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How to Become a Firefighter in Ohio

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If you've ever thought about becoming a firefighter, there are a few things you need to know. It's not a job for the faint of heart, nor is it a career for people who just want to look good riding around in a big red truck. It's hard work and calls for dedication and effort, as well as physical and mental stamina. If you think you're up to the challenge, here's how you can become a firefighter in the state of Ohio.

Apply for a job with a fire department. Although different municipalities have varied requirements, there are a few criteria that are common to all towns and cities in the state of Ohio. Submit your job application first, and then you'll be ready to move on to the next step.

Take a written examination after a fire department contacts you. It's usually about 150 questions and covers general subjects such as problem solving, reading comprehension, basic math and communication skills and reasoning abilities. Take time to study ahead of time, and take practice examinations if at all possible. There are books available through commercial booksellers that are specifically for the Ohio firefighter's examination.

Take a physical agility test. This is the area where many people stop the hiring process. Firefighting is an extremely physically demanding job, and the work environment is hazardous and ever-changing. Firefighters must be able to adapt to new physical conditions on a second's notice. The physical agility exam is typically strenuous. Although it focuses partially on strength, it also determines if a candidate has the ability to resist fatigue. Start working out now to increase your cardio levels in time for this test. Other things you can do to prepare for the physical agility test are running up and down stairs and jogging with a weight pack on. A firefighter on duty can carry up to 50 lb. of gear and tools, so use this as a guideline when practicing.

Get a physical examination. This is a general physical, which can be done by either your own doctor or a fire department physician. You'll probably have lab work done, including a blood draw and possibly a urine sample. Many fire departments include testing for illegal drugs at this time. If you're using prescription drugs, make sure your doctor is aware of it and documents it on your chart.

Have a psychological evaluation. Many departments do this now, just to get an idea as to whether or not you're mentally equipped to handle the stress and strain of firefighting. They may ask intensely personal questions. Answer all questions honestly, even if you feel that the answer might be embarrassing.

Get on-the-job training. Most fire departments have a program for volunteers that teaches fire science. In addition to classroom time, you'll spend time learning about equipment, doing drills, practicing emergency medical procedures and even accompanying more seasoned firefighters to a scene. This on-the-job training is important; not only is it a way for you to learn, but it's also a way for supervisors to evaluate you in a hands-on environment. Typically, you'll have a probationary period of several months to a year in which you are constantly being tested and evaluated by other members of the department. Once your probationary status has ended, you may be invited to interview for a permanent position.

Tip

Before applying for a volunteer position at a fire department, talk to some of the people who work there. Ask them what they love about their job and what they don't like, if anything.

Warning

If you smoke, quit as soon as possible. Few things will cause you to fail your physical agility exam faster than a decreased lung capacity.

About the Author

Patti Wigington has been writing for nearly twenty years. Her work has appeared on a variety of websites and in a number of print publications, and she spent five years as a staff writer for a Columbus, Ohio, newspaper. She is the author of a children's book, a novel for middle grade readers, and two adult novels.