Firemen vs. Policemen- Keeping Busy During Slow Periods

In speaking with my fire fighter friends, it seems like they spend an awful lot of time pursuing leisure activities in their fire hall when they’re not responding to calls. They enjoy gourmet cooking, watching movies, organizing ping-pong tournaments, and sleeping.

It is generally expected by the public that police officers, on the other hand, spend their time patrolling the streets when they’re not answering 911 calls (cue the donut shop jokes).

So, is there a practical reason why we’re “ok” with fire fighters (and paramedics, for that matter) lounging at the fire hall when they’re not busy, while police officers are expected to be actively patrolling the streets? I’m not suggesting that the firemen should be running around town in their firetrucks, I’m just curious about this difference in the public’s expectations.


Sorry, I found an old thread that answers my questions. Not sure how to delete this thread.

Reported thread requesting it be locked … next time you can report your own thread using the little report button in the corner :smiley:

Could you link to the old thread for those of us who are curious?

You don’t delete them, you just ask a moderator to close it, and we’ll be happy to do so.

In the meantime, I’m going to leave this one open so you can post a link to the other thread you found. I’m sure hende isn’t the only one that’s curious.

No, they aren’t.

I’d like to see it as well.

I searched but I couldn’t find it.

The short answer is that firefighters and paramedics are there to respond to specific situations. If there are no fires or medical emergencies on a given night, what should the firefighters and medics be out doing? cruising around in gas-guzzling fire engines and ambulances?

Crimes happen 24-7, and traffic enforcement is another around-the-clock job that needs to be done.

ETA- are there ambulance crews that do patrols? it seems like that would make sense to be on scene for car accidents and such.

Also, a lot of firefighting equipment takes a fair bit of upkeep. So all the time they spend in the firehouse isn’t just lounging around waiting for the alarms to go off.

Firefighters also do drills and training on a very regular basis to keep their skill level up.

TONS of maintenance.

Just about everything needs to be washed off and dried. Hoses need to be re-rolled and packed after use. Air packs need to be refilled, batteries need to be checked/re-charged or replaced in things like PASS devices, radios, lights, etc. Trucks need to be re-fueled and maintained. There’s also a pile of paperwork and reports to write and file.

A family relative on a volunteer force tells me that all of this clean-up work at the station can easily take an hour after an “easy” call like a dumpster fire, and two hours or more after multi-alarm fires like a “fully involved” house.

Districts with staffed fire stations may be able to get through all of this faster thanks to having more people on hand to do it, but regardless, it’s a lot to do.

Another big factor is that fires and medical emergencies get reported as quickly as possible. Criminals however often attempt to conceal their activities and this requires the police to be more active is pursuing their duties.

I don’t know if this is it, but I started a thread about this a few months ago.

The link I found is here

I’m not asking about vehicle maintenance and drills. I’m asking about the accepted practice of firefighters filling their time with leisure activities in the hall.

For example, I work in an office. If I finish all my work, it is expected that I will find something productive to keep myself occupied [ex. filing, sales calls, cleaning out old emails, posting to this board;), etc.]

So, why is it ok for a firefighter to sleep away his night shift on a quiet night? I’m not disputing the practice, per se, I’m just wondering what the theory is behind allowing this.

Depending on the area, police may not **have **much downtime. In almost any medium to large city, police are responding to call after call which can back up for hours. Of course the more urgent the call, the higher priority it gets in response.

However, in smaller towns and more rural areas, it’s not unheard of for the police to go hang out with a fire station for a few minutes now and then. And well after midnight we might find ourselves hungry with no restaurants open. In this case we might stop by a store and get all the materials needed for a proper cookout.

A charcoal grill may be kept behind a church for such occasions, and we may find ourselves eating burgers and dogs while laying on the hoods of our cars and watching for shooting stars, and listening for barking dogs or gunshots that belie trouble nearby.

A little relaxation and dinner mid-shift is fairly common, but napping is verboten.

It can get pretty quiet from 11 to 7 in some towns, but remember that there’s always someone nearby when you call, and perhaps someone in the shadows as you decide you can make it home after “2 beers”.

Alot of fire departments are beings asked to respond to more medical emergencies due to less fire activity over the past couple decades or so, & I understand most of 'em aren’t to happy with having to do what they refer to as “milk runs”. “Not what I got into this for, etc.” But, at the same time it may allow fire fighting jobs to be saved by expanding that role, & staying busier. Better for them than closing the fire house altogether. That said, I too get the sense they still have a fair amount of downtime to cook, workout, shop for groceries, whatever.
As was previously stated, Police can always find something to do. Got a ticket for an expired registration or something once, the time on the ticket was like 3am. :smack:

Another point is that a typicalpoliceman works an 8 hour shift and goes home. Then does it again tomorrow.

A typical fireman/EMT works a 24-hour shift. Then has 24 off and does it again. With a coupledays off extra every few days to make the math work out.

Given those long shifts, there needs to be some sleeping & some eating built-in.

The above quote partially explains why, at least in my very limited experience drinking w/ FDNY guys at local bars near firehouses, the typical response from a fireman (excuse me, “Firefighter”) when you describe YOUR job to THEM is : “Well, YOUR job SUCKS!”************ **** & based on alot of what you observe here, I don’t blame them for feeling that way, and I really can’t disagree. :smack:

In this vein, I wonder how accurate the portrayal is on “The Wire” of the cops just hanging out behind the station or in the cars in some deserted part of town drinking beer.