With the recent devastating wildfires in California, the lives of many firefighters were on the line. However, firefighters risk their lives in many more ways than fighting fires. If you are one of those brave people, you will also be at risk every time you rush to the aid of victims of car accidents, chemical spills, aviation accidents, coal mine collapses, riots and more.
Despite the rigorous and comprehensive training you received to teach you how to deal with fires in various circumstances, those were all controlled situations that could hardly prepare you for real-life emergencies. Many of the skills you and your co-workers will accumulate will be through experience that will teach you how to deal with the various types of hazards.
Although you can take precautions against physical dangers, many of them are impossible to predict. The following risks might be par for the course, but you might not know when they will present and how severe they will be:
- Flashovers or injuries from back drafts
- Exposure to cold during the winter or rescues at sea
- Exposure to loud noises
The following hazards are common during all firefighting activities, and they are as unpredictable as the physical hazards:
- Injuries due to explosions
- Falling from heights due to collapsing buildings
- Inhalation of superheated air
- Injuries from glass, metal, wood or liquids during a rescue
- Interruption of fresh air supply during rescue operations
Whenever you attend to derailed trains, chemical spills on the highways or fighting fires at factories, you will be at risk of the following:
- Inhalation of chemical vapors
- Inadequate fresh air to breathe
- Exposure to chemicals during a rescue
- Exposure to large quantities of carbon monoxide
You cannot eliminate any of the above hazards, but wearing appropriate personal protective equipment might help.
Psychosocial and ergonomic hazards
Even seasoned firefighters suffer stress -- both physical and emotional. Never knowing where the next call will take you, and then sharing the trauma of accident or burn victims, can cause depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Ergonomic stress comes into play when rescues involve moving heavy objects while you also carry the heavy burden of personal protective equipment and rescue equipment.
If you are lucky, you might never have to face biological hazards. However, you must receive training to prepare you for calls that involve biological hazards, infectious diseases and bomb explosions.
Your rights to medical care and therapy
The California workers' compensation insurance program provides compensation to cover all your bills for medical expenses and therapy that you might need as the result of injuries or illnesses caused by your job. Legal counsel can assist with the claims process and see that you also receive the lost wages you deserve.