Training is a necessary part of being a Tecumseh firefighter
Becoming a firefighter for the city of Tecumseh is not as simple as just showing up at the firehouse on S. Evans St. and Russell Rd. when the fire siren goes off. Training to become a paid on-call firefighter is extensive, and education is part of every firefighter’s work whether his or her goal is to become a career firefighter or stay on call.
“There’s no difference in training between the paid on call firefighters and full-time firefighters,” said Chief Joe Tuckey. “People don’t understand when they apply how much training is required and how much time will be spent away from family.”
Currently, the department has three full-time firefighters, including Tuckey, with 21 active firefighters on the roster. When Tuckey started with the department in the early 1980s, training was done on the job as opposed to time in a classroom or online.
“When I started here in the mid-80s none of this training was required by the state,” Tuckey said. “Until late 80s and early 90s there wasn’t a command system for fire departments. Division of command came out of the forestry division. When you are managing large resources you can’t do it all yourself. Now police, fire, FBI, all emergency response agencies train under the same system. When people come together they all know what to do.”
Standards for emergency response were set at a national level when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) implemented the National Incident Management System (NIMS) in 2004.
“The National Incident Management System has been the single most significant improvement in incident management since the Department of Homeland Security was formed in 2003,” FEMA Administrator David Paulison said in a 2008 press release. “It has enhanced interoperability among emergency responders at all levels of government and is the product of a collaborative effort involving hundreds of emergency personnel from across the nation. We incorporated lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, clarified command system concepts, increased emphasis on planning and mutual aid, expanded the intelligence/investigation function, and better aligned the NIMS document with the National Response Framework.”
All incoming firefighters, whether on-call or full-time, must complete State of Michigan required training to work with the Tecumseh Fire Department. Firefighter Level I and II training requires 180 to 200 hours of class time.
“You have to pass a state written exam and a state practical exam after completing the training,” Tuckey said.
Haz-Mat Awareness is an eight-hour class, while Haz-Mat Operations requires 24 hours of training. Driver’s Training is an eight-hour class plus driving with the department after the initial training.
NIMS training is a 16-hour course that is also required by the state. All the state training must be completed within two years of becoming a member of the TFD.
The Tecumseh Fire Department also requires medical training that takes between 100 and 250 hours to complete depending on the level. Licenses require continued training and renewal every three years.
“Everybody in our department has and maintains a medical license,” said Tuckey. “We operate basic life support.”
The TFD has in-house training twice a month for two to three hours each time, and members of TFD are required to attend 60 percent of in-house training. The fire department has approximately 65 calls a month and members must be at 20 percent of those calls.
For those interested in becoming officers with TFD even more training is required. “The state has Company Officer I and II,” Tuckey said. “It’s an 80-hour course that covers administration and budgeting. Before you can take it there are prerequisite classes. Now the state requires in writing that you must have the training to be an officer. We have some very educated guys that are officers.”
There has been controversy in nearby communities over whether officers are trained properly for the positions they hold. Tuckey said that it is possible to find training for firefighters online, but said the state does not always have all the training listed online, especially if classes were completed a long time ago. The incomplete information online may be causing confusion.
Tuckey thinks training is necessary to have skilled firefighters able to respond to a variety of situations. Knowledge of equipment and technology is important and there is a lot of gear and technology designed to assist firefighters.
“So much has changed in the fire service,” said Tuckey. “The gear has gotten better, and you need the training. It’s a whole different ballgame.”
Fighting fires is also different than it used to be. Buildings are not built as solidly as they used to be, according to Tuckey. While buildings used to burn without collapsing, today’s construction materials are much different.
“If you don’t understand how a building is built you can get hurt,” Tuckey said. “We can have a building collapse in 15 minutes.”
Recertification is an area that could be improved by the state, Tuckey believes. “I would really like to see more recertification, because I think it gives us a little more credibility,” said Tuckey. “We do it with guys in our own department, but it’s not required at the state level.”
More information about Tecumseh Fire Department, including information about joining the department, can be found at its website, www.tecumsehfire86.com.