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When someone thought of a women firefighter, the first question that might come to our minds is that are they capable of performing the same tasks being performed by male firefighters? Another is that can they withstand the pressure and the expectations working in a male dominated profession? Are they susceptible to sexual harassment?
In the 1950’s and in the 60’s when we ask a little girl if they want to become a firefighter they would definitely think twice before saying yes but nowadays, women are increasingly being engaged in the firefighting profession for several reasons: the physical and mental challenge of the work in times of emergencies and crisis situations; a good amount of compensation and promotion benefits for those who are full-pledged professional firefighters; and other career opportunities such as becoming a safety educator, fire inspector, arson investigator, and emergency dispatcher.
All of these contribute to the motivation of women to engage themselves in the firefighting profession. Though being surrounded in a male dominated workplace, they bring a different scenario to the field that might change or influence certain policies and standards in the firefighting profession. Basically firefighting is not only a profession but also a process of eliminating or extinguishing fires. It concentrates on the safety of life, stabilization of incidents, and conservation of property.
The initial skills in firefighting are taught in a regional, local, or state accredited fire academy and most of the time special skills such as Para medicine and technical rescue are also being included. In any event, they work in coordination with other agencies such as the emergency response group and the state or local police department. Usually experiences in real life situations develop the necessary skills of a professional firefighter, even if it takes the rest of his career. Not only does the necessary training and skills are important to a firefighter but also the adaptation to the workplace plays an important role.
Aside from putting out the fire and rescuing trapped occupants, the firefighter is the most frequently called emergency respondent during medical emergencies and traffic accidents. Their functions also varies depending on the situation such as from the dangerous and complex method of extinguishing the fire, rescuing trapped survivors, remaining at the disaster site for several days for search and retrieval operations, and assisting in medical treatments. They also work in a various settings such as rural sites like forests and grasslands, industrial sites, urban and suburban areas, chemical plants, airports.
Depending on the type of settings they use specific methods of prevention, control, and clean up of materials. In between alarms, firefighters maintain and clean their equipment, participate in physical fitness activities, and conduct practice fire inspections and drills. They also conduct review on fire sciences to keep abreast with the technological advancement and development and prepare written reports regarding fire incidents. They stay longer in the fire station which has features similar to a dormitory. Their working hours varies from a 24-hour duty to as many as 50-hour a week work.
Day off, shifting schedules, and working extra hour during emergencies and holidays are also being observed. In general firefighting is a dangerous profession wherein the risk of injury or death from traffic accidents when responding to an emergency call, sudden cave-ins of floors, toppling walls, exposure to smoke and flames, contamination from poisonous, flammable, chemicals, radioactive or hazardous materials, that may have short or long term damage may be eminent. But despite of these, women choose a career in firefighting primarily due to the fact that it is a job that usually makes a difference.
On a national scale, professional female firefighters comprise an approximate of 2% of the total firefighters (Crary A1). From the standpoint of physical strength, highly rewarding and exciting career, and the challenge of putting up the necessary skills in times of emergencies gives the thrill of firefighting for women that men also desired most about the job (Dyas A1). The first recorded women firefighter goes to the merit of an African-American woman with the name of Molly Williams in 1818. (Floren A1)