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  1. #1
    BigJohn Guest

    Question Beginner Volunteer desiring additional advice

    Hey everybody (including Veterans & Rookies):

    I recently applied to join my local Volunteer Fire Department and will most likely be adopted as a member in a little over a week at our monthly business meeting. I am 20 years old, and unlike a lot of us young'uns, I'm not from a "firefighting family". No one in my family, that I'm aware of, has been a firefighter. For the last few years of deciding my future and goals, I have realized that I would like to dedicate my life and career to helping those in need. I am married, and have been for a little over a year.

    The department I've joined is the Perry Township VFD of Lawrence County, Ohio. Besides our cities and villages, our County is divided up into townships, each having its own volunteer fire department. My township is about 25 square miles in size, mostly consisting of rural and/or farm land. The department responds to normally 1-2 calls per week, if that, and a lot of those times being brush fires (especially now with the hot, dry weather we've been having).

    First and foremost, when I decided to join the VFD, I told myself that I wouldn't allow myself to try to act like I know anything about anything, and learn as I go. I also haven't had the chance to respond to any emergencies, and am not exactly how I'll react to a lot of the sights and sounds that go along with the job. I would hate more than anything to decide that I'm unable to perform my duties and quit the department, and anyone have hard feelings toward me because of me acting macho or anything like that. I want to do my best and make my life into something useful if at all possible.

    I have read thru all the suggestions and tips that were posted in regards to smoke_eater411... and will continue to do so as more replies are posted to his article. Any additional info would be appreciated. I would also like to know more about how you volunteers work FF'ing into your lives, families, work, etc.

    Sorry such a long post... not much of a forum poster until now... Hope to hear from You!


  2. #2
    e33 Guest


    All i can say is absorb as much as your brain will let you. Go to schools and drills, read the magazines, surf the web, make it all work. Follow the rules, play the game and BE SAFE. As far as not having any FF's in the Fam, i know the feeling...its a pain in the butt sometimes. They have no idea what its like...and you will have to find a happy medium.

    I think if i can say one thing that you should never forget, its this "ITS NOT YOUR PROBLEM, ITS SOMEONE ELSES" This simply means that no matter what the call is, that you need to remember you are more important than the call you are going to. If you save a life, thats Great, if not..well you did your best. Try not to make ties to victims, it will only cause you to burn out. Its a job, and we can't win all the battles sometimes.

    Good luck on your endeavors.


  3. #3
    HiTecVFD Guest


    Welcome to the service!

    Just remember, there are alot of people out there that make VFD's look bad, just don't be one of them. Always remember that no matter what anyone tells you, that you do make a difference and that you can help. Also, go to all the training you possibly can, it will be helpful in the long run to you, the dept., and the people you help. Good luck,,

  4. #4
    kiddo Guest


    Hey there!

    e33 is right. Safety is your #1 priority. I'm only 16 I've been a junior firefighter in my department for 2 years. I am taking all the firefighting classes I can get, I figure every little bit helps. I am only 9 classes away from getting my FF1 certification, and 10 away from getting my FF2. But before I can actually get the certification I have to turn 18. My dad is in the volunteer part also, but I sort of go my own way.
    I am new at this too, and I have decided to go to a fire academy after I get out of high school - which is only a year seeing as now I am a senior---FINALLY!. I am getting some support from a few of the guys down at the station, but because I am a girl my parents don't think it's the right field for me to go into - but I'm hanging in there.
    Now that I've explained myself to you, here's my advice:
    As you probably already know, every call is learn as you go. Gather everything you can and give it all you've got. Hang in the end hopefully it'll be worth it. Maybe some of the veterans can give you more advice...but I hope I've helped a little.

  5. #5
    Truckie from Missouri Guest



    Welcome to the Fire Service. I agree with the others that safety is Priority Number ONE! Part of being safe is being trained. One kind of training that they don't teach at many academies is stress training. The sights you will see in a long career are gruesome. Gruesome isn't even a strong enough word. Stuff happens. It's not our emergency. We respond in as helpers, and hopefully our efforts will make it better. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the outcome still is not what you want. This last month I've personnaly been involved with to rescues that failed. And yesterday we rang the Last Alarm for a Brother Firefighter in a neighboring department.

    Don't take the bad stuff personal. You are dispatched to help people who called because they are in a situation that THEY cannot control. With training, you (and the rest of the responding team)(Yes, I said TEAM) will be able to mitigate the emergency.

    Training is not just a classroom and drill field event. Training is also listing to the lessons the veterans are trying to pass on. A wise old timer once explained to me that God gave us two ears, but only one mouth. He said that means we should listen twice as much as we speak. Stay with it long enough and soon it will be the rookies coming to you to hear your lessons.

    If/when you respond to a call that bothers you, don't be ashamed to ask one of the older guys to help you deal with the stress.

    Well, enough rambling. I truely hope you enjoy your career in the Fire Service.

    Be safe.


  6. #6
    BigJohn Guest


    Thanks a lot, Truckie from MO... Really helped put things in perspective... and to all of you who have replied, Thanks!

    Like I mentioned before, I won't actually be an active member of my department until a week from tonight. But ever since the first meeting I attended, I've been very eager to learn stuff... The only problem is that in my area, it may be a while before I am able to attend all the classes and training I need to attend. My chief told me that classes are usually set up in an "as needed" process. This is one of the main reasons I'm looking for answers to a lot of the basics from people like yourselves.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to help out a rookie like me.

    John Higgins
    Perry Twp. VFD
    Lawrence Co., OH

  7. #7
    firefighter60 Guest

    Thumbs up

    Big John, Glad to hear that someone else is ready to give this fine profession a shot. Everyone that has replied has given you very sound advice. Hopefully this piece of advice will be just as sound. No matter what in a volunteer department there is a job for just about everyone. Some people gravitate toward interior work, others toward being pump operators. What ever, once you have gotten your basic training under your belt. Find the job that best suits you and talk to your chief. He may be able to get you extra training in the area that you feel most comfortable with. We need everyone in the fire service, from the nozzle man to the engineer on the pump panel to the fire police to the officers. Find what you are best at and run with it.

    David Ferguson
    Lt. Hookstown VFD

  8. #8
    snake_eng313 Guest


    Big John,
    You and I are alot alike. The difference is age, but I too am going from 3 years as a volunteer to a paid position with my dept. Yes, I am still a rookie. I think all of us should keep the attitude of a rookie. What I mean by this is that if you learn from everyone and every incident and don't ever think you know it all you will learn tons and be an awesome ff. I can tell you already have the right attitude. However, there is one thing I want to WARNING WARNING WARNING be very sensitive to what you tell your new bride about your calls and incidents. I have to share many things with my bride of 5 years or else I'd have a tough time, but remember your new bride might not have the ability to handle the scenes, deaths and other rough things you will see. This will all build up on her over the years. Remember you have signed on to be one of Americas Honorable Dedicated heros; she has not. Remember her, treat her kind, respect her and always put her first before the fire service "especially you honeymooner". I had to learn the hardway and ALMOST found myself alone again but relized my mistakes. Now we share a awesome relationship. So many people will tell you how to be a successful firefighter but you need to be a successful husband/firefighter. Best of Luck to you and I still too feel the excitement of being a firefighter like yourself.
    God Bless,

  9. #9
    FFLEEMS Guest


    Big John,

    Glad to have you in the ranks. The only thing I can add to what has already been said is, to be aware of your time. It is easy to spend a lot of time at the firehouse, watch how much time you spend there. Not that spending time there is a bad thing,but,remember your wife.(snake eng313)

    You can't make every call or be at every training, don't put off other things to be there.

    Tell your boss at your paid job you are becoming a volunteer, see how they feel about you missing work for a call, letting you go for a call, etc.

    Enjoy the fire service.

  10. #10
    jpm Guest

    Thumbs up

    big john welcome,
    the most important thing you must do is get your wife behind you on this thing. get her involved some how. it makes it so much easier. learn with your eyes and your ears. wear your gear properly and always carry a flashlight. get involved with the doers not the ones that talk about doing.

    train hard and for real
    stay low,stay safe,

  11. #11
    firecapt745 Guest


    Hey there Big John. I'm always happy to give any advice that I can to new firefighters. Three words: Look. Listen. Learn. Watch what the veterans do, and ask questions. Attend drills and meetings. I have been a firefighter for 17 years and I love helping people as much today as I did then. Also DO NOT ignore your wife for the dept. You CAN NOT make every fire and drill or meeting. Just make the ones that you can, pay attention to your family, and have a good career in the fire service!

  12. #12
    Bryant Guest


    Howdy Big John

    I have a few words for you from my perspective. I've been on the job now for 18 years, 16 as Volunteer and 2 as Career.

    If you describe yourself or your job to anyone, never, NEVER describe yourself as "Just a volunteer" or "Only a volunteer" You are a firefighter, pure, plain and simple. Be proud of your craft and yourself. The fire doesn't care if you're paid. Some of us are paid professionals and some of us are unpaid professionals, but we're all professionals if we deveolp and maintain a professional attitiude.

    The second thing is, remember that we're not "Heros" We sign up to put ourselves into harm's way and do so as a normal part of our job. We prepare and train constantly to save lives and property by developing skills, knowledge and ability. When we do so its not heroism, it's what's expected.

    Your job as a firefighter is to be the best professional that your customer (The public) can call on in their time of need. LEARN your job, KNOW your job, DO your job. Simple as that.

    Carry on, and welcome


  13. #13
    Aussie Fire Guest


    Big John, seems like you got the right attiutude for this job,you said you were worried about not being able to do some things and having to leave ,i know in our station some people dont like car accidents,so we put them on traffic ,some people dont like heights so we dont put them up a ladder,trust me people wont put you down with things like that just so long as you are honest with them at jobs about what you dont think you can handle,and listen to people like Bryant,i wish all career staff thought like that you are not just a volunteer but a Fire Fighter BE PROUD TO BE PART OF A GREAT TEAM.Good luck

  14. #14
    BigJohn Guest


    Just to give y'all a little update... (as if you care )

    I was voted onto my department, got the pager and some of the gear (I'm bigger than the average bear)... gonna have to wait a bit for some of it...

    I have responded to a few calls, nothing major- brush fire or two, down power line...haven't gotten to be around anything that exciting yet.

    As for how others treat me, I'd have to say it's friendly and supportive. I haven't found any yet that show signs of being difficult to work with.

    Lastly, I mentioned our dept. gets 1-2 calls per week. I guess that's kind of conservative. Between our last meeting and the prior meeting (1 wk) we had around 10 calls. I would have to say the norm is about 5-7. Not one everyday, but when there's one, there seems to be 1-2 more that day.

    I really appreciate all the advice. It's nice to hear from people that don't necessarily live in my area. I have been telling all the ff's with internet access about this site, but I don't think any of them have visited yet.

    Anyway... rambling.... Y'all be safe now, ya heah?

    P.S. Almost forgot. We have about 3-4 newbies needing to take FF1...and quite a few from other dept's in our county. It's looking good that we might be able to host a class. The sooner the better!

    John Higgins
    Perry Twp. VFD
    Lawrence Co., OH

    [This message has been edited by BigJohn (edited August 05, 1999).]

  15. #15
    Deb Gustke Guest



    Welcome to the fire service. My advice, read, learn and listen.

    Get your hands on fire journals (two good ones are Firehouse and Fire Engineering. There is also Fire Resuce).

    Also I would recommend that you drive through your township. Look at the buildings, sturctures, farms and homes. Get to know what kind of contruction materials used. Any new construction going on? Stop and watch. Visit often if time allows.

    Also in your drive, look for draft sites. Is one prefered over another.

    And above all don't be afraid to ask questions?

  16. #16
    Steamer Guest


    I've seen a couple of postings that recommend you read, learn, and listen. I would suggest a fourth...teach. As you are now a "newbie" so were we all. Nothing is worse than the person who refuses to pass on what they've learned through their education and experience. I've even heard people say "Why should I give them what I had to learn on my own". Remember, what you learn will only help you, but if you share it with everyone else, we all benefit...including future generations of firefighters.

    [This message has been edited by Steamer (edited August 21, 1999).]

  17. #17
    Blair Guest


    G'day mate.

    I think I would be repeating everything that everyone else has said. But anyway, welcome to the fire service.

    I am a volunteer firefighter with the Country Fire Authority, Melton, Victoria, Australia. I am 19 and been a firey for three and a half years. In that time, I have learnt a hell of a lot, including becomming a BA operator.

    You just have to attend all the training sessions they have, and even ask for extra training with the older firies. Even if you don't attend as many calls as you would like (like myself), with the training, you'll still know what to do in an emergency situation. Everything will come naturaly when on the fireground, even though it will be hectic to start with.

    Keep enjoying what you do, keep your ears open, put your hand up for all training sessions, and know that you are an asset to the community.

    Keep up the good work.

    Firefighter Blair Dellemijn
    Country Fire Authority
    Melton, Victoria, Australia.

  18. #18
    Nathan Guest


    G-Day Big John

    You've got the right attitude. The thing to remember is that you never stop learning. I've been a vol. firefighter for 10 years (including being an incident commander for 3) and a career firefighter for 5 and I'm still learning. Keep your eyes and ears open and you'll always learn something new.

    Have you tried asking a more senior member to be your mentor?? The senior members can be a wealth of knowledge, especially for someone who's new to the service, and can make sure you don't get into trouble at a job.

    Make sure you know all the equipment on your appliances by name, sight and location. I've always used 'junior' members as 'gophers' at jobs. It can seem a menial job, but it's an important job and a great way to learn about the equipment, where it's stored and what it's used for. It also keeps you busy (I was a 'gopher' and I learnt heaps!).

    Make sure you attend as many drills as possible (without interfering too much into your personal life - you need a bit of time away from the fire service!! )

    YOUR OWN SAFETY IS #1, your crewmate's safety is #2 (a very close second I might add), anyone else comes next. It may seem cowardly, but it's better to be a live chicken than a dead hero. You aren't much good to your family, your fellow firefighters or your community as another statistic.

    Enough of my waffling!!Enjoy your time as a firefighter!!!

    Nathan Van Der Meulen
    NSW Fire Brigades
    NSW Rural Fire Service

  19. #19
    AJM108 Guest

    Thumbs up

    Hello Big john,
    There was alot of good advice in the replies you got.I too did not have any family in the fire service but the common bond that exists between firefighters and probies alike made it easy to feel like part of the family.I also agree with Firecapt745 your family must come before the Fire department .

    Good Luck Stay Safe


  20. #20
    Phil4601 Guest


    Hi John,

    As a 31 year veteran of a small rural volunteer fire company I welcome you to the ranks of the firefighters.

    First and not to sound like a broken record but safety is with out a doubt # 1. Remember you can't rescue someone else if you yourself needs rescued. Most firefighter injuries occur while responding to and returning from the scene of an emergency incident. Always be alert! Don't let the "epinephrine response" give you tunnel vision and don't let the "relaxed return" make you unaware of other drivers, vehicles and situations on the road back to the station house.

    Training, training, training. Start by asking questions about the equipment and apparatus in your fire station. You know, "What's this thing called and what does it used for." Once you have leaned names and functons of equipment find out where on your apparatus these things are located, so I someone askes for a 6 foot dry wall hook, you don't have to run around the truck for or five times looking in every compartment for it.

    Listen to the "old guys" for two reasons. You can learn a great deal from them of the correct procedures and the incorrect procedures. An added bonus is that they are handing down history and tradition of you department. That is something that we can't afford to lose.

    Don't be afraid to ask for help or ask questions, that's how you learn and stay safe at the same time.

    Don't ever, EVER get on an apparatus after drinking. You may think that you will be helpful, but as a former Chief I can tell you that you will be a pain in the butt, make a fool of yourself and the fire company you represent.

    There are no such things as "routine calls." Each incident we are dispatched on is unique unto itself. No matter how simple the assignment may be, there is always some element of danger, maybe things that you don't think about like walking around to the street side of the apparatus without looking only to be struck by a rubber necker looking at the flashing red lights on your truck instead of looking at the road.

    Lean you service area. If your company has pre-plans or SOPs, review them.

    I'm sure your company is glad to have you. Finding men and women to volunteer is very difficult these days. It takes a certain amount of committment. Many times my wife would go through the roof when I would leave the supper table, or leave the lawn half mowed to respond to an emergency. It would be great if people planed them and let us know in advance when they are going to happen. But we all know that is just not how it is.

    Again welcome! Listen, learn, practice. Always wear your helmet because nothing falls up.

    Stay Alert & Stay Safe

    [This message has been edited by Phil4601 (edited August 31, 1999).]

  21. #21
    dc45b Guest


    Hello Big John,

    Welcome to the fire service. I joined when I was 16 years old. My family didn't have any members in the fire service. I lived next door to a fire station. My mother helped the ladies Aux and my father was the insurance agent for the dept. Now after 30 years, all I can tell you is this LEARN, LEARN AND BE PATIENT. Take the job serious and training very serious. It is your life and the life of your fellow firefighters. I have benefit from the training especially when appling for jobs. Many empolyers are impress with your training and how it could apply to the employer business. Don't worry about what you will see on the streets. When I started I would fainted looking at my own blood. But when you are on the scene and in charge of the patient, you have a job to do and just concentrate on this only. Good luck Mike

  22. #22
    sarge552 Guest

    Thumbs up

    John-welcome to the greatest job you'll ever have and congratulations on your acceptance on the dept. Just remember...Learn the basics and always stick with them, they'll get you through whatever you face! SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY!!!! Cant say enough about it, remember its all about safety! Learn all you can and once you have learned it well enough teach it to someone else and learn somemore. Anyway, Welcome to the Brotherhood and Stay Safe!!

  23. #23
    NVFD933 Guest

    Thumbs up

    Big John,
    Welocome to to the ranks of the greatest brother hood you will ever encounter. I have been a vol. for almost 8 years and I still look forward to attending drills,meetings, and calls. You have started down a path that will bring you great joy,satisfaction, and pride but in the same breath it can bring you to discouraging and some times heart breaking situations.My advice to you is remember that you did not cause the situation.You are there to help if you can and move on. One of the bigest challenges you will face is controling your adrenaline but this is a *must* if you dont, you will catch your self driving too fast to the station and trying to hurry things on scene, this will lead to mistakes and or accidents. If you ask your cheif I bet he will agree with me, I must say you are approaching the dept. with a better attitude than most rookies, dont be afraid to ask questions "The only dumb question is the one you didn't ask".
    Once agian Be Safe and Have Fun.



  24. #24
    McCall Guest


    BigJohn you are not alone. I am a new vol. ff like yourself. Late summer, I joined my local FD. I am a college student, so calls are few and far between. I am waiting for an EF (Essentials of Firefighting) to open up.

    I live in a rural area, so classes for me are hard to come by. None of my family members, were firemen, either.

    Everyones' posts are great advice.

    Terry McCall
    Marbletown Volunteer F.D.
    Newark, N.Y.

  25. #25
    Glen Chapman Guest


    Welcome Big are on your way to a whole new lifestyle.By the wat it sounds,you will get in there and get dirty with the rest of 'em,not just one of the ones who wants to wear the pager and say they're on the FD.Glory Boys.Anyway welcome to the service.Just be careful and listen to what some of the old timers havr to say.Get in all the training you can and absorb all that you can.Watch everything on scene,cause there are some things that a classroom can't teach you.Good luck

    Lt. Fire Marshal
    Glen Chapman
    City of Flippin Arkansas Fire Dept.

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