1. #1
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    Default I have no clue - Help me!! Fairfax County Fire and rescue, VA

    I am not sure where to even start except by clearly stating that I don't have and have never had any exposure to anything having to do with firefighting. I have been in corporate America and become somewhat succeful I want to give to society. I have always liked the physical aspect of helping people.

    I am a 45yo male. I am in excellent fitness (play on 5 soccer teams). I was in the Air Force for 4 years after HS. I have a graduate degree (MBA). I like helping people.

    I am a good way through the process of being screened to join the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. I passed everything but the Polygraph and psychological test scheduled for later this month. The process so far has taken about a year.

    Questions?

    1) What the heck do firefighters do for 12 hours when they are not on a call?
    2) Am I too old to be considering this new career? (I am very fit, but don't like a lot of BS).
    3) What questions are asked on the polygraph? I don't know why a FF would need to be polygraphed -- there has to be a focus (drugs/theft/arson?)
    4) Is staying fit encouraged by fire departments?
    5) I don't mind paying my dues, so what is the normal career progression? In other words, with zero FF or medical experience where am I likely to start? What will physically do on a call? (pull hose, drive the truck, etc??)
    6) Given I am older and have a graduate degree and have a lot of management experience, will this help me grow in my career faster?
    7) What happens if a FF gets too old or unfit, are there other "desk" jobs they are retired to or are they fired?

    This is enough for now. Any insight is appreceated....I am utterly clueless in this subject.

    Cheers

    Rich

  2. #2
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    Default

    The process so far has taken about a year.
    The process normally does take at LEAST a year or longer. It depends on the department, how heavily they're recruiting, and if there are any hang ups in your background check. Unfortunately, with our current economic situation, the process as now been lengthened-- see Kobersteen's response about not putting all eggs into one basket.

    Questions?

    1) What the heck do firefighters do for 12 hours when they are not on a call?
    There's turn over in the morning from the off going crew, checking off the equipment EACH shift or for each change of assigned apparatus you're on for that shift, EMS AND fire review/ training, drills to be run with the noobies, pre fire plans, area familiarization (driving around), Battalion chief errands, Chief errands, station duties, and for the noobs? studying up on protocols, SOP's, and getting ready for probationary tests.

    2) Am I too old to be considering this new career? (I am very fit, but don't like a lot of BS).
    Never too old for this career. VA Beach Fire Department had a 50 something year old recruit who was a cardiac physician who, regrettably, had to be released because he couldn't keep up with his peers. So as long as you can keep up? You'll be fine.

    3) What questions are asked on the polygraph? I don't know why a FF would need to be polygraphed -- there has to be a focus (drugs/theft/arson?)
    They want to know if you have any ounce of integrity in your body. We're an interesting culture, in and of ourself. We have a wide array of personalities who've done just about anything. Can you be honest about it? Can you admit you were wrong? Do you even know right from wrong? And, in general, what's your moral character look like?

    4) Is staying fit encouraged by fire departments?
    Depends on the department. For most? Yes. Some? It's up to the Station officer. Think about it: how would you feel if you couldn't drag said co-worker out of a building that's about to collapse or who wasn't responsive in the middle of a dangerous situation?

    5) I don't mind paying my dues, so what is the normal career progression? In other words, with zero FF or medical experience where am I likely to start? What will physically do on a call? (pull hose, drive the truck, etc??)
    You'll start off as a recruit in rookie school, move up to probie, then firefighter, maybe paramedic, either Lieutenant or Technician-- driving and operating the Engine, or become a member of a Ladder company, then Capt. The process CAN be accelerated with Fire Science classes and how much self motivation you've got before you get to that "retirement age."

    Depending on what apparatus and what your EMS certification is will determine what you will be doing on a call. Paramedics: will be precepted before being fully released. EMTs? vitals, some info gathering, and shuffling equipment to and from the apparatus on EMS calls. On the engine? USUALLY you'll be told to catch the plug-- take the supply line off the engine, wrap it around the hydrant as the engine drives off as you set up the hydrant to be connected and wait for the signal to charge the line. OR you'll be told to pull hose off the truck if there's a need for an offensive attack and stay by the officer at all times.


    6) Given I am older and have a graduate degree and have a lot of management experience, will this help me grow in my career faster?
    Yes and no. It's a paramilitary organization so an understading of rank, chain of command, and knowing how to handle people will be most helpful. See previous answer about fire science classes. Some departments may give educational incentives for degrees. Some will only give that incentive if the county can use THAT degree to aid their operation(s).

    7) What happens if a FF gets too old or unfit, are there other "desk" jobs they are retired to or are they fired?
    Depends on if you want to be stuck in an office or not. A LOT of firefighters would RATHER be out in the field than in the office. It's more fun, there's more to do, and less BS to deal with OUT of office. Most work until they are pushed out-- sent to physicals over and over to demonstrate "physical inability to continue regular firefighting duties."

    This is enough for now. Any insight is appreceated....I am utterly clueless in this subject. Hope this helps.
    [/QUOTE]
    Last edited by dc5gurl; 11-07-2008 at 01:45 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default interesting

    congrats on moving along so far in the hiring process, best of luck. asking questions on this forum is a good start of what to expect. however, with all due respect, why don't you simply go down to your nearest fire station and ask those questions, talk to people about what the job involves, etc. your pretty far along in the process to not have "any" idea of what a firefighters job/role is.

    its the most rewarding job in the world, along with being part of a very special group of people. best of luck to you!

  4. #4
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    Hi Rich,

    24 HOUR WORK DAY
    In some fire stations you will spend most of your 24 hours on duty handling incidents. Some ems and suppression units are handling 12 to 20 responses in 24 hours.

    MOST of these incidents are for non-life threatening incidents like activated automatic fire alarms, investigate odor/oil-in-the-creek/check welfare. About 80% of the responses to medical events will not require CPR, medications, or extensive on-scene care.

    Also during your 24 hours you will participate in physical fitness (amount and intensity varies by work location), equipment readiness, cleaning and maintenance within the station (no maid service.)

    There is some type of practical or classroom training peformed within the fire station or the community. About four multiple-company training sessions a year.

    While not required for you, many firefighters move forward through their academic effort by spending on-duty time studying.

    Generally, serious candidates for promotion spend about a year preparing for each civil service promotional exam from Lieutenant and higher.

    AGE AND THE NEW FIREFIGHTER
    You will not be the oldest rookie, by at least five years.

    THE POLYGRAPH IS TO IDENTIFY THOSE FOLKS WHO MAY BE AN INAPPROPRIATE FIT FOR A JOB THAT REQUIRES THE PUBLIC's TRUST

    CAREER PROGRESSION AND TYPICAL TASKS
    You will get a better feel by visiting more than one fire station and talking with the men and women that are on the job.

    YOUR CAREER EXPERIENCE WILL VARY
    You have a more robust skill set than others when you start to prepare for supervisory exams (Lieutenant - after five years on the job.)

    NOT LIGHT DUTY - ALTERNATIVE EMPLOYMENT
    You have about a year to rehabilitate from a serious on-the-job injury. If you cannot return to the fire station, there is an alternative placement program ... but the last time I checked all of those positions were occupied by injured firefighters.

    The bigger issue right now is municipal revenue shortfall ... the number and size of the next recruit schools remain a fluid situation, literally day-to-day as the county scrambles to meet this budget year's shortfall. This includes a January 2 furlough (unpaid leave) that affects almost every county employee.

    The FY2010 budget (July 2009 - June 2010) looks to be even worse.

    Good luck with your efforts.

    Mike

    Michael Ward
    retired Captain II
    Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
    The George Washington University
    http://home.gwu.edu/~mikeward/
    Last edited by MikeWard; 11-07-2008 at 04:47 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Thank you fellaz!

    Wow, you guys rock! Great informative responses.

    I was planning to visit some firehouses as soon as I passed all the needed requirements. I thought I would start here with some basic questions.

    Does anyone know when the next FX F&R class is scheduled to start in 2009?

    Do they run several classes per year in Fairfax?

    Are 24hr shifts the norm? If so do you only work 2 days a week? What is a typical work week? Do you sleep during a 24hr shifts?

    Last questions: Do FFers in FX get a physical like the one during screening every year?

    Thanks again!!

  6. #6
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    Default Since posts take so long to appear

    It's taking days for my posts to appear and I just thought of a few more question. Sorry for the trouble.

    1) How can I get into the HazMat, Marine or Technical rescue teams if accepted into the Dept? Is there a qualification process or are you appointed/sleeted? If so, how long after joining can one reasonably expect to tryout for such teams? Are these team personnel scattered and brought together as needed or are all assigned to the same duty station?

    2) I just read there are three 24hr shifts (A, B and C). With some teams having as many as 11 shifts in a month, this implies they work 264 hours that month. Given the assumed stress level of the job should they not work less than the 173 hours most other folks work in an average month? Do the shift schedules leave you enough time to spend with family or doing to do your personal things or do you feel like you are always working?

    On a positive note Yahoo Hotjobs (no pun intended I am sure) has assigned a #2 position to their "Where do Americas Happiest People Work" list and provided a "Very happy" percentage of 57.2% to firefighting. I was impressed and I think that kind of answers question #2 above. Here is the link: http://hotjobs.yahoo.com/career-arti...5rA1UxMTAxNzAx

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    Default

    This message is to subscribe to the thread...sorry.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by IMQMOV View Post
    It's taking days for my posts to appear and I just thought of a few more question. Sorry for the trouble.

    1) How can I get into the HazMat, Marine or Technical rescue teams if accepted into the Dept? Talk to your station officer or department programming/ educator. If you're at a designated special team station, they will most likely send you to class for that training. Ex: if you're a designated HazMat station, they'll send you to HazMat school. Are these team personnel scattered and brought together as needed or are all assigned to the same duty station? Sometimes this is the case. Usually for Tech Rescue, they're usually housed in the same station.


    2) I just read there are three 24hr shifts (A, B and C). With some teams having as many as 11 shifts in a month, this implies they work 264 hours that month. Given the assumed stress level of the job should they not work less than the 173 hours most other folks work in an average month? Do the shift schedules leave you enough time to spend with family or doing to do your personal things or do you feel like you are always working?
    Sometimes you feel like you're always working. There is time in the calendar to spend with family, but do remember they CAN visit you at the station during designated hours. You MAY be able to get small errands done while on duty-- don't rely too heavily on that. You will develop a stronger bond with the co-workers than the family, and there are programs and counselors to assist with the job transition because you do tend to spend a lot of time away from the family. It's 24 hour shifts for most departments with varying start times. Down in Southern VA: Va Beach/ Tidewater area: it's 0800 to 0800. NoVa? It looks to be about 0700 to 0700.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by IMQMOV View Post
    Wow, you guys rock! Great informative responses.

    I was planning to visit some firehouses as soon as I passed all the needed requirements. I thought I would start here with some basic questions.

    Does anyone know when the next FX F&R class is scheduled to start in 2009?

    Do they run several classes per year in Fairfax?

    Are 24hr shifts the norm? If so do you only work 2 days a week? What is a typical work week? Do you sleep during a 24hr shifts?

    Last questions: Do FFers in FX get a physical like the one during screening every year?

    Thanks again!!
    Wow... there was a time when Mike Ward and I ruled the Fairfax boards. No more! I love it!

    Anyway, recruitment and recruit training are fixing to slow down big time. the FY09 and FY10 budgets look very bleak. Does this mean, "Don't apply" or "don't come if they call"? Hell no. Just do not look for the process to move as quickly as before. With that, when the 2009 classes start is anyones guess. I'll try to update that when I get word.

    They used to run multiple classes a year in Fairfax. As a matter of fact, they had overlapping classes. 2009 will most likely be different. How, is unknown at this time.

    If you are at a firehouse, you will work 24 hour shifts. 24 on, 24 off, 24 on, 24 off, 24 on, 4 days off. If you are at HQ or M407, you will work day work 4-5 days a week. You will be on 24 hour shifts, though, in all reality. If there are no calls at night, you sleep. If there are calls, you don't. Very simple.

    As for you last question, you can thank Local 2068 for the fact that you get the best head to toe, inside and out free physical every year of your employment, plus five years after you retire.

    Good luck!
    Member IACOJ - Building crust and full of lust...

    "It's okay to to scared, just don't be chicken." - Clark

  10. #10
    FossilMedic

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kobersteen View Post
    Wow... there was a time when Mike Ward and I ruled the Fairfax boards. No more! I love it!
    I share Joel's excitement that other (younger) Fairfax County brothers and sisters responding to these questions ... thanks!

    As a sign of the times, Fairfax County did not staff their recruitment booth at the Virginia EMS Symposium this past week. In talking to the Prince William and Montgomery County folks who were working recruitment booths, the number of recruit schools is dramatically slowing down for all of the municipal employers.

    Oh, and they ALL were only looking for candidates that already were certified paramedics (go figure ... at an EMS conference).

    Mike

    IMGMOV

    this link takes you to the Northern Virginia 24 hour work shift .. Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax City and Fairfax County work the same schedule. Starting time is 0700 hours. Many relieve 60 to 120 minutes earlier, depends on the station and how many have long commutes.

    http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fr/schedule/

  11. #11
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    Default

    Welcome aboard and goodluck on your process into imho the most progressive fire dept in the nation. I don't know how much I can help you but i'll answer your questions to the best of my knowledge.

    What the heck do firefighters do for 12 hours when they are not on a call?
    Well as a probie you are given a probie manual that you must complete before going back to probationary school a year after you graduated rookie school. It contains more in depth training that supplements what you have already learned in rookie school. It is to more or less hone in your skills. There is a Master Technician that is assigned to aid you with your manual, but the station more or less is there to help also. If you are a Firefighter or above, the day starts off with checking your personal equipment, line up, house chores, the monthly training matrix/drills, PT, lunch, help cook/prepare dinner, clean kitchen, hang out before setting in, and night watch. Sounds pretty busy excluding calls. The first day of the tour (FFX tour is three 24 hour shifts with a day off in between, and 4 days in between tours) you do a thorough check of the apparatus you ride with the apparatus tech/driver. Last day of tour you clean up the fridge and clean the apparatus and bay. thats the basics, other stations tend to do more or less.
    Am I too old to be considering this new career? (I am very fit, but don't like a lot of BS).
    Not at all, unlike many departments in the northeast there is no age limit.
    What questions are asked on the polygraph? I don't know why a FF would need to be polygraphed -- there has to be a focus (drugs/theft/arson?)
    The polygraph is not necessarily there to find out if you committed crimes. Its there to gauge your integrity as a public servant. You are held to a high esteem in the community and that position requires stand-up qualities. The polygraph will be graphic, detailed, and long. If you have had past convictions come out and tell the truth. This department is built on integrity, and is one thing that will definitely get you fired.
    Is staying fit encouraged by fire departments
    Obvious answer. FFX has done above and beyond most departments by implementing work performance evaluations to test the FF to do work related things in a Cross Fit style obstacle course. Along with that each station either has a gym, or has access to one. There is a new exercise facility has been setup where CPAT is help and also does intensive cross fit training.(really awesome from what I have heard)
    I don't mind paying my dues, so what is the normal career progression? In other words, with zero FF or medical experience where am I likely to start? What will physically do on a call? (pull hose, drive the truck, etc??)
    Here's the run down when you get hired you will either be a FF or a Fire-Medic. From there you sit in two different positions on the engine or medic. As of January 1st, 2009 all the units in FFX will become a 1:1 ratio meaning 1 FF 1 Fire Medic. So typically if you are a FF you will be only allowed to sit in the right bucket of the engine(pulling hose, assisting medic, grunt work), driving the medic unit (assisting the medic, grunt work). After your rookie year you can be trained to ride on the Truck/Tower(typically only FF and not Fire-Medics). After 2 years after graduating rookie school you are eligible to take promotional exam for technician rank with a specialty. In other words you have to have a specialty in either EMS, Technical Rescue, HazMat, Driver/Apparatus. Afterwards you can wait 7 years and become a Master Tech or 5 years for Lt. and then up the chain.
    Given I am older and have a graduate degree and have a lot of management experience, will this help me grow in my career faster?
    the promotional exam is fair as it gets. It's based on your combined test scores of the written and practical, a percentage based on your highest education and certain Fire related courses, and if you have an ALS certification. Everyone starts fresh from the 18 year old out of high school or the 35 year old Physicians Assistant.

    What happens if a FF gets too old or unfit, are there other "desk" jobs they are retired to or are they fired?

    It all depends on what you want to do. Age and sex is not a factor as long as you can do your job. If you want to stay in the field at 50 then have at it(i know a good few).

    Hope that helps
    Last edited by jklm128; 11-16-2008 at 09:57 PM.

  12. #12
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    Default Another Fairfax question

    Hey.
    I've read the other, longer fairfax discussion and I've got a question or 3. I'm wondering about how the hiring list is actually made. Obviously you have to pass each stage in the process, but how are folks ranked? Does a higher score on the written test mean higher ranking? Obviously the P-cert is important. Do they take into consideration anything like education, whether you have a degree or anything? Finally, who actually makes the list and decides where folks are ranked?

    Thanks a lot guys.

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    Default Good question....next school

    First and foremost thank you fellaz for all your great responses. They have been VERY helpful in painting a clearer picture of what I am to expect when/if selected.

    CObasic asks a good question, assuming there is a group of folks that have been selected and fully processed, is there a defined protocol in selecting candidates from that qualified group? I scored close to 98% on my written exam, passed the physical with no issues, passed the CPAT in just over 8 minutes, and met all other requirements. Plus I speak 3 languages fluently and mutter through 2 others. I have a graduate degree, BUT I AM OLD in comparison to other recruits. From a logical business perspective I would choose the qualified 20YO with lesser qualifications given the physical nature of the job, but some insight into the process would help clear things up. I am not sure how you can't discriminate on age in this job when so many other physically demanding professions do -- it makes sense to me.

    I heard that there is a class starting in March 09, but that it is an all paramedic class -- is this a fact?

    I also heard once certified you are eligible for two years. Is this true?

    Fire Medic: How do I become a Fire Medic given I have zero experience in the medical field? Is this something I can do while in the department or can I just designate my FF Med aspiration in the recruitment process and the department will train me? I think I have to be a medic first to be able to go is as a FF Med rookie, right?

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