By the nature of their jobs, firefighters must be dedicated individuals, willing to put their lives at risk for the safety of the community. Even among such committed men and women, there will always be those who stand out. Municipalities and governments all have unique sets of awards and honors periodically granted to recognize valor and effort that goes above the call of duty. While these recognitions certainly differ between departments, several honors are basically universal.
The Award of Merit
The Award of Merit--sometimes also called the "Merit Award" or "Medal of Merit"--is an award given to a firefighter for saving a life when there is no risk to their own life. It is also occasionally presented for specific acts of bravery, initiative or capability during the performance of one's duties. Interestingly, some municipalities will also award this to civilians who assist the fire department in some significant way during an emergency.
The Recognition Award
This relatively unique award is granted to a firefighter who, by his exemplary actions while in the line of duty, calls favorable attention from the community to their unit, their department and the profession of firefighting. There are a number of varieties of this award. For example, some communities may have it broken down to three or four separate awards (for instance, Officer of the Year or Chief of the Year), while others (such as the City of Lubbock, Texas) may name the award after prominent members of their department.
The Lifesaving Award
This particular award has several names differing from department to department, like the Medal of Honor or the Life Saving Medal. This award is specifically granted to those firefighters who save the life of another at great risk to personal injury or even death. An interesting variation of this medal is the EMS Lifesaving Award, which is granted to firefighting personnel who manage to resuscitate a breathless victim, who goes on to survive the ordeal.
The Unit Award
This award is given to members of a unit (comprised of two or more firefighters) who have conducted themselves as a whole in a manner worthy of recognition. The Unit Award is specifically granted for exemplary teamwork in overcoming a common obstacle while in the performance of duty. Variations include the Unit of the Year Award, the Unit Citation Award and the Meritorious Unit Award. Unlike the other awards listed, which are individual awards, the Unit Award is granted to each member of the unit.
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