Ever wondered what it's like to spend the day at the firehouse? On the Indianapolis Fire Department, we have 3 shifts. A Shift, B Shift, C Shift. The shifts are 24 hours on with 48 hours off. The shifts are in continual rotation and do not change. Once you are assigned a shift, you will follow that shift schedule until you change your shift. Firefighters are allowed to request a shift preference upon graduation from recruit school but depending on the needs of the department, they are not always granted their first preference.
Firefighters are to report to their assigned station each shift morning no later than 8:00 am. However, most firefighters relieve the previous shift at 7:00 am. Being late to work is never acceptable in the fire service. Shift change hours are important. Vital information is relayed between the two shifts that may involve apparatus, personnel, training or community service.
Once the firefighter coming on duty is given their apparatus assignment, they will then relieve the previous day's firefighter. Once he/she collects his gear and puts it in his/her assigned locker, they will then take their own gear and prepare it for the days' tour of duty. Each firefighter is responsible for checking their own gear each and every shift. If something is broken or needs replaced, now is the time to report it and/or fix it. They will then check out the equipment on the apparatus they are assigned to. On every apparatus they have to check out the medical equipment, fire equipment, tactical equipment etc. Once this task is done, many firefighters relax and visit for a few minutes with the other shift before they leave for the day.
The day's assignments are given at the beginning of each shift. The station may have a community service event to attend or training to attend. All personnel are required to go. Depending on the rules of the house, someone is assigned to cook for the day. Everyone contributes a set dollar amount and the cook provides two meals. Usually lunch and dinner. It is the cooks job to shop for the meal and his/her choice as to what the meals are. Make no mistake, there are some really great cooks on the fire department! Housework is a daily, morning event at the fire house. Each person is given an assignment to clean a particular area. Bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry rooms, kitchen, office etc. Firefighters take pride in their station and treat it as if it were there own home. Spring cleaning happens every year and while not many look forward to that, it keeps the firehouse in good condition. Area residents often stop by the firehouse.
Working out is just a way of life for firefighters. Many choose to workout in the morning after housework. Most firehouses have several key pieces of workout equipment. If you are assigned to one of the newer stations you may be lucky enough to have a large workout area with up to date equipment. Strength conditioning and cardiovascular conditioning are equally important to firefighting. Firefighters on the Indianapolis Fire Department are given annual work performance evaluations in addition to an annual physical. It is mandatory that they meet or better the standards set for them by the department.
So, shift change has happened, assignments given, cooking is in progress and housework is done. Everyone who is working out that day has gotten their workout in....it is almost time for lunch. After lunch the officer in charge may inform the crew of their in-house training for the day. In-house training is crucial for firehouses because they need to operate as a team. Many fire stations, have specialty areas beyond Fire and EMS that require constant updates and training. The nature of the fire service is that you never know when the tones go off, what the emergency call will be. Your team must be prepared for any situation.
Dinner time is always a relaxing time at the firehouse. A good meal and camaraderie is great way to head into the evening hours. After the meal everyone participates in doing the dishes, cleaning the table and mopping the floors. If the apparatus are dirty, everyone heads out to the bay to clean them. Some stations only have 1 piece of equipment, usually an engine or a ladder. Many stations anywhere from 2 - 5 pieces of equipment.
Men and women have separate locker rooms at the firehouse. Sleeping quarters are similar to a cold dorm where each twin bed is separated by a partition of some type. Depending on the size of the station, you may have 4 - 12 people sleeping in the same room. Unlike what you may have seen in the movies or on TV, fire gear is not allowed in the living areas of the fire station. Fire gear gets dirty depending on the amount and type of runs you may incur during your shift. OSHA standards prohibit the gear from entering the living areas. Firefighters sleep in a t-shirt and shorts or sweats and put their gear on when they get to their apparatus.
It is rare to sleep through the night without a run during your shift. In fact you may be so busy during the day that none of the above mentioned duties actually get completed! You just have to fit them in when you can. Shift change for the next day always comes around at 8:00 am. Many firefighters have part time jobs that they work on their days off, and some stay home with their young children. Either way, the 48 hours off in between is time to recover until the next shift.