group of firefighters running on a local track as part of their annual fitness training. Staying active is important to reducing stress as well as improving health and wellness.
Each business in Leawood is inspected annually to reduce safety issues, inspect sprinkler systems, etc. Each shift of firefighters is assigned certain businesses in their response area to conduct ‘company inspections’. These company inspections are scheduled during the work day when fire crews can meet with business owners and inspect the business.
During each shift, firefighters may be involved in providing training to the public in areas such as fire safety, CPR, or disaster preparedness. This training takes place out in the community and at the fire station. From attending a neighborhood block party to giving a station tour to a group of pre-school children, public relations activities also occupy a great deal of a firefighter’s standby time. But have you ever seen a firefighter that didn’t love that part of the job? There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing the eyes of a 4 year old light up when they get a chance to see the fire truck and talk to a group of firefighters!
Since response is our number one responsibility, keeping our fire trucks in a ready condition is essential. While our Public Works Department and outside contractors perform a great deal of the maintenance on our fire trucks and staff vehicles, firefighters are constantly performing routine checks and minor maintenance. From checking to see that emergency lights and tires are maintained properly, to cleaning the fire trucks inside and out, firefighters stay busy making sure the vehicles are always ready to respond.
Firefighters use many different pieces of equipment to do their jobs. From basic equipment such as fire hose, fire extinguishers, or chain saws, to technical equipment such as thermal imaging cameras, emergency radios, or extrication equipment (Jaws of Life). Each piece of equipment must be checked and serviced regularly. Three o’clock in the morning is not the time to find out the chain saw won’t start! Spending time to properly maintain the equipment carried on each fire truck will help maximize each firefighter’s safety, as well as the safety of those they serve.
While the City’s Building Maintenance Department takes care of much of the maintenance on our fire stations, firefighters still spend a great deal of standby time cleaning and performing routine maintenance on their assigned station and grounds. Any house that’s occupied 24/7/365 is bound to need a lot of attention, from cleaning windows and floors to cleaning the bathrooms! And don’t forget, the firefighters will generally eat 2-3 meals at the fire station so kitchen clean-up is a must. You can see they keep the kitchen spotless.
Just like you, firefighters occasionally need to run an errand to pick up supplies, such as food for dinner or something from the hardware store to repair a piece of equipment. You may ask, ‘Why do they have to use a fire truck to run an errand?’ The answer is simple. The crew of firefighters must be prepared to respond at any time so they may run errands in their response area, while keeping the crew and vehicle together. Occasionally, firefighters will also come across an accident or other emergency call while they’re out of the station.
On-duty firefighters must be prepared to respond 24 hours a day but they are allowed to sleep at the fire station between 9pm and 7am. However, rest assured those firefighters are ready even during that time. When a call comes in at 3am, imagine being on the fire truck and out the door in 60-90 seconds, and pulling up in front of a burning house or at the scene of a motor vehicle crash 5 minutes later, ready to go to work. Did we mention that training is important!