Surviving Long Shifts as a Firefighter Family {Tips and Expectations}

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When I first became a fire wife, I had ZERO idea what to expect when it came to the traditional 24/48 firefighter schedule.

Then overtime came along, which was a 48 hour shift, and it rocked my world!

And while it’s traditional amongst firefighters, for a civilian used to a 9-5, the 24 hour work schedule was a VERY big change!

Now that we’ve got several years under our belt, Our family makes the most of our 24/48 schedule! We do this with our Firefighter by doing fun things on shift day, using a calendar, and being clear about expectations like bills/chores/special events ahead of time.

Let’s look at the life and times of a Firefighter and their family to get a better understanding of what this life is really like for them

What’s it like for a Firefighter to work 24 on and 48 off (and how does this impact the family?!)

Working for a day at a time is not like a traditional job, and it can take some getting used to.

For one, you’ve got to think about everything you do in a 24 hour day.

You eat, you sleep, you shower, you spend time socializing in person or on your phone, you change clothes etc.

So now, you need to consider that a Firefighter needs to have duplicates of these items to take care of themselves, and whoever is at home, will be doing these things solo!

That means if you have kids, you are solo parenting them from meals and snacks, to bed time, to wherever they need to be each day.

Likewise a Firefighter needs bedding, changes of clothes, toiletries and food!

We’ve found that the best way to survive these shifts is by planning ahead! That means firefighter has a toiletry bag stuffed with duplicates ready to go, and meals and planned out (for both the station and home!) ahead of time, and of course, this item to keep them safe!

24/48 home to work and work to home transition

Then there is a transition phase for each firefighter family before and after shift.

Before going on shift, a Firefighter is concentrating on wrapping on projects at home and preparing for the upcoming shift (and possibility of late/early calls and overtime)

When a Firefighter comes home from a 24 hour shift, there is a transition back to civilian life. This may require some physical care like showering, eating and sleeping. It also involves a mental component where Firefighters need to decompress so they aren’t ” in work mode” when they come home.

This is the part where, a Firefighter Wife may feel like this workload and hour requirement is really hard on the family.

Emergencies and Health Issues on shift

Since Firefighters work more than the average person (around 70 hours a week give or take), there is a higher chance that some sort of emergency or health related issue occurs while they are on shift!

For minor emergencies, it’s important that firefighter families are clear ahead of time about what to do. Do you call the station? The chief? What emergencies can a firefighter leave work for and what ones will they need to stay on shift?

For preplanned events, like FMLA leave to deal with an ill family member or the addition of a child, there are steps Firefighters take to get the same amount of time off (12 weeks) that a regular 9-5 person would get! In fact, most people believe that Firefighters can’t take paternity leave, and that is false. This is also another time to point out that your financial situation is so important to your family’s health. Stay on top of your finances and make smart decisions regarding your pay as a fire family.

What about Special Events and Holidays?

Firefighters are no strangers to missed events and holidays because of the work schedule, but that isn’t always the case.

While a Firefighter does work 24 hours on and 48 hours off, it’s possible that their shift either covers the entire Holiday, or a part of it.

An example of this, is getting off work on Christmas Day. Technically they worked part of this day, but they are only a little late to the celebration.

Other examples include working the entire holiday or event, taking off part of the 24 hour shift, taking the entire 24 hour shift, or swapping a shift (if this is an option at your station)

Firefighter families have some clever ways for dealing with missed holidays.

Can Single Parents be Firefighters?

A natural question that comes up when you consider the nature of 24 hours shifts is what happens when kids are involved?

There are many Single Parents that are Firefighters- both men and women.

While they don’t have the same home structure as a couple, they will still have to take the same factors into consideration on shift day.

Who is watching the kids? Who is feeding them? Does this responsibility fall to the other parent, a grandparent or caregiver?

There is still a transition period from home to work, and from work to home. And yes, Single Parents will need more help on those holidays, special events, and minor emergencies. Having a support team will be the defining factor of success when it comes to a Single Parent working a 24/48 schedule.

Wrap Up

Working a 24/48 schedule and having a family isn’t the easiest thing, but it also comes with a lot of perks that make it worth it!

More great things to share with you, that is!

Not sure what to text your Firefighter on shift besides the same old boring to do list? Check out this list of 40 things to say to get started with less boring texting!

Or if your a Firefighter, definitely text your partner these memes that will have them laughing out loud!

Bible verses that relate to this wild Fire Life are also good ideas to text and send during shift days… unless you need a really good laugh, then you can head over to these posts:

9 ways you know she’s married to a Firefighter

Firefighter Myths that people really think are true

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