Why American Firefighters Deserve Pensions
Firefighters are American heroes and deserve all the financial compensation they recieve. Firefighting is a very tough job, and one sacrifices a lot to be a firefighter. Firefighters work schedule consists of a couple days on duty then a couple off duty. They have to be ready for the worst possible situation at a minute’s notice twenty-four hours a day. Also, becoming a firefighter is very brutal because the physical training and mental tests push their mental and physical strength to the limit. Every day on the job a firefighter risks their life to do everything in their power to help other people. Not only do they fight fires, they provide medical aid and help with other miscellaneous problems in their community. For example, “emergency medical service responses make up seventy percent of dispatched calls” (Prziborowski). Not only an impressive fact, it also shows how much firefighters go through mentally. Many people in the fire service have PTSD from what they see and do on duty. They perform a job only few are brave enough to do, and the government needs to protect their pensions at all costs. The government is always trying to cut down their pensions, and it is getting harder and harder to fight. The U.S. majority respects who firefighters are and what they represent. Pensions are diminishing, and in an article it said, “the pension costs continue to skyrocket every year, sometimes at the rate of ten percent or more per year” (Prziborowski). The situation is urgent and pensions are costly, but firefighters definitely deserve them. Although some believe firefighters’ pension funds need reform, they risk their lives daily and deserve a strong pension without greater costs.
It is time for firefighters to secure their pensions for the years to come. Every day they come to work, they put their life on the line to help other people. Now it is time for the people to work hard for them. Politicians are trying to decrease not only firefighters pensions, public employees pensions across the country. At the rate politicians are cutting pensions who knows how long the pension will last. For example, in Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker merges downstate police and firefighter pensions (Nowicki). What Prizker said was a way to cut the pension off of public employees. He stated that he was helping the state with the spiraling property tax burdens. The politicians always have an excuse to cut the pensions and they need to realize that they are attacking the wrong people. Another thing is people say it’s no certain persons fault, it is the economy’s fault. The government can’t keep up with how much money the pensions cost so they are trying to cut it. Local and federal governments are going over budget and they are attacking firefighters pensions to start cutting their spending, one thing they should steer clear from trying to get rid of. They should limit spending elsewhere, not on firefighters pensions. They rely on this pension to survive and they have families to feed just like everyone else. To take away their livelihood by taking their pension away is criminal because they are heroes and should start being treated like one. Firefighters have a very tough job and the job requires thousands of hours of training and preparation. No training can prepare for death though. Many years ago, Steven L. Rucker, a thirty-eight year old firefighter and paramedic for the town of Novato, was killed working to save houses (Gantenbein). Deaths on the job happen more frequently than people think and this proves the fact that they are heroes. They are required to have an EMT and many other requirements that are not easy to get and only the top percent of people who apply to be a firefighter get the job. Not only do they fight fires and save peoples lives they spend days away from family. They sacrifice everything just to help other people. Legislation is trying to raise the retirement age of public employees when they should spend their time and money on more pressing issues like the homeless crisis. Another reason why firefighters deserve their pension is they want the ability to retire with dignity and respect. They have long careers and the last thing they need is their pension to disappear. Reducing pensions won’t do anything to close the budget gap. It is settled law that only new employees can have their pensions cut. If we got rid of all pensions, California would still be $16 billion in debt.
Not only do firefighters go through physical trauma, they go through mental trauma that may last a lifetime. They see things the normal person would not be able to handle mentally. According to the IAFF “more than 80 percent of firefighters said that asking for help would make them seem weak or unfit for duty.” Most firefighters are afraid they would lose their job if admitted they have mental trauma. Also it doesn’t matter if a firefighter is fifty or twenty years old they have to be in the best shape of their life and why the government shouldn’t increase the retirement age because it is hard to be in top shape at sixty years old. Aside from working out daily to be in top physical shape, they have to be mentally sharp; when they have off time at the station they practice for real life situations by doing practicals and oral tests to get ready for the real thing. Because if they mess up, they have other peoples lives on the line. Other people depend on them and they are responsible for everyone’s lives that they come across. Physically, firefighters breathe in deadly toxins and run off little sleep causing major health problems when they are older. They also have mental problems. After decades of seeing someone’s head cut off in a car crash, having to tell a loved one their son or daughter died, it takes a toll on their brains and may never be the same after retiring. Firefighters have to enter and remain calm in potentially traumatic situations, and they sometimes see people die in fires or even after the victim has been rescued. Firefighters have to stay tough. If someone doesn’t think they can handle people dying next to them, they may not want to be a firefighter. Not only that, there is always a risk of firefighters suffering from PTSD because of what they face on a daily basis. In the end, it is necessary to put firefighter’s livelihood first and to do that everyone needs to come together to fight to save their pensions.
Firefighters are a big family. They watch each other’s backs in life or death situations. One of the biggest parts of their job is to look good and professional around the community. They also help the community whether it be a fire, CPR, or just a kid who broke his arm. They even sometimes return lost pets. Whatever they do they always make the right decision. If not, it could be the difference between life and death. In the article by firefighter nation, it said In and of itself, the word professionalism sets certain expectations. “Perhaps the most prominent of these expectations is how we choose to live our lives and how we treat others, in the course of that, at times, a very challenging journey. When the fire service becomes our calling, we are actually held to a higher standard in this regard. And, while there are many influences, both personal and professional, that proclaim to set such expectations, the greatest challenge we face falls squarely within our own selves. You see, we must be bigger on the inside than on the outside.” This is very true because when a firefighter goes to help someone and they are combative and rude, they don’t yell at them. They help them no matter what. Kids look up to firefighters and if their pension decreases they won’t get what they deserve. For example, when firefighters go to the grocery store they go in a pack, like a family. They stop and talk to anyone who wants to and will take pictures with little kids. A saying that I love is, “not all heroes wear capes”. This quote hits too close to home for first responders across the country and especially firefighters. In the end, it is time to stop attacking our livelihood, first responders and let them keep their pension until the end of time, because for one thing they absolutely deserve it.
It doesn’t matter what time it is in the day firefighters have to always be ready to go on a call. If there is a call at three in the morning they go and treat the patient as if it was three in the afternoon. Sometimes calls run on through the night and they get no sleep. Sleep loss is a major problem with firefighters because they can go days without sleep. They run off coffee, hard work, and determination. In an article by Physicians weekly it stated that nearly half of U.S. firefighters are likely experiencing burnout and associated health problems, the study authors report in the Journal of Sleep Research. This shows they don’t do the job for the pay, or the glory they do it to help other people. And if the people and community they help can’t support them financially, it is a slap in the face towards the hard working American firefighters. In the same article it said that “the research team found that 49% of firefighters reported short sleep, meaning six hours or less, when they worked overnight or 24-hour shifts, and 32% reported short sleep during the period following an overnight or 24-hour shift. More than a third of firefighters screened positive for a sleep disorder, particularly obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia. About half of firefighters also experienced high burnout.” Not only is this very worrisome it proves how hard they work. They go through so much everyday and the mental and physical stress adds up over time. In the long run, firefighters may need therapy or medicine and if they don’t have their pension they might not be able to afford the basic necessities to get through their day to day life.
On the other hand there are many reasons why firefighters may not deserve their pension after all. One reason why firefighters might not exactly earn their pension is their needs to be money left over for more government employees like city workers, policemen, and other people who work for the city. Data for California retirees shows that safety workers have a similar lifespan compared to non-safety workers. This proves the point that firefighters don’t die earlier. Firefighters bring this point up a lot and it just isn’t true. Financially for example, if firefighters make more money annually than other public employees, the firefighters pensions will be a lot better. This is where there is controversy. Do firefighters deserve the bigger salary and pension? In an article by Douglas Gantebin, he made a valid point that our society is packed with unheralded heroes—small-town physicians, teachers in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, people who work in dirty, dangerous jobs like coal-mining to support a family. A firefighter plunging into a burning house to retrieve a frightened, smoke-blinded child is a hero. But let’s save the encomiums for when they are truly deserved, not when they just show up to do their job.” This shows that it’s not just firefighters who are heroes and maybe there should be no pension in general. If there are farmers or city workers working very hard every day to support their family, is it fair to pay the fireman all of this money? Another thing is firefighters aren’t always fighting fires or saving lives all day. There is a lot of down time. The government shouldn’t spend millions of dollars for pensions when a quarter of their career was sitting on the couch watching tv. Since they relax while they wait for the next call, it isn’t necessary to pay them a very large pension for something millions of Americans do every day for free. Javier Gonzalez said it best.
We aren’t heroes all of the time. A lot of the time there are many hours in between calls. We even sometimes go all night long without a call. This is one of the many reasons why it is hard for some government officials and politicians to get behind supporting firefighters pensions. They don’t know exactly what firefighters do. In an article by Firehouse it said, “is not uncommon to see firefighters sitting around the kitchen table, joking and having fun, and maybe even watching television or sleeping, during the day time. Rarely do you see firefighters portrayed as doing ‘busy work,’ or actually doing productive work such as actual pre-fire planning”. That is why it is very important for fire departments in America to be well represented and to have a good public image. It is very important to have a good public image as a firefighter. Other than the safety of their patients, the safety of themselves, and many other things, public safety is a top priority.
Keeping a good public image is tricky. “On the downside of keeping a good public image is sometimes things go wrong. For all the great headlines we see, there seem to be 10 others that make it “above the fold” in mainstream media (for you younger folks – that’s a newspaper reference … ask your granddad). “Fire engine ticketed for parking in fire lane,” “Lieutenant arrested for punching firefighter,” “Off-duty fire recruit arrested for disorderly conduct,” “Firefighter brawl,” “Police arrest fire chief for blocking road,” – just a few of the real headlines we see all too often. It’s an embarrassing and all-too-common MO in our business.” (Bashoor) Things get tricky when firefighters make mistakes. Mistakes not only cost some firefighters their job but it can cause certain departments their credibility and public image. Politicians and government officials see these mistakes. This is a reason why firefighters don’t deserve their pension. The problem with certain firefighters mistakes is it trickles down to their coworkers. For example, if some firefighter was about to retire at age 56 and someone in his fire department makes a mistake that costs someone’s life, there could be a lawsuit. This lawsuit threatens a firefighters public image which further proves the point that they shouldn’t get a pension when they are costing other people’s lives.
All in all there are many different reasons why or why not firefighters deserve their pensions.
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