Five Things to Know About Public Safety Chaplains

Public Safety Chaplains

Our front-line workers have a dangerous and stressful job! Watch any group of fire-fighters around the firehouse table, and it looks pretty good. They laugh, eat great food and even better desserts, play cards. In other words – they’re just hanging out having a good time, right? 

The goal of a fire chaplain is to aid, comfort, and assist firefighters and their families.

Not so much. It may seem that way at first glance, but underneath the light-heartedness are the emotions and images of that last call. The “fun” barely begins to counter what they experience in the community. These brave men and women are often right in the middle of the worst day of someone’s life – often putting their own lives at risk. 

Now, more than ever, first responders need support and assistance. They experience unique stressors beyond what most understand. The sights, sounds, and smells they experience can impact them for years, even cutting short their professional careers. 

  1. WHAT DOES A FIRST RESPONDER CHAPLAIN DO?

Just as our Fire Fighters, Police, and EMS are ready 24/7 to serve you and me, Chaplains are ready to serve them in their worst of times – whenever needed. From lending an ear for those who need to talk about something that’s bugging them to helping department members and their families in the event of an injured or killed firefighter. At times this care is extended to citizens when they become victims of a fire, medical emergency or natural disaster.  

We’re not just there to be an emotional and/or spiritual support, but we’ll tend to the sick and injured as we can, we’ll comfort the grieving, we’ll hand out a water bottle, or offer an arm of comfort.  Most Chaplains are also trained in Critical Incident Stress Management skills.  You’ll find us having lunch at the station, standing by at major incidents, leading or learning at training sessions, offering a benediction at memorials, social events, and public functions.

  1. FIRE CHAPLAINS AND RELIGION

Although we each have our own religious or faith tradition, the service we offer knows no theological or religious bounds. Chaplains are not likely to offer sacraments or other rites unless we are specifically asked. We’re a confidential and non-judgmental person for responders to talk to about things that are bothering them. Chaplains may offer life, marriage, and grief coaching to responders, staff and their families among other things. A department or team may ask its Chaplain to conduct funerals or memorial services, especially if the firefighter does not have a pastor. 

  1. Are First Responder Chaplains paid?  Is this their job?

Most Chaplains are volunteers. The men and women we serve give so much of their time and themselves to their community. It is an honor to serve those who serve. 

  1. WHO SERVES AS A FIRST RESPONDER CHAPLAIN?

A chaplain can be appointed by his or her fire department and must be endorsed by their religious organization. A chaplain can be a local pastor who volunteers their time to help a fire department. There are also firefighters who have ministry experience who volunteer their off-duty to do chaplain work.

  1. HOW TO BECOME A FIRE CHAPLAIN

Every department has different needs, depending on where you live.  While a large department like Detroit Fire may have five fire chaplains, a volunteer department would most likely rely on area pastors for their chaplain needs. Reach out to your local department to speak to the fire chief about their chaplain needs. Basic requirements to become a chaplain include ministry experience, a clean criminal record, specific training, and ecclesiastical endorsement by a recognized religious body.

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