14 Tips: Start Off on the Right Foot as a New Firefighter - Part I

The phrase "you never have a second chance to make a first impression" is important.


The old phrase "you never have a second chance to make a first impression" is a very important phrase to live by. So many people make their first impression to be a not-so-memorable one, and wish they could have it all over to do again. Unfortunately that usually never occurs. Life is not supposed...


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The old phrase "you never have a second chance to make a first impression" is a very important phrase to live by. So many people make their first impression to be a not-so-memorable one, and wish they could have it all over to do again. Unfortunately that usually never occurs. Life is not supposed to be fair, so what we can do is learn from others good points as well as their not-so-good points. Watching others succeed or fail can be very educational if you are able to pick up on what worked well for them and did not work so well for them. Here are some suggestions to get you started off on the right foot once you get hired onto a new fire department as a probationary firefighter:

 

1. Be aggressive at all times. First to details, last to leave.

When I say aggressive, I mean it in a positive way. Don't be so aggressive that you are annoying, over-persistent, or borderline scary to be around. Be willing to always learn new things, new concepts, and new ways of doing things. Be the first one into the scene on the medical call. Be the first one up in the morning and the last one to go to sleep. Be the first one at the station in the morning and the last one to leave. Be the first one to volunteer for the not-so-desirable jobs or duties (like when you're at the haz mat drill in the middle of the summer and the instructor asks "who wants to volunteer to put on the level A suit," and you are the least senior individual at the drill, be the first one to volunteer to do it.

2. If it is dirty - clean it. If it is empty, fill it.

If you dirty something at the firehouse (dishes, silverware, tools, apparatus, equipment, etc.), take the few minutes to clean it up then and there. I've heard the famous line "I'll get to it" so many times it gets old. If it were easy as that, it wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately "I'll get to it" usually never happens, and the mess that A shift didn't clean up, B shift gets to clean up the next day. Nice.

3. If it rings, answer it before anyone else does.

I laugh when I see probationary firefighters running for the phone so that they can be the first one to pick it up or so that they can get it before anyone else. That is almost to the extreme. Don't injure yourself or others in the process.

4. Do not be late to anything.

Showing up on time for work is the first start. I remember the first day of my recruit academy when I got hired. It was 0800 hours and the fire chief was giving his welcome to the fire department speech. Well, we were one body short and were starting to wonder where our one classmate that we had met last week was. Well, he comes running in at around 0830 hours walks right through the door that was next to the fire chief. The fire chief joked about it, but you could tell he wasn't happy. Would you be? That recruit would have been terminated on the spot by many departments. Although he is actually one of our best employees now, he did not make a good impression with the Chief or the Training Staff. He lived about 60 miles away and did not leave himself adequate time to parade through the stop-and-go traffic on the freeway. He should have left so early that he always gave himself an hour of fudge time. When I got hired, the smartest thing I ever did was rent an apartment a block away from our training facility. Even if my car didn't start (which has happened before), I knew I could walk to work and still make it on time.

Also, when the Captain tells you that the engine needs to leave at a certain time for a class across town, don't be in the middle of doing something that can't be easily stopped. Be ready to go at that time. A few months ago, I let the crew know that we needed to leave by 0840 hours so that we could make it to our training facility. It is only a 10 minute drive, but I wanted to leave us a 10 minute cushion because I hate walking in late or arriving late when you have other people (like the Training Chief) waiting for you so they can start the drill. Well, I walk outside to get on the Engine and the probationary firefighter is in the middle of washing the rig, and it is full of soap. Why would he even have started such a project if he didn't have the time? I commend him for taking the initiative, but he should have better prioritized his duties. Wear your watch and set your alarm to give you a five-minute warning if necessary. Be ready to go when your crew is!

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