Why Does The Fire Department Respond To Medical Emergencies?

why does the fire department respond to medical emergencies

Fire trucks are part of the cacophony of sirens that respond to an emergency. And if you’ve been part of one, maybe you’ve wondered why the fire department even responds when there are no flames involved.

We’ll look at why does the fire department respond to medical emergencies and what they do while on the scene.

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Why does the fire truck come before the ambulance?

A fire truck will arrive on any scene before anyone else, including the ambulance. In the US, Fire stations are spaced out according to standards and are often free to respond without hesitation.

But that’s nowhere near the only reason.

7 Reasons Why a Fire Department Responds to a Medical Emergency

In 2022, 75% of all fire department calls were non-fire emergencies.

Adding Life Saving Value

The most valuable thing that a fire responder provides are skills that an EMT response team doesn’t. 

Say someone is locked in a room and is having a health crisis. The fire department has the tools and skills to make a quick entry.

The same can be said about vehicle accidents. It’s the fire department that deploys the Jaws of Life to rescue trapped people. And they prevent and fight any vehicle fires that might break out.

Firefighters Have Medical Training


Responding fast doesn’t mean much unless a firefighter knows how to administer first aid.

Firefighters have medical training because it’s their job to fight fire monsters and save lives. The first aid training includes CPR and defibrillation.

In many cases, they’ve also received basic or advanced EMT training.

The History of Medical Care & Fire Services

In the 11th and 12th Century CE, the Knights of Malta began assisting the injured, poor, and sick on the battleground.

As time marched on, the group would respond to a castle invasion on horseback to put out the fires caused by the enemy using pitch (naptha).

The symbol of the Knights of Malta continues to appear on firefighter uniforms around the world.

Needed Numbers

Some emergency events require multiple people to provide assistance. Firefighters respond as a team with numbers, and they provide extra muscle for a medical emergency.

For example, a morbidly obese individual in a health crisis will require the help of more than one or two people. 

Fire Stations Everywhere


Fire departments operate using tax money, which means they serve the people in their area. Therefore, it is more economical to have stations in every district than to set up ambulance services.

A fire response team’s physical location allows them to respond to a scene faster. 

Fighting Fires Is Not the Only Priority

Crazy, right? But, the fact is, the frequency of fires has dropped significantly in modern times (thanks to better building codes and preparation). But, you can’t just disband fire departments, either, because there are still fires (that happen in the worst of times).

But, you do see more paramedics on fire response teams these days. You can train firefighters to be paramedics, but it rarely works the other way around.

What do firefighters respond to most?

Firefighters respond to medical emergencies far more often than they go fight actual fires. That is the reason that many firefighters have cross-trained and become emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

Fills in the Gap

Especially in big cities, there is a shortage of paramedics. First aid certified firefighters have the skills to stabilize a patient while waiting for an ambulance. 

Why do you even need ambulance services?

While many firefighters have EMT training, they have no way to transport patients and those in crisis. They still have a big red truck meant to fight fires, not rush people to the emergency room.

In some districts, the fire department also operates its own ambulance service.

Crowd Control

Emergency scenes are chaotic and require clear heads to prevail. That’s where firefighters come in.

The big red trucks with ear busting sirens and bright lights have a way of clearing the way for emergency personnel to respond. 

Oh, and the high water pressure hose has a way of making a rowdy crowd less rowdy. (in places where that is legal)

Why does the fire department respond to medical emergencies?

  1. A fire department has the training to deploy certain pieces of life-saving equipment.
  2. Most firefighters have EMT and CPR training.
  3. Sometimes you need multiple people with adequate physical strength in an emergency situation.
  4. You’ll find far more fire departments than posted ambulances.
  5. Some firefighters have paramedic training along with fire training.
  6. Fill in gaps in response times.
  7. Fire trucks make a way for other response teams.

FAQs about Why Firefighters Respond to Medical Emergencies

Why do firefighters respond to 911 calls?

Typically firefighters respond because they can get to the scene quicker than an ambulance and stabilize the situation.

What do fire departments respond?

You’ll find more fire departments than ambulance services. Most firefighters have medical training and can provide care while waiting for an ambulance.

Do firefighters give first aid?

A firefighter’s duty is to administer first aid to fellow firefighters and the public. While not all fire responders are paramedics, they do have some sort of medical response training.

How often do firefighters fight fires?

We mentioned how rarely a firefighter responds to a fire. In 2015, the average was 1 every 22 days. And the majority of those were not a catastrophic events. 

But, even if a fire happens twice a year, we need those fire departments near to respond quickly. 

Are all US firefighters paramedics?

Fire departments do not require their responders to become paramedics. But, you must be at least a trained and certified EMT.

Applicants with paramedic training will always be prioritized over those who aren’t. And most departments will support their firefighters in becoming a licensed paramedics.

Are paramedics the same as firefighters?

Paramedics respond to medical emergency calls and provide treatment and transportation.

The priority of a firefighter is to fight the fire and to be of assistance to the responding licensed paramedic. In some cases, the firefighter has paramedic training and stabilizes a patient while waiting for an ambulance to transport them.

Why do fire trucks respond to medical?

Fire trucks respond to medical emergencies because firefighters are often able to arrive at the scene before other emergency medical services, and time is crucial in such situations. It is important to note that every Stevensville firefighter is trained in Emergency Medical Services as well. As a citizen calling 911, this means that you can expect a prompt and skilled response from the firefighters who are equipped to provide immediate medical assistance.

Why do firefighters use rescue trucks?

Firefighters use rescue trucks because they require additional personnel to provide assistance during certain medical emergencies, which is why trucks or engines are sometimes present alongside ambulances at the scene of a medical incident.

Why are emergency medical responders important?

Emergency medical responders are important because they offer immediate lifesaving care to individuals who utilize the emergency services system. These responders possess the necessary expertise and abilities to administer basic lifesaving interventions while waiting for more advanced EMS personnel to arrive.

Do fire trucks have defibrillators?

Fire trucks do have defibrillators, which can be a crucial tool in preventing deaths. Additionally, fire departments often respond to a higher number of medical calls compared to other types of emergencies. Therefore, having defibrillators on board provides valuable support to communities in treating sudden cardiac arrest at the scene of an emergency.

How can you tell the difference between sirens?

The difference between sirens can be determined by the sound they produce. Unlike ambulance sirens, police vehicles emit a yelping sound that resembles a short burst. Instead of a continuous rising and falling loop, police sirens produce a loud bawling sound, making it easily recognizable when a police vehicle is approaching. Police vehicles are responsible for enforcing the law and dealing with anti-social situations.

Why do firefighters go to every emergency?

Firefighters go to every emergency because they are trained as both Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) and Paramedics. This allows them to provide efficient and prompt delivery of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) during critical illnesses and injuries.

What do firefighters respond to the most?

Firefighters respond to a variety of emergencies, with the majority of their calls being related to medical issues rather than fires. Therefore, it is crucial for firefighters to be trained as emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

What do firefighters do most of the time?

Firefighters spend most of their time responding to fires, explosions, automobile accidents, and medical emergencies, as well as dedicating their lives to the fire service by working 24-hour shifts. Additionally, they engage in tasks such as cleaning trucks and servicing equipment, educating groups about fire safety, and participating in physical fitness training.

Why do firefighters sleep at the fire station?

Firefighters sleep at the fire station because they work for extended shifts of up to 24 hours, during which they may be awakened at any moment. This allows them to rest and recharge, ensuring they remain alert and ready to respond to emergencies. Firefighters often engage in safety napping, or power napping, during their downtime to maintain their vigilance throughout their shift.

Do firefighters do more than just fight fires?

Firefighters do more than just fight fires. When they are not on an active call, they engage in various tasks such as preparing written reports on emergency incidents, maintaining and cleaning their equipment, conducting drills, and participating in fitness training. Additionally, many firefighters also play a role in educating the public about fire safety, delivering informative sessions at schools and community events.

Do firemen act as paramedics in America?

Firefighters in America often serve as paramedics, as many of them hold the titles of Firefighter/EMT or Firefighter/Paramedic. The United States fire service employs various system models to provide emergency medical services.

Are firefighters in America medically trained?

Firefighters in America are indeed medically trained. In fact, it is now mandatory for firefighters to hold EMT certification, and many fire departments highly prioritize or even make it a requirement for candidates to become paramedics. Additional information regarding the medical training of firefighters in the fire service profession is as follows.

Why does a fire truck always come with an ambulance?

A fire truck always accompanies an ambulance because when a patient is critically ill or unable to walk and needs to be transported on a gurney, the presence of additional personnel on the fire truck ensures that the patient’s care requirements are promptly and safely addressed.

Is it harder to be a paramedic or firefighter?

It is a matter of comparison between being a paramedic and a firefighter. In North America, it is common for professionals in these fields to perform both roles as part of their full-time job. Generally speaking, both professions demand extensive education and physical exertion at the highest level. However, firefighting tends to be more physically demanding, while emergency medical services (EMS) require more cognitive skills. Both occupations involve high levels of stress.

What are American paramedics called?

American paramedics are commonly referred to as ALS, which stands for Advanced Life Support. They are also known as “Medics” and include Mobile Intensive Care Nurses (MICN’s) who receive additional training at a higher level.

Are firefighters and EMS the same thing?

Firefighters and EMS are not the same thing, as EMS is a healthcare career focused on medical services, while firefighting is a separate field of work.

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