New Rookie

I talked to a devastated candidate at a written test. This paramedic had been hired with four other medics by a good fire department. After four months he was fired. He said he thought things were going fine. Then, the captain started telling him that the...

Call your new captain before your first shift and ask if he wants you to bring anything in. Bring a peace offering of donuts and desert your first day. Homemade is best. Arrive early and ask the off-going firefighter what you should know at that station. Your new captain should meet with you to outline his expectations. If not, ask him. Unless you're told differently, put up and don't forget to take down the flag. If the phone or the doorbell rings, make sure you're the first one running to answer it. There will be certain duties on each day of the week. Tuesday could be laundry day, Saturday yards. Keep track. Stay busy around the station. Always be in a clean proper uniform. Always be ready to get on the rig and respond.

Check out the gear on the rig each morning. Make sure the O2 gauge and the reserve bottle shows enough to handle a long EMS call.

Firefighters usually have "Their" place to sit at the table and in front of the TV. Don't hog the newspaper. The off-going shift has the first crack at the newspaper. You probably have probation tests. Don't park yourself in front of the TV; you have a test coming up. Stay busy. No matter what the atmosphere, you're being watched.

Although you might be a good cook, don't volunteer to cook until asked or rotated in. Make sure your meals are on time. The old adage "Keep them waiting long enough and they will eat anything" doesn't apply here. Be the last one to serve your plate. Don't load up your plate the first time around. Wait to go for seconds.

Always have your hands in the sink doing the dishes after a meal. Be moving out with the garbage and mopping the kitchen floor after each meal.

Learn how to help the officer complete response reports.

Don't tell jokes until you're accepted.

Don't gossip.

Don't play "Your" music on the radio. Don't be a stupid generation X'er or Y'er and always ask why when told to do something. Help others' with their assignments when you finish yours.

Even if you're a jock, consider not joining the department sports teams until you're accepted.

Be cautious of political and social events. You could find yourself in a bit of foreseeable trouble dealing with nothing more than wrong place, wrong time, in the business political fortitude. Messing with politics at any level is dangerous, but it could have been lethal as a rookie.

Ask how you're doing. Volunteer for assignments. Keep track of these to present at your evaluations.

Don't start pulling hose and other equipment at a scene until the captain tells you. Always get off the rig before it backs up. Stand to the rear side to guide the rig. Never turn your back on the backing up rig.

It's not uncommon to move to one or more stations during your probation. At your new station, don't act like you already have time. Unfortunately, you have to start all over again as the new rookie.

You will have an elated feeling rolling out on your first calls. There is nothing like it. It could last your whole career. Enjoy and savor it. You earned it. You're the last of America's Heroes.

I miss it.

"Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

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Fire "Captain Bob" Author of Becoming A Firefighter, Conquer Fire Department Oral Boards, and It's Your Turn in the Hot Seat!