1. #1
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    Question How should I act on a ride-along?

    Howdy. I'm new to Firehouse and the forums here. However, I've read them for a long time and have decided to sign up now. I'm an explorer with a large career fire department here in the great state of Texas and I'm scheduled to do my "first" ride-along this Sunday.

    To give you an idea about my "experiences" so far...I'm 16 and I've been riding with a private EMS service for about 1 year now. The ambulance is based in a career fire department's station and the EMS guys don't really talk/interact too much with the fire guys. I've learned a bunch on the ambulance and have started to help out more (taking vitals, etc). However, I have NEVER done a ride-along on a fire apparatus.

    I'm going to be riding out on an engine and I'm just here looking for some tips/advice to make it go as smooth as possible. So...here goes my long list of questions...

    1. On my EMS ride-alongs, I usually bring some food like cookies...or a dozen or so donuts, etc, to show my appreciation for letting me come out and ride with them. I'm assuming that would be a good idea for a fire ride along, eh?

    2. Our explorer post wants us to "GET IN THERE" (so to speak) on our ride-alongs and help clean, cook, etc. On my EMS ride-alongs...I usually stick with the EMS guys and they don't do...anything at the fire house (they just hang out in the living room). I'm kind of shy (at first) when dealing with people...especially firefighters (hah!). So...what are some good ways to ask for help? Should I just pick up a broom and have at it? What if they each have a specific role?

    3. For cooking: To give you some sort of idea how great I cook...I use the smoke alarm as a indicator for when my food is ready. How can I volunteer to help cook without turning the food into a solid, burnt, non-edible mass?

    4. What are some good ways to introduce yourself and get to know the FF's? Like I said earlier...I'm kind of shy.

    5. We are issued turnout gear...should I bring it with me?



    Feel free to add anything else you want. I know this post is kinda long but I'd appreciate any helpful advice.

    Muchas Gracias.

  2. #2
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    -can never go wrong with bringing food. ice cream, cake, pie if riding in the evening, donuts or bagels if coming in the morning.

    -always offer to help, if someone is doing something give them a hand. even if they dont let you get in the sink, grab a towel and start drying.

    -ask them what them what you can do to help, some guys don't like help in the kitchen so don't get discouraged if they turn you down. If they say they are all set, hang around and wash knives, bowls, cutting boards when they finish with them.

    -nothing fancy, just introduce yourself and shake the hand of anyone who you encounter. if you meet a group, I try to shake the hands of officers first if I can. Just make sure you speak clearly and shake like a man, no wimpy garbage.

    -whoever set up your ride along should be able to tell you if you need your gear.

  3. #3
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    Definitely bring some sort of little goodie. It always goes a long way.

    Since you're there for a Fire ride-out, spend your time with FFs. Acknowledge the EMS guys, but don't segregate yourself with them. When you get there, you should probably report to the station officer. Ask him or her what they want you to do. Offer to help out with any chores and if they decline, find something simple to do. If you see a trash can that's full, empty it. If the towels are sitting in the washer, move them to the dryer. Find something to do. Whatever, don't just sit in a recliner and watch the others work.

    When the person starts food prep, explain you don't have much cooking experience but you'd like to help with simple tasks and ask what you can do. Might be as simple as setting the table or washing some prep dishes.

    A good hearty handshake and a simple greeting ("Hi, I'm Tom - Explorer Smith") works wonders. Be ready for some questions about your experiences and goals. I assume that since you're already an explorer, you're somewhat familiar with the engine and equipment on it. Find something you'd like to know more about and ask a question or two.

    If your Explorer Advisor hasn't given guidance, bring your gear and leave it in your car. When you're introducing yourself to the officer, explain your background and ask them how they want you to function if they get a run. Their insurance may dictate you are strictly observation only or it may allow you to do some manual labor or the such. Whatever the case, NEVER work outside of your training or freelance.

    Good luck!

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    Sleep on your back, with your pants on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonnyirons2 View Post
    Sleep on your back, with your pants on.
    If you are in the bunkroom and you hear someone talk about the game "pass the buff" you need to leave.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Scream obscenities for no reason and then apologize for your "condition".
    Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

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    lmao you guys are too much. Food. More specifically baked goods. For all the other stuff, be up front and ask the OIC what is expected of you. Shy is a good thing, that means you have the ability to shut up and listen Ask questions during down time on things you saw on the previous run. If they tell you to do something....do it, then ask why. ALWAYS offer to help with the chores, and let them know about your culinary skills (or lack there of). you can always set the table, do dishes, etc.....Good luck
    Matt G.
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    Hey Tex, not sure from where you hail, but in Virignia and around my area, you are too young to be a ride a long.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

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    So...can somebody give me some advice on how to introduce myself and get to know the Firefighters better?

    Also...how do I just "get in there" and help with cooking and stuff? If I want to wash the dishes...should I ask them or just stand up after I'm done eating and start washing dishes?

    Any more advice?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by txExplorer View Post
    So...can somebody give me some advice on how to introduce myself and get to know the Firefighters better?

    Also...how do I just "get in there" and help with cooking and stuff? If I want to wash the dishes...should I ask them or just stand up after I'm done eating and start washing dishes?

    Any more advice?
    I can't speak to what others want to see but I can tell you what works around here.

    During the first meeting, do not act like a poor little sheep. Be up front, make eye contact, and be a bit bold. You're going to be tested and teased, so prepare yourself.

    A good way to start is to tell them why you are there, without sounding to hammy. So do not say "I'm Tex and I here to help you."

    Just be yourself. "My name is Tex, I am here to learn, and I appreciate the opportunity to observe what you do." Always be respectful and you will do well. Advise them you will share in the workload... "I am not much of a cook, but I can sweep the floors, clean the restroom, and I do windows." If they ask you questions, answer them honestly but do not ramble.

    In our stations, we have what are called "Shift Maids". Not a great name but it gets the point across. That is the person that gathers bed linens or other items from the off-going shift each morning for the laundry. They also clean the quarters/showers/restrooms before the next crew comes in. There is a 30 minute shift change when both crews overlap in our department. But we usually let a guest or 'new guy' have the pleasure of holding the 'shift maid' title for the day. The title does rotate each shift day. The shift maid also cleans the kitchen after each meal.

    The best part of having the 'shift maid' duty is you do not have to test hydrants, inspect buildings, go foraging at the local grocery store, or maintance the fleet. That is a big deal during the winter months. Of course, riding the apparatus on a foraging mission can be exciting.

    Always let the assigned personnel load onto the truck unless they advise you to take a position. It is a good idea to know where to go. Different calls may have different seat or apparatus assignments so inquire if your are not told up front.

    Always stay out of the way, and only ask questions after everything is completed and all are back at the station. "May I ask some questions about the event?" If the guys are pros, they will be glad to answer your questions and give you accounts of their experience. You will know right away if you are not fitting in.

    Note that I used the phrase "May I" when asking questions. It has become quite common for people to say "Can I" which only suggest your are inquiring about your ability to do something- "Can I" ="Am I able". Example: "Can I use the restroom?" The person that responds might respond with "You should know the answer to that better than me." Using "May I" will get you further and is the proper and respectful use. After they get to you... you can get by with "Can I use the can?"

    But as I said, be ready for some teasing. Do not take anything seriously or personal. You must have the ability to laugh a bit at yourself, your age, and your passion to learn. But once you pass the test, you will be fine.

    One more piece of advice. Under no circumstances should you keep a big smile on your face the entire time you are there. We have a name for person that smiles real big all of the time, but the policy manual prevents me from advising you what it is. Try to keep your excitement and glee under control... trust me.

    I wish you well in your adventure.
    HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

  11. #11
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    PKnight...thanks for your helpful advice.

    The only thing I'm worried about is if each firefighter has an assigned role (such as sweeping, mopping, cleaning, etc). I don't want to come across as "rude" for taking a specific firefighter's job. Any suggestions?

    Also...I've heard that I should be the "last to eat" and the "first to clean". How does that work? Should I just hang out with whoever is not eating and ask if they need help? Also...when I'm done eating...should I just get up and wash my plate...or should I ask them how they do their dishes?

    Also...we have an EMS bag/AED on each engine. Should I ask the officer when I get to the station if he wants me to grab the bag/AED when we get an EMS call?

    What are some good topics to talk about with the firefighters? I find myself having a hard time having a "smooth flowing" conversation...

    Thanks for all the replies so far.

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    If you take someone's chores, you won't be rude. I wouldn't take all of one person's though and leave it all to everyone else. There's probably some minor things you can do to help out everyone. At 16, I'm sure you can recognize when something needs swept, mopped, washed, etc. Just ask someone "Where do you keep the mop?" and then get it done.

    Last to eat, first to clean. This can go either way as a ride-out. When they call out that food is ready, hang out toward the back for a minute. Go wash your hands or something, but don't take too long. If they tell you to get food, simply ask if everyone else has already filled their plate. After you're done eating and you notice most of the others are too, if it's a polite time, stand and ask the FFs done eating if you can take their plate. DON'T JUST TAKE IT! They may tell you to sit back down. And be ready, we love to play with the new person when the officer is late to the meal we'll tell them to go ahead and grab a plate. Then when the officer shows up, we'll tell him "Hey Captain, we told him to wait for you, but he said F#*& him, I'm eating." Then we all laugh, just smile and laugh with them.

    When you're meeting the officer in the morning, ask them how they want you involved on Fire and EMS runs. Like I said before, their SOP or insurance may limit you to a strictly observation only role. Granted, as an explorer, they may even let you hit the hydrant with someone else. I wouldn't expect to be on any attack lines, though.

    Start reading the paper now so you're up on current events. Watch the news. Know what the big happenings are at the Olympics and local sports. Mostly, you'll want to sit back and listen instead of involving yourself in their conversations. However, if you have something useful and unique to add, go for it. However, do NOT be a "topper" trying to one-up everyone. Think of this as the first interview. These people may very well be sitting on an oral board for you in a couple years.

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    Walk in, bite the ear off the toughest looking guy. Spit that ear at the second toughest looking guy. If you take the paladin's advice, they will fall upon you like wild dogs.
    Last edited by johnny46; 02-25-2010 at 11:11 PM.
    Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

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    Wow! Thanks so much zzyyzx. I really appreciate that advice.

    I'm looking forward to this Saturday. I called the shift officer and he confirmed the ride-along, told me to bring my gear and $12 for meals.

    For the whole gear part....my understanding is that most FF's don't "gear up" (put bunker pants on) for EMS calls. If we get an EMS call...should I just throw my gear into the truck?

    In the rare (and I'm dead serious) case that we get a structure fire...should I just get in the truck and help the FF's with whatever they need and THEN gear up?

    Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by txExplorer View Post
    Wow! Thanks so much zzyyzx. I really appreciate that advice.

    I'm looking forward to this Saturday. I called the shift officer and he confirmed the ride-along, told me to bring my gear and $12 for meals.

    For the whole gear part....my understanding is that most FF's don't "gear up" (put bunker pants on) for EMS calls. If we get an EMS call...should I just throw my gear into the truck?

    In the rare (and I'm dead serious) case that we get a structure fire...should I just get in the truck and help the FF's with whatever they need and THEN gear up?

    Thanks!
    I can't speak for all departments, but we don't bunk out on all EMS calls. Just traffic accidents and calls at night after we're in bed. And if you get a fire put your gear on. Don't worry about the firefighters your riding with. They should know what they're doing and not need your help getting dressed. Try to give them room to get packed out though.

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    Couldn't tell you what to do for a fire side ride along, we don't do them at all except for on the medic units, when our medics act as preceptors. Then you'd be doing whatever appropriate skill to your classification.

    As others said, bring a treat. Everyone brings donuts, here it's usually a dozen from Dunkin' Donuts as a default thing. If you want to stand out, bring something fresh from a real bakery, maybe danish or something different instead. Don't stand out too much; one classmate baked homemade cupcakes when he did his EMT ride along, and for the rest of the academy was called "Cupcake".

    I found the contrasts in our house ettiquette traditions enough to highlight them from what PK said. (Not criticizing others' traditions, I'm just saying...) Here, a ride along is a guest, and regardless of whether they bring a treat, they don't pay for a meal. And everyone except officers do some housework, but it would be forbidden for you. Most you'd be asked to do is lift your feet as you sit on the couch so we can sweep/mop under them. Same applies to cooking. That being said, you'd at least better offer, and offer again after being told no. The "last to eat/first to wash" wouldn't go either, because only a bum would grab a plate before the guest. I've physically removed more than one guest from the sink trying to do dishes.

    As above, shy is good, it means you can listen. Be a sponge, soak up what you can. Don't be too shy, it can make you look afraid, that = fresh bait. Regardless, accept any teasing with humility and good temper. We wouldn't tease you if we didn't like you. Introduce yourself, and let them guide the conversation at first. Lot of good advice above. After an incident, here you'd always feel free to ask "why" about anything we do, the answer may range from a succinct logical reasoning, to "that's what we always do", to "I dunno, I just did" (hopefully not). We always try to debrief after incidents as a crew, what did you see, how did you accomplish x,y,z, etc. May not happen on the routine calls, but ESPECIALLY after a job we do. Listen in, learn, and (without intruding - meaning don't ask why'd you put water on the fire? ) add in your perspective, you may point out something as an outsider we didn't recognize, or there may be something from training/experience that we just process without really trying. Try to make them think, if you can.
    Last edited by mrpita; 02-26-2010 at 12:43 AM. Reason: Spelling
    Opinions expressed are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Philadelphia Fire Department and/or IAFF Local 22.

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    Be there eager to learn. Don't stay up late the night before. Be there 15 minutes before you are scheduled to arrive. Go over what you can and cant do on a call. The most fun I had on a ride-along was actually with the training officer. I guess it wasn't really a ride-along. More of a shadow. Pretty much don't be shy. This will often be the first impression you make on the guys at the department, and if this is one that you might be looking for a job at. Who knows who will be in charge of the hiring, or have a say in it. Might just give you a leg up.

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