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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5. T.V. will not be watched without permission of your company officer.

When I was on probation, I did everything I could to not even be near the TV, because I knew I would be tempted to watch it. While everyone went to watch TV, I usually took my books to the study room or went to the apparatus room to study something on one of the rigs. This is what is expected in most departments. However, every department is different. I remember hearing from one crew while I was on probation that they thought I didn't like them or their company. I asked them why and they said it was because I wasn't watching TV with them. I politely explained to them that I was on probation (like they didn't know) and that I had studying to do. What was their reaction? Oh, we thought you just didn't like us!

Then, on another occasion I was studying during the Super Bowl and the Captain came up to me (a Captain that is usually strict with probationary firefighters) and asked me to watch the Super Bowl. I politely declined, stating that I had studying to do. He then said that he was ordering me to do so, since it was our local team (San Francisco 49'ers) and that I needed a break. I then made a point to sit at the kitchen table, not the recliners, because knowing my luck, as soon as I hit the recliners I would have taken a nap (and then the camera would have come out and the reputation would have begun)! Since I was not the one that wanted to disobey a direct order from a supervising officer, then I reluctantly obliged. Last thing I wanted to do was get written up for insubordination (I could see the Battalion Chief reading that report "he refused to watch television with the crew"). But the point I'm trying to make is that I didn't initiate watching television on my own, I made the officer order me to do so. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

6. Use initiative to address work that you see needs completion.

If you see something that needs to be completed, DO IT! You should not have to wait for someone to tell you to do something in most circumstances. Obviously if you are not familiar with the work that needs to be completed (or the tools/equipment to accomplish the project), then it is best to ask someone how to accomplish your task. Don't wait for someone else to tell you to do something. Personally I like probationary firefighters that are "low maintenance." I shouldn't have to ask you to put up or take down the flags, to check out your equipment on the rig, to do your paperwork, to clean your assigned area of the station, etc. I should not have to micromanage you. Another good thing to do once your duties are completed is to ask your officer is there anything else that needs to be completed. That will show your motivation and drive to be a competent firefighter. Regardless of who caused you to do the work (C shift forgot to do the dishes) doesn't matter. What does matter is that you show the initiative to take the action now and get the job done.

7. Keep busy! Look for something to do. Study if you cannot find a job.

Regardless of what some people say, there is always something to do at the fire station, for the fire apparatus, or for the tools and equipment on the fire apparatus. Now by no means am I advocating busy work just to look busy. I remember having a Captain in a previous department I worked for ask me to clean the windows. I politely advised him that we had done the windows yesterday (since I had also worked at that station the day before). He said he didn't care and that we would do them today and every day if we had to, just to keep busy. His choice, but a ridiculous one in my opinion. I bet if we looked closely, we could have found other relevant things to do that needed to be done. If nothing else, we can always train on something, even if it includes just reading a book to refresh your memory on something relating to the fire service.

I appreciate it when firefighters ask me if there is anything else that needs to be done (after they have completed their assigned duties and responsibilities). Most of the time I don't have anything for them to do; regardless, it is the thought that counts. It shows me they care about their job and their duties.