How to Become a First Responder

firefighter

First responder, first steps

Men and women, both young and old, are attracted to the emergency services for many reasons: the rewards of performing a service to the community, to start a meaningful career, or the challenge of a physically demanding job.

Regardless of the motivations, one has to start somewhere. The New Hampshire Fire Academy & EMS and its instructors are the Granite State’s top-tier resources for education and training.

There are a few things one should know before pursuing emergency services as a career or a civic service. New Hampshire emergency services are broken into three major categories: volunteer, part-time/on-call, and full-time/career.

  • Volunteer departments operate without compensation and view their role as a civic service in their community.
  • Part-time/On-Call departments do not necessarily have regularly-staffed shifts, but compensate on a per-call basis; or they may include a monthly stipend. Most departments have training requirements as part of their standard operating guidelines. Also, many of these departments require their personnel to be a resident, and/or live within a certain radius of the town they serve. To find out if volunteer or part-time/on-call opportunities are available in your community, contact your local department.
  • Only about 20% of NH departments are covered by full-time/career members, which makes seeking a career in the emergency services in NH a competitive process.

Becoming a First Responder: It’s Your Call

Choose your starting point

The role of the New Hampshire emergency medical services provider is critical in maintaining the health and safety of all who live in and visit our communities. 

The decision to become an EMS provider is not one to be taken lightly. Your responsibilities will vary. Your role may involve the immediate care of patients at the onset of injury or illness. It may also include the safe transport of the sick and injured between medical facilities.  

There are multiple provider levels within EMS systems and each have a minimum levels of training required to be eligible for certification and licensure. Subsequently each allows for more opportunities to manage the patient you will encounter. The list includes: 

  • Emergency Medical Responders (EMR) who provide immediate lifesaving care to critical patients who access the emergency medical services system. EMRs have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide immediate lifesaving interventions while awaiting additional EMS resources to arrive. EMRs also provide assistance to higher-level personnel at the scene of emergencies and during transport. Emergency Medical Responders are a vital part of the comprehensive EMS response. Under medical oversight, Emergency Medical Responders perform basic interventions with minimal equipment. 
  • Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) who provide out-of-hospital emergency medical care and transportation for critical and emergent patients who access the emergency medical services (EMS) system. EMTs have the basic knowledge and skills necessary to stabilize and safely transport patients ranging from non-emergency and routine medical transports to life threatening emergencies. Emergency Medical Technicians function as part of a comprehensive EMS response system and operate under medical oversight. Emergency Medical Technicians perform interventions with the basic equipment typically found on an ambulance. Emergency Medical Technicians are a critical link between the scene of an emergency and the health care system. 
  • Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians (AEMT) who provide both basic and limited advanced emergency medical care and transportation for critical and emergent patients who access the emergency medical system. This individual possesses the basic knowledge and skills necessary to provide patient care and transportation. Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians function as part of a comprehensive EMS response and operate under medical oversight. Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians perform interventions with the basic and advanced equipment typically found on an ambulance. The Advanced Emergency Medical Technician is a link from the scene to the emergency health care system. 
  • Paramedics are an allied health professional whose primary focus is to provide advanced emergency medical care for critical and emergent patients who access the emergency medical system. This individual possesses the complex knowledge and skills necessary to provide top-level prehospital patient care and transportation. Paramedics function as part of a comprehensive EMS response and operate under medical oversight. Paramedics perform interventions with both basic and advanced equipment typically found on an ambulance. The Paramedic is a link from the scene into the health care system. 

The training required to be eligible for certification and licensure at each respective level can vary depending on the educational institution delivering the training. The following training hours for each discipline are estimates that can be used when deciding on the level in which you would like to serve your community. Please keep in mind that these levels are in most cases progressive which means you must first be an EMT before becoming an AEMT or paramedic.  

  • Emergency Medical Responders (EMR) +/- 50 hours of initial training.  
  • Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) +/- 120 hours of initial training. 
  • Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians (AEMT) +/- 350 hours of initial training. 
  • Paramedics +/- 1200 – 1800 hours of initial training. 

There are multiple agencies and institutions offering EMS training in New Hampshire. Current offerings can be found on the division’s website as well as by reaching out directly to currently licensed EMS instructor/coordinators. 

These are not the only institutions in the area that can provide EMS education. Search your area and evaluate each program to determine what would work best for you. 

In order to become an EMS provider in the state of New Hampshire, there are several other steps that must be completed to make you eligible for licensure (a license to practice medicine is needed for employment by a state-licensed EMS unit). Although the licensure process is the same throughout the state, each responding department or service may have different steps that need to be taken in order to meet their hiring requirements.  

In order to be licensed as an EMS provider, you will need to: 

  • Obtain current National Registry of EMTs (NREMT) certification 
  • Obtain a current State of New Hampshire Scope of Practice certificate of completion 
  • Obtain a current State of New Hampshire Protocol Education certificate of completion 
  • Submit to a background investigation completed by New Hampshire State Police Criminal Records Unit 

In order to become a firefighter in the state of New Hampshire, the steps one must take are highly variable based on the fire department in question. Each municipality has its own requirements, so in the end it is best to reach out to the fire department one would like to join to get the most accurate and up-to-date list of needs. In general though, most departments start with the same basic framework for determining a potential firefighter’s eligibility. These include:

  • Being 18 years of age or older
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Approval by a physician in a pre-employment medical examination
  • Firefighter I certification
  • An oral interview with department leadership

Some departments, especially departments looking to hire fighters for Part-time or Full-time positions often have additional requirements for employment, including:

  • Emergency medical certifications, often (but not always) with a preference for Emergency Medical Technician and above, especially Advanced Life Support capabilities such as Advanced EMT and Paramedic
  • Firefighter II certification
  • Recent passing of the state firefighting entrance exam aka CPAT

Some post-secondary educational institutions also offer fire science degree programs where a student can obtain the above qualifications as part of an established academic curriculum. Such as:

These are not the only institutions in the area to provide academic programs for firefighting careers. Consider searching your area for what would work best for you.

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