It’s fair to say that many people looking forward to festive holidays are looking forward to reunions with friends and families, good food and uplifting tableside conversation, and maybe taking part in some public celebrations. Intriguingly, one factor that didn’t appear in this list of activities was nonetheless assumed by all participants to be in place throughout. Public safety officers are key members of any community; they work closely with local fire departments and police and rescue responders and are often the early responders in times of crisis.
The work you do as a public safety officer can vary a lot depending on where you are based and your areas of interest, but it is a job largely responsible for keeping the peace in public areas, such as universities or government facilities.
In what follows, we’ll take a close-up view of the role of a little-noticed public servant. In short, a public safety officer is responsible for the people and property they are designated to protect. This article will explore the role of a public safety officer and its importance.
An example of public safety operations in action
To cite one example that’s replicated across the Western world and beyond every year: Pittsburgh’s epic seasonal “Light Up Night” Christmas celebrations. As reported by CBS News, the event (which includes a big Christmas block party featuring legendary rock musicians, ice skating around a colossal festive tree, and an incandescent fireworks display) has, behind the scenes, been meticulously planned by the city’s public safety professionals.
Their work is to co-ordinate a raft of professionals to be present and “ready for action” throughout the night, from mobile medics on motorcycles to an enhanced number of feet-on-the-ground police officers and other emergency services (like firefighters) to manage any accidents or untoward incidents. Unobtrusive but vitally important for all attending, public safety professionals work to ensure people have a great collective fun experience without getting harmed.
The potential hazards are many: large gatherings of people in a celebratory mood, and crowd control, requiring additional police and medical presence in case of any accidents or incidents.
And while firework displays are exhilaratingly beautiful and thrilling to behold, they also bring hazards of their own: accidents can happen, and people can be injured. This means ensuring medically trained first responders are on hand to assist immediately.
None of this “just happens”; public safety must be planned carefully and wisely and staffed by qualified professionals with clearly defined roles who know exactly what to do in an emergency (and how to minimize the risks of such emergencies arising in the first place).
A key player in this endeavor is the Public Safety Officer. Let’s take a closer look at what these important professionals do on a day-to-day basis.
The day-to-day work of a Public Safety Officer
Essentially, the work of the public safety officer is to safeguard people and property in their community. In other words, this officer’s daily duty is to keep fellow citizens out of harm’s way and to ensure effective measures are in place to guard the security of important assets. Before going into further details of these duties, a definition of “Public Safety” would be in order.
Public Safety defined
The fact is that disaster and tragedy can strike individuals and communities at any time. Prevention, where possible, and skilled professional assistance where it’s not, makes a crucial difference. For anyone feeling stuck in a career that feels as though it’s stagnating and going nowhere, yet who feels they have much more to give, getting credentialed to switch to something more fulfilling is a wise choice to make. And becoming a public safety officer who’s fully trained and on hand to handle just these occasions may be just the remedy: you’ll be entering a noble and socially valuable profession.
Public safety is the ceaseless work of protecting the public from crimes, disasters, and a raft of other threats and hazards. In the United States and Canada, specific government organizations and local departments are charged with fulfilling this vital task, which is distributed across a range of professionals. These include police officers, security staff, first (emergency) responders like firefighters and ambulance crews, parole officers, and others besides. All are primarily focused on preventing danger and protecting the well-being of their fellow citizens, their communities, and local organizations.
What Public Safety Officers do
The role of the public safety officer rests upon twin pillars. The first pillar is “prevention is better than cure.” This is why public safety officers are often found routinely patrolling their communities. Typically, this will entail especially acute vigilance and higher-frequency patrolling in certain areas known to be favored by mischief-makers (areas that are usually designated as “watch areas” – literally, “areas to be watched over” as they tend to be frequented by those with ill intent to commit certain misdemeanors, like selling illicit drugs).
The other is “prompt apprehension.” In some states and provinces, public safety officers have the legal power to arrest and detain those apprehended in the act of committing criminal deeds. More rarely, they may carry firearms, although this is usually the preserve of police officers. Public safety officers will liaise closely with other safety professionals, notably police officer colleagues but also other first responders.
Public safety officers often specialize in more tightly circumscribed areas included within the broader community. Examples of such settings include the following:
- High schools
- Residential schools
- Universities and colleges
- Nursing homes
- Residential/in-patient rehab establishments
- Banks and financial organizations
- The premises of large corporations
- Private gated communities
- Local state departments like the Department of Public Safety.
Those who qualify for this role will be expected to fulfill the following duties:
- Regularly patrolling an allotted area such as a hospital, university, business, or gated community; a visible and regular patrol by a public safety officer tends to be a strong deterrent to would-be wrongdoers
- Inspect specified facilities to check for (and alert if discovered) potential safety hazards
- Use technology like multiple security-camera points to monitor facilities and inspect/sound the alarm should any scenarios arise suggestive of security breaches (or weaknesses)
- Advise on and provide security for upcoming events
- Respond to members of the public making emergency calls to report break-ins/home invasions, theft, or other crimes
- Respond to calls from allied public safety professionals, including colleagues in Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Firefighting, and Police.
- Remain up to date on weapons training
How do Public Safety Officers differ from Law Enforcement Officers in the Police Department?
There are some fundamental characteristics of these two important roles that are common to each. Both require people of principle, restraint, and courage to fulfill them, and both require considerable personal responsibility.
However, there are also some significant differences. The specific duties of the role of public safety officer can vary from state to state (or province to province for Canadians). While the term ‘public safety officer’ can be used in common parlance as a generic moniker for all in the public safety professions (including police officers, firefighters, emergency medical professionals, animal control officers, and security guards), as a professional role title it refers to a specific occupation.
As noted earlier, public safety offices can be allocated specific “watch areas” to patrol in their town, or alternatively, they may work in particular settings like university campuses, high schools, hospitals, and private companies where their work is aimed at maintaining the safety and security of the premises and the people within them.
While police officers also patrol designated areas as part of their duties and work to safeguard civilians on a daily basis, they also have prominent responsibilities for maintaining public order, enforcing the law, and ensuring crime prevention. To do this, they have powers to conduct traffic stops, arrest anyone suspected of criminal actions, and use requisite force (for which they receive unique training) to prevent a crime or arrest and detain a suspect. In the USA, police officers also carry firearms (which they are trained to use) to be deployed in extreme, high-risk predicaments.
What qualifications are required to become a Public Safety Officer?
Just as police officers are required to undergo rigorous professional training, people wishing to become public safety officers must also earn high-level academic and professional credentials.
For those considering switching to this noble and rewarding career, options now exist to enable people who already have work commitments and perhaps family obligations to study at an advanced level for the requisite qualification without having to sacrifice their existing income or their family duties.
This is due to the possibility of earning a public safety degree online, with the program content delivered 100% on a laptop or desktop computer located in the comfort of one’s own home. The Master of Public Safety (MPS) degree, for example, along with five graduate diplomas from well-established and highly reputable centers of higher educational excellence like Canada’s Wilfred Laurier University. The MPS is a recognized and sought-after credential for aspiring public safety officers – the gateway to a new and deeply fulfilling career, no less.
Crafted in line with the core pillars of the Canadian government’s exemplary Public Safety Canada initiative, this highly regarded (and highly flexible) online program equips its graduates with the knowledge and practical skills needed to oversee citizen protection and maintain a safe and peaceful society. This includes protecting civilians not only from crime but also from natural disasters and terrorist atrocities.
Conclusion: a noble and fulfilling career
As mentioned earlier, people drawn to this line of work must not only earn the requisite academic and professional credentials to practice but must also execute their duties already deeply instilled with personal integrity, courage, stamina, and a strong sense of personal and professional responsibility. While the salaries are most attractive in themselves, public safety officer roles are fulfilling in another crucial respect: the quiet inner reward of using one’s knowledge and bravery every day to help people in need and to protect the innocent from harm.
And according to a 2022 report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the field of public safety is on course to grow over the coming ten years. Between 2020 and 2030, the report forecasts, the number of new public safety jobs will expand by 286,400. In other words, now is a very good moment to begin gaining the requisite qualifications to join the profession.
There are few professions that provide such a great opportunity to make a positive difference in your community, with great opportunities to develop your career further. In some of their roles, public safety officers have powers of arrest and detention, and of course, there are dangers that such powers can be misused if the people endowed with them have character flaws. For this reason, candidates for such important roles are subject to thorough background checks upon selection for an interview for a vacant position in the profession. However, those with integrity and mettle, along with the qualifications, will usually thrive.