Something to be proud of. He works 2 days, 2 nights and is meant to have 4 days off in a row. Which you’d think would leave a lot of room to live life and enjoy time with his family. With 3 kids under 4 years old having time together is pivotal to the mental and emotion wellbeing of our children. However most sets his shifts can double…
Most calls seem to be medical. He goes to car accidents… where he may comfort the two year old while their parents get accessed, or maybe even comfort the dying person while his colleges use the jaws of life and other tools to cut around them. He’s been left unable to eat after seeing a persons charred body. He’s given CPR. He’s used multiple types of tools to rescue people from numerous awful scenarios. He’s seen broken and crushed limbs. He’s seen beaten bodies. He’s seen body parts turned to mush. He’s seen blood. He’s seen pain. He’s seen death.
He’s also seen heartache… houses destroyed. Restaurants caught alight. Belongings decimated. He’s seen people taken in ambulances after working on them… only to never hear if that person was ok in the end. He himself has been injured on the job (after 80+ hour work week) and taken in one of those ambulances himself.
He works to keep the community safe and I’m proud of him… but some days, the only way the kids and I see him is to come into the station for half an hour at 5pm. He’s worked so many hours that at times I’ve thought he may break… but the red alerts, low staff and riding short messages keep coming.
- The truth is firefighters do love their jobs… and they do want to help their community… and they do know they will see some sort of gore/action that could stick with them forever when they sign up. Only certain people are capable of holding it together through those huge pivotal moments where lives, homes, and families hang in the balance.
- The truth is also that they deserve to have enough staff that each member can enjoy their home life too.
- They deserve to know their trucks are well maintained and running properly (this isn’t the case in many stations around New Zealand)… after all a firefighter is only as good as his/her tools.
- They deserve compensation… especially for those medical calls that aren’t always part of the job description.
- They deserve medical insurance… so they know that when they have been in a fire, and cancer inducing chemicals seep through their suit and skin… that at least they and their family is covered if something does happen to them.
- They deserve to be paid more than the living wage after a 3 month recruitment/training course that takes them away from their families and gives them specialised training to help in emergencies… that is required in order to be able to do this job in the first place.
- All of them deserve a pay increase… so that they don’t need to take overtimes to support their family and put food on the table. So that they are honoured for the role they play in emergencies. So they are compensated and able to look after themselves better… so they can have a lifestyle.
- All of them deserve to be well rested. Because the alternative is to have half functioning people in high risk scenarios unable to work to their full potential…. Something YOU would require of them if you ever found yourself in a situation. And their families deserve this too… to have the knowledge their men/women are safe.
- And I deserve to know that when I send my husband… the father of our beautiful children to work each day that he will come home safe, that his tools work, his colleagues are rested and that if anything should happen he has access to the emotional/mental/medical support that is sorely needed from their employers…
Instead their needs have been pushed to the side. Their pay rarely changes. Their bodies and minds put at risk every time they’re on shift. Their shifts become double to triple that of a normal job. Their family left at home trusting they have each other’s back and praying they stay safe when situations do arise. And them saying yes to shifts because otherwise they ride short… putting their community at risk… but they’re at risk anyway because it still isn’t enough.