The desire to help is what drives people to join rescue services

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  • Safety and security
Published: 30.3.2022 13.22Updated: 5.4.2022 12.11
Juha is known first and foremost as an occupational safety expert and educator specialising in threatening and violent situations. He was awarded the title of Firefighter of the Year 2021 in recognition of his work. Photo: Roope Permanto

Fire Foreman Juha Höök from the Länsi-Uusimaa Rescue Department knows that training and the support of the working community are what spur you on when you face threatening situations at work.

Fire Foreman Juha Höök has experienced much during his career. His current work tasks at the Mikkelä fire station can range from prehospital emergency care to traffic accidents and from fires or animal rescue to clearing storm debris.

“There is no typical workday, but statistically we respond to between five and six calls a day. Sometimes there are fewer calls, while at other times you might get more than ten,” Juha says.

If there are no calls, the firefighters are at the disposal of municipal residents during office hours.

“We visit day-care centres and schools to raise awareness and provide advice, carry out fire inspections, train and maintain our operational capabilities, for example. There’s always something to do.”

The work tasks of a firefighter can be dangerous at times, occasionally even involving a risk of violence. According to Juha, the best way to manage the resulting pressure is by being aware of how you should operate in different situations.

“Occupational safety, training and the right kind of protective equipment are paramount. They help us understand when it is safe to proceed and when you need to alert the police to the scene to provide protection while we work, for example,” Juha says.

Training reduces risks

Dangerous situations are an unavoidable part of a firefighter’s work. In a burning building, there is a risk of structures collapsing on top of you, and when responding to a traffic accident on a highway, you might have to deal with lorries driving past at dangerous speeds.

“Regarding situations where there is a risk of violence, I’d say that the worst are shootings and stabbings where the perpetrator is still present. In these kinds of situations, we have to carefully assess whether it is safe for us to proceed to the location. You cannot avoid dangerous situations in this line of work, but training and instructions help us minimise the risks,” Juha points out.

Occupational safety is close to Juha’s heart.

“I injured my back carrying out prehospital emergency care tasks a few years ago, but managed to get myself back into working shape following a long period of rehabilitation and sick leave. I also underwent additional management training, and ended up staying at the Emergency Services Academy for five years as a teacher. Among the subjects that I taught was occupational safety. Since returning to fire station work, I have been compiling training modules focusing on occupational safety and raising awareness of it.”

Despite the occasional dangerous and threatening situations, Juha has found the work of a fire foreman fulfilling.

“This job shows you in a very concrete way how you can help others. Even unpleasant situations become manageable when you have a good working community and team backing you up. They are the things that keep me going. At the fire station, each work shift is 24 hours long. That gives you plenty of time to get to know your colleagues, both professionally and personally,” Juha says.

The rescue services of Espoo have been part of the Länsi-Uusimaa Rescue Department for several years now. According to Juha, this collaboration has improved the resources available to fire stations. "If more people are needed somewhere, we can compensate. The equipment has also become more consistent in terms of quality and operations have become more efficient overall."Photo: Roope Permanto

Text by Pi Mäkilä. The article was originally published on the City of Espoo’s personnel magazine Espressi.

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