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Andy Joseph
Paramedic & Fire Fighter
Massachusetts
Written By: Paul Maniaci
Posted: 11/09/2006

I previously interviewed Andy Joseph about his job as an EMT. Since then he has moved up the ranks to paramedic and is also working as a firefighter. The beauty of his career is he helps people while finding fulfillment in his work.

CCB: What did you have to accomplish to go from EMT to paramedic? 

AJ: It was approximately a one year course that included completion of a didactic and
clinical curriculum as well as state mandated testing after completion of the latter. Didactic is the classroom portion of the class. Clinical is the required hospital time where you are required to perform so many skills and gain experience in the ER, OBGYN, OR, psychiatric, and pediatric areas of the hospital. There is also an internship period at the conclusion of both the didactic and clinical where you ride along for a minimum of 100 hours with a paramedic service to practice your skills in the field and gain "real world" experience before you head off on your own. My internship took 135 hours before I attained all my required skills, but some people ride in excess of 300 hours.

CCB: How have things changed as you moved up from being an EMT to a paramedic? Is it mainly that you can provide Advanced Life Support now?

AJ: The biggest thing that's changed is the added responsibility that I'm the be all, end all when it comes to patient care in the field. When I was an EMT I had the crutch of leaning on a paramedic on a bad call, but now I'm the one people are looking to for answers on the call. I like having the added responsibility, but other than the added ALS skills, patient care hasn't changed very much from the EMT to paramedic level.

CCB: Are you concerned that you are continuously putting your life at risk and may be damaging your body in your job? 

AJ: Being a firefighter is an awesome responsibility. Residents
open their homes to us in their time of need and trust us with the health
of their loved ones and their most precious belongings during a fire. 
Every firefighter knows how to do their job, but often times the personal
interaction and how we relate to the community is more important than what
we actually do. I'm concerned about my safety, but it's not something I
dwell on. There are safety procedures/equipment and SOP's (standing
operating procedures) that are put in place to keep us safe and healthy. 
It is important to follow these rules and take these precautions because at
the end of the day the most important thing is coming home to your family. 
There are dangers on any job in public service. It's just important to
remember not to put yourself in harms way and that your safety as rescuers
comes above all else because if you're hurt, you can't help anyone else.

CCB: Did having the EMT and paramedic background help make the transition to  firefighter easier?

AJ: It certainly didn't hurt. EMS (Emergency Medical Services) and firefighting have almost become one since fire departments all across America are starting to incorporate the ambulance and EMS into their services. Now fire fighters are being asked to work ambulances, fire apparatus, and promote fire safety. The more background you bring to the job, the easier the transition and more you can focus on learning about firefighting and fire safety.

CCB: Where are you when a fire breaks out? Are you at the firehouse on call? 

AJ: Yes, we are on shift for 24 hours at a time. My schedule is 24 on, 24 off,
24 on and 5 days off. My department is much smaller than city departments
like Boston and NYC. We have 7 on shift at headquarters and 5 on shift at
station 2. If we do have a working fire we have a GENERAL RECALL where
off-duty firefighters come into the station and staff our back-up apparatus
to help fight the fire. We also call on surrounding towns for MUTUAL AID
to help staff our station and help out on-scene if needed.

CCB: When a fire breaks out and you arrive on the scene, how do you as a team member address the problem?

AJ: There are SOP's that determine how command works on each
fire scene based on what type of structure is burning, how involved the
structure is with fire, are there any hazardous materials involved, and is
anyone in need of rescue. As far as what I'm responsible for depends on
what apparatus I'm on and what my job on that apparatus is for the day. If
I'm on the ambulance at a working structure fire I'm responsible for any
injuries to anyone in the house when I arrive on-scene and if there aren't
any injuries I'm responsible for searching the building for any occupants
who might be trapped. Engine duties include manning the hydrant, working
the pump, or fighting the fire with either an interior or exterior attack
via hoses depending on the severity of the fire. Ladder duties include
roof ventilation and exterior attack with hoses from the ladder. Every
scene is commanded by our Captain who decides what apparatus is necessary
on the scene and how many lines (hoses) and firefighters are needed to
extinguish the fire.

CCB: What have you found to be the cause of most of the fires you’ve observed?

AJ: Fires can be started by anything from electrical problems, gas leaks,
nature, human error, and arson. Most fires start because of human error or
malfunction of a device within the house. I haven't had too many fires
since I started so it's not the easiest question for me to answer.
Winter is one of the busiest times of the year because of portable space heaters and candles. People forget they have them on or put them too close to flammable materials. The other big cause of electrical fires is putting too many plugs in one outlet.

CCB: Do you get to ride on a big fire truck? If so where do you sit? 

AJ: Yes, occasionally. I'm not cleared to drive yet, so I ride in the back jump
seats.

CCB: Do you have any advice on the best ways to prevent fires?

AJ: The easiest way to avoid fires in your home is safety and prevention. Always check your smoke detector batteries twice a year, have your furnace serviced on a regular basis, never leave candles unattended, install carbon monoxide detectors if you haven't already done so, make an escape plan for your family with at least two exit paths in the event of an emergency, and don't overload power outlets.