October 31, 2012

10 Things I’ve Learned from Working Inside a Fire Hall. ~ Veronica Ryl

As I was told on Day One, “You can start worrying when we stop making fun of you.”

As a female currently in the midst of an ambulance practicum in an integrated Fire/EMS service, I have already learned an abundance of knowledge that has nothing to do with medication administration or types of equipment. In a month and a half of hanging out with a group of firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, captains and deputy chiefs, mainly of the male variety, I have already been taught more about life firsthand than ordinary living could ever do.

I’ve compiled a list of some of the basic principles that have been etched into my perspective from working with this great crew.

1. Men are straightforward and uncomplicated beings. The end.

Women everywhere stress continuously about what men think, want, desire and crave, and they over-analyze everything—from, ‘I wonder what he’s thinking,’ to ‘I wonder if he’ll like me more if I wear the pink or the red dress?’ Now, I realize that these examples are vague, but it’s the idea behind them where the point I’m trying to convey lays. Men are simple creatures. They think about their basic needs of food, water, shelter, sex and then move forward. They like what they like, and they meet the definition of ‘blunt’ exceedingly well. If you want to know what a guy thinks about something, just ask him.

 2. Confidence is sexy.

There’s something about a man in uniform that does a woman in, but it’s not just this factor that gives the sexy firefighter the stereotype. This is a career where decisions need to be made and actions have to be performed with split second accuracy; confidence in ability and self is a prerequisite. It’s important to define yourself and be fearless with your decisions. Confidence is a quality that causes instant attraction, whether people consciously realize it or not.

3. Rolling with the punches.

As I’m sure any female who’s hung out in a group of men before has probably witnessed, men love to jostle each other and make fun of each other at one another’s expense. When this direct humor is aimed your way, all you can do is accept it like a champ and dish it right back at them. Being secure in who you are allows you to use humor to your advantage and learn to not take yourself too seriously.

4. Culinary art.

The rumor is true—firefighters cook dinner on a regular basis, and delicious ones at that. Wives and girlfriends of firefighters can  attest to and appreciate that their guys know how to sauté veggies, spice up a chicken and put together a good salad. Oh yeah, and how to clean up afterward.

5. Respect.

Fire halls often typically follow a paramilitary structure. With this comes the basic principles of seniority and rank, and respecting those who are above you. Rookies have certain expectations and duties that are theirs until they move up through the system—and that’s just the way it is. Professionalism, station duties, public relations, training and maintenance are all features that exist in this type of organization.

6. The Brotherhood of Interdependence.

Firefighters routinely refer to their profession as the ‘brotherhood,’ and I feel that this label is quite accurate. The career dictates a strong, trusting relationship with each other—your life can literally be in the hands of your fellow co-worker. This bond is strongly apparent at all times, and it is clear that they all ‘have each others’ back.’

7. Maintaining mental and physical energy.

EMS and firefighting are both careers that require a high degree of mental and physical stamina. One is continuously being thrown into unknown situations which require a high degree of alertness and commands a high level of physical fitness that is necessary with managing patients and equipment. With knowing this, one needs to prepare accordingly and be certain there is balance present in their life. Without balance, one cannot perform 100 percent (and other areas of life are bound to suffer as well).

8. Bouncing back from rough situations.

In the nature of the job, it is completely unavoidable to encounter distressing life and death events. With knowing this, it is essential to mentally prepare beforehand for when these situations do arise. It is also crucial to properly manage oneself after these occurrences and to seek support and guidance from others where needed.

9. Family matters.

A fire hall is a like a family association all its own, but what’s even more great is the fact that the family of members are welcomed with open arms. Regularly wives, children and pets will stop by the station to say hello. In this way, the community becomes a large interwoven one where everyone knows everyone’s family, and so friendly relationships and ties are created.

10. Having fun is an integral part of the day.

Practical jokes, nicknames, bantering—all trademarks of working in a hall. As I was told on day one, “You can start worrying when we stop making fun of you.”

In the seriousness of the profession and the responsibilities that go along with it, it’s absolutely necessary to make light of life in the off time. With this mindset, sanity can be preserved and equilibrium will be achieved.

I have one more point to add. The title of this article declares ’10 things’ and so I won’t give this point a number, but it is still an element that needs to be addressed.

Compassion is a huge hallmark of the emergency services profession and a very noteworthy one; I feel it should be a necessary component of what it means to be human worldwide.

Most people who enter EMS/Fire do so with the intention of helping people. I hope this article will help serve to remind people and fellow coworkers of this simple and beautiful intention. No judgements of class type, socioeconomic status, mental state or life factors—just love, pure and simple.


Veronica Ryl is an extreme adventurist, modern day philosopher and life-lover with a major interest in psychology. She is in the eternal process of defining herself and her beliefs (and is making up the rules as she goes). Her other interests include: travelling, physical fitness, the great outdoors, self expression and venturing outside her comfort zone. Passionate about life experiences and people; she would love to get to know you. The featured fire hall photos are courtesy of Daniel Sundahl. You can connect with him at danielsundahl@yahoo.com.


Editor: Evan Livesay 


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