Thread: Newbie Orientation
12-28-2002, 07:35 PM #1
I was just assigned the task of "newbie orientation."
We currently have an orientation program set up for new firefighters to complete to have a base to build on for training. Newbies are assigned a "mentor" by me now, that is a senior member. Together they complete a packet of information with all kinds of things to go over to help them fit in and understand whats what. This consists of basics of operations, vehicle orientation(response and tools), communications, command structure, tax and insurance info, station rules etc. As they go over these items in this packet, they sign off saying they understand. The senior firefighter signs off as well saying that the new person went through this part of the training and understands as well. When the packet is complete, it is put in the "newbie's" personnel file. Seems to be working fine and promotes comeraderie with the new people too. All the officers have a specific assignment that they are untimately responsible for and this has been assigned to me now, along with my existing stuff.
Just wondering what everyone else uses and maybe incorporate new things to make ours better. If anyone wants more info as well, drop me an e-mail.
Altoona Fire Rescue
12-29-2002, 07:32 AM #2
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
I talked to a devastated candidate at a written test. This paramedic had been hired with four other medics by a good fire department. After four months he was fired. He said he thought things were going fine. Then, the captain started telling him that the other firefighters didn't like some things he was saying, starting counseling and documenting him for not taking down the flag, rolling up the hose, etc. He said he was busy doing other assignments. The writing was on the wall.
I asked him what the other new rookies were doing? He said they were too busy kissing ***. My only reply was, "I hope you learned that if you were too busy kissing ***, you wouldn't be trying to get another job!"
What you do when you first start out will set your reputation and follow you throughout your career. If you don't start out on the right foot, they will show you the door. The crew already knows more about you before you show up than you think.
Use these standards during station visits and your interview process to demonstrate you already know what to do when hired:
You're a snotty nose rookie. Keep your mouth shut. Be cordial, friendly and humble. You have no time or opinion until you earn it. You can't force it. That will come with a lot of calls and a few fires.
Cel phones and pagers are causing problems for candidates and rookies. I can't believe the stories I'm hearing. Candidates are carrying their cel phones and pagers to written tests. A candidate was in a department academy and his cel phone starts to ring. He told the training officer, can you hold on a minute, I have a call. Yea, right. The training officer told the class the next time he hears a cel phone go off, they were going to play who can throw the cel phone the furthest.
On an emergency call, the BC was trying to raise dispatch without success on the radio. The rookie took his cel phone, speed dialed dispatch and handed his cel phone to the BC. Cute? Smart? Innovative? That's not the reception he received.
Rookies are carrying their cel phones and pagers on duty. Their phone rings, they answer it and go right into cel yell with their friends and relatives. Wives, girl friends and dysfunctional others call all day long with "Important Stuff" and to do pillow talk. Cel phones are ringing in locker rooms. Some try to be cool by putting their cel phones and pagers on vibrate. Even though they might not answer them when they go off, they still pick them up to check the caller ID or the text message. Then when they think no one is looking, they slip off and return the call. THIS IS DUMB! These are not part of your emergency issue.
This will not get you off on the right foot. Big clue here. Leave the electronic leashes off and in your vehicle along with your piercings until a time where all your duties are complete. No matter what you might think and how friendly everyone seems to be, you are being watched! It could hurt you big time.
If you have an emergency situation, ask your officer if you can carry your phone because you are expecting an emergency call.
Call your new captain before your first shift and ask if he wants you to bring anything in. Bring a peace offering of donuts and desert your first day. Home made is best. Arrive early and ask the off going firefighter what you should know at that station. Your new captain should meet with you to outline his expectations. If not, ask him.
Unless you're told differently, put up and don't forget to take down the flag. If the phone or the door bell rings, make sure you're the first one running to answer it. There will be certain duties on each day of the week. Tuesday could be laundry day, Saturday yards. Keep track. Stay busy around the station. Always be in a clean proper uniform. Always be ready to get on the rig and respond.
Check out the gear on the rig each morning. Make sure the 02 gage and the reserve bottle shows enough to handle a long ems call.
Firefighters usually have "Their" place to sit at the table and in front of the T.V.. Don't hog the newspaper. The off going shift has the first crack at the newspaper. You probably have probation tests. Don't park yourself in front of the T.V., you have a test coming up. Stay busy. No matter what the atmosphere is, you're being watched. "Just because you're paranoid . . . doesn't mean there not after you."
Though you might be a good cook, don't volunteer to cook until asked or rotated in. Make sure your meals are on time. The old adage "Keep them waiting long enough and they will eat anything" doesn't apply here. Be the last one to serve your plate. Don't load up your plate the first time around. Wait to go for seconds.
Always have your hands in the sink doing the dishes after a meal. Be moving out with the garbage and mopping the kitchen floor after each meal.
Learn how to help the officer doing response reports.
Don't tell jokes until you're accepted.
Don't play "Your" music on the radio. Don't be a stupid generation X'er and always ask why when told to do something. Help others' with their assignments when you finish yours.
Ask how you're doing. Volunteer for assignments. Keep track of these to present at your evaluations.
Don't start pulling hose and other equipment at a scene until the captain tells you.
Always get off the rig before it backs up. Stand to the rear side to guide the rig. Never turn your back on the backing up rig.
It's not uncommon to move to one or more stations during your probation. At your new station, don't act like you already have time. Unfortunately, you have to start all over again as the new rookie.
You will have an elated feeling rolling out on your first calls. There is nothing like it. It could last your whole career. Enjoy and saver it. You earned it. You're the last of Americas Heroes.
I miss it.
. . . Nothing counts ‘til you have the badge. Nothing!
12-29-2002, 07:51 AM #3
That was beautiful! Your words should be handed to every probationary firefighter prior to walking through the door, whether they be call, volunteer or career. It will weed out the wannabees and whackers and leave us with those people who really want "da job!""The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
12-29-2002, 08:02 AM #4
- Join Date
- Dec 2002
That brought a tear to my eye!!!!! Capt.Bob
12-29-2002, 10:48 AM #5Call your new captain before your first shift and ask if he wants you to bring anything in. Bring a peace offering of donuts and desert your first day.
Towards the end of the academy time we are to spend a weekend in a station to get aquatinted with firehouse life. The Training Officer hinted that it would be a good idea that we do something like this to "break the ice". So on my way into work I stopped at Dunkin Donuts to pick up a dozen to bring as a peace offering. Once I get there, I leave the donuts in the car til I introduce myself and get situated on the days events. Once this is done, I go out to my car, bring the donuts in and plop them down on the table. What happened next still horrifies me to this day. The LT just gives me a blank stare and the rest of the crew starts cracking up. I'm thinking, Oh Sh** what did I do? Turns out the the LT owns a bakery in town that just happens to make donuts and his crew was always busting his balls about how his donuts would make great ventilation tools by tossing them through windows. The LT thought that his guys put me up to it, I assured him I had no idea. I think the fear on my face explained it all.FTM-PTB-EGH-RFB-KTF
12-30-2002, 10:13 AM #6
For new members we have an orientation and then pre-basic class that they must complete is 6 months. It is very similar to what Dickey is talking about. There is a lot of things that have to be discussed and accomplished before your mentor will sign off on you. Then you also have to go in front of the board and get their signature. When a new member joins they are assigned a mentor to assist them with any questions and to help them get aquatinted with the rest of the department. It seems to work well, better than just throwing a new person out there and hoping that they make it through.
12-31-2002, 05:47 PM #7
Bob, That was awesome! I printed it out and will give to our "Propaganda Officer" to pass out to the Newbies.
Thanks for the replys guys, gives me more ideas to work with.
I appreciate it.
Altoona Fire Rescue
12-31-2002, 10:27 PM #8
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
- Northern IL
Thanks! Since I'm hoping to be a "Newbie" soon, this has provided a lot of insight for me. Thanks again!
01-01-2003, 12:31 AM #9
- Join Date
- Aug 2002
- San Francisco Bay Area
Station Visits and Ride Alongs
Since you're trying to be a newbie, this might also help you:
Ride alongs can help you or destroy you! Candidates want the opportunity to do ride alongs as a way of showing interest, gain information for their oral, and can say in their oral they had been to the stations. Often they don't know the culture and etiquette.
We had a candidate in one day for a ride along. He had an opinion on every topic that was brought up, including sports and the current movies. When it came time for lunch, he was the first one on his feet to fill his plate. His mother would have died if she had seen it.
Let me be blunt here. Dummy Up! You don't have enough time to have an opinion! In this situation you have to be humble, have your questions already written down and realize you are a snotty nose rookie. Too many candidates come in wanting the badge so bad they act like they already have time and want to impress the guys with all of their knowledge. BIG ERROR!
Because, this information will spread like wild fire and destroy you with those who will be making the decisions. Too many candidates tank themselves here and they never know what happened. This applies even if you're already a firefighter applying for another department.
Don't take the bait. Even if you have a friend in the station. If the guys want to joke around and play games, don't do it. You are not part of their family yet. You have not time!
Some departments don't allow ride alongs during test time. If you're lucky enough to do a ride along, show up on time with a desert. If it's ice cream, make sure it's the round stuff; not the square stuff. We had so much square stuff during one of test we had a contest in the back yard to see who could throw the square stuff the furthest.
After giving this information at a college fire program a candidate shows up at my station the next day. He didn't make an appointment, have desert, or have any questions ready. McFly?.
One candidate told me in another class that he had made an appointment and had to wait a half hour when he got there. Poor baby. Understand this is our home. We spend more time at the fire house than with our own family. So here you come waltzing into our home with not knowing what to do.
If you're fortunate to get a ride along stay for lunch if offered. Offer to pay your share and do the dishes. Leave before dinner and never spend the night. You might interfere with the kick back time during and after dinner.
Should you go to as many or all the stations in a department? Please spare us this part. Don't turn yourself inside out trying to cover all of the stations hoping the word will get back that you did. It will make you look anal and compulsive, which you probably are if you're doing this. This will raise its ugly head in the psychological test if you get that far. One or two stations is fine. If you try to do them all only increases the chances of saying or doing the wrong thing or catching a shift of malcontents that will bad mouth you.
If you're bent on doing a ride along, first make an appointment. During test time things get crazy. Be patient. Act like you would if you were the new rookie in the station.
"Absolutely Nothing counts until you have a real BADGE . . . Nothing!
01-01-2003, 12:40 AM #10
Dear Captain Bob
Sound advice...from someone who obviously cares about the fire service and those who seek to make it a career choice.
Thanks for the excellent advice you have posted!Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones
*Gathering Crust Since 1968*
On the web at www.section2wildfire.com
01-01-2003, 01:23 AM #11
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
- Northern IL
Since I'm getting into the fire service a little on the late side (I'm 26), I've had the time to realize that it's never a good idea to walk into any new career thinking you know everything. I'm a good listener, and if I don't understand something, I ask... especially if my life may be on the line.
How do you go about getting in on this program? I know I asked at the FT department in my town (they don't do it), but I don't thik I did at the POC station. Is this fairly common practice to allow possible future hiree's to see what it's all about?
I've somehow ended up being the first person to stop at car accidents (they seem to happen in my presence more than I like), so I know I can handle blood, but I'm curious as to how I'll react to fire. As for the grunt work, I'm fine with that as well... it comes with the territory. I want the badge once I have proven that I can do it, not just to have as a decoration.
01-01-2003, 01:34 AM #12
I just found this, some guy sent it to me awhile
Congratulations and welcome to the American Fire Service!
This may be more than any of you bargained for, but, take it for what
its worth to you. This is a combination of ideas from Appleton Fire
Officers, Drivers, and senior firefighters, and also some suggestions
based on my own experience as a probationary firefighter. Be sure to
view another excellent resource: the web site of Captain Bob Smith, a
retired 25-year veteran of the Hayward, California Fire Department,
(www.eatstress.com) who has devoted his retirement to advising
candidates and probationary firefighters.
Be advised that these tips do not reflect official AFD policy, nor do
they reflect the opinion of all AFD officers across the board. They are
simply food for thought-enjoy!
1)-Don't wait to be told to get things done around the station. If your
day slows down and your officer is preoccupied, there's a long list of
station maintenance always available to you. Wash blue rags, change roll
towels, organize what's disorganized, clean what's dirty.
2)-Along the same lines, if you see something in the station that is
obviously wrong, fix it. Something that needs to be put away, or picked
up, or repaired. Don't wait for someone else to do it, or wait for an
officer to tell you to do it. Take pride in making the buck stop with
3)-You will have many questions during your first year. A good habit
to get into when you have a question is follow the chain of
command-starting with yourself. Do the research yourself first, then
ask a senior firefighter, then your driver, and only then, your officer.
Don't get me wrong-most folks are happy to answer questions, but this
is a good habit to get into.
4)-If you have thin skin, thicken it. Sarcasm is the breakfast of
champions in the firehouse.
5)-If you can't cook, learn.
6)-Even if you see other firefighters doing otherwise, address officers
by rank and last name until they personally instruct you to do
otherwise. Even then, remember that addressing an officer by last name
and rank is a sign of respect…need I say more?
7)-When the rig is backing up, only the officer and driver should be on
board. Only one firefighter should be in contact with the driver as the
rig backs up, but the second and third firefighters can act as another
set of eyes.
8)-If you can't find your sheets and pillow-case in the morning, look
in the freezer. You forgot to take them off the bed your last shift and
they're frozen into a bucket of water.
9)-Every interaction you have with the public, no matter how small, is
a chance for public education and relations. To a little kid, you are
practically a movie star. Know where stickers and handouts are on your
rig-or carry some with you on inspections or grocery trips.
10)-Always leave things the way you found them. (Does not include
broken or dirty) Locked, Closed, Ready to use, for example.
11)-When you go the city garage for fuel, don't sit on the rig and
wait. Get out and be ready with the nozzle in the fuel tank as the
driver gets out.
12)-All of the above may have you wondering about all this info…! This
brings me to a theory I've developed. There are unfortunately only two
types of probies in the eyes of many senior firefighters:
"Suck-up/Brown-nosers" or "Cocky Mouth-offs." It may sound like you
lose either way in this situation, however, here's my take on it. It's
very bad form get too comfortable in your attitude and start mouthing
off. On the other hand, if you are consistent in treating everyone with
respect, you will be labeled a suck up. This is just a test to find out
what you're about. The difference between a suck-up and a good
probationary firefighter is motive.
13)-A probie knows when to be first and when to be last.
Times to be first:
Answering the kitchen phone, and, as you settle in to the place,
Answering to door bell.
Doing dishes after a meal.
Helping out in any way.
Times to be last:
Serving yourself at a communal meal or ice cream.
Voicing your opinion.
14)-Arrive a half an hour early to work everyday. You'll be getting
moved around from station to station, and this takes more time. The
person you're relieving can't go home until you are in service.
15)-Ask your officer's permission before washing your car or doing
personal projects at work. Using stand-by time for personal projects is
a privilege, not a given.
16)-Never stop learning. Each night, the T.V. lounge will tempt you.
You always have the choice to veg out or develop your skills as a
firefighter: read, tie knots, practice skills, go over equipment. It is
a choice. Although a majority of citizens respect the profession, there
are those that see firefighters as overfed slugs that watch TV and sleep
on the taxpayers tab. Prove them wrong.
17)-Some of you may be coming to the job with previous fire service
experience. Some volunteer, some paid-on-call, and some may have been
on other union/professional departments. On these departments, you may
have years of experience, and even been ranking officers or drivers.
Well, I've got bad news for you, and this is just the way the fire
service is: even your experience as a Battalion Chief means very little
with the members of your new department. As Captain Bob says, "You must
leave your rank and experience hanging in the locker of your old
department." (www.eatstress.com) Don't let this confuse or anger
you-your officer would much rather have a probie who has proven
herself/himself on the fireground, rather than worry if you are going to
soil yourself the first time he drags you into a working fire. But be
warned-resist the temptation to talk about your experiences while on
probation. You will appear to be tooting your own horn, sounding cocky
and over confident, and you will, with lightning speed, develop a
reputation all over the department as a big mouthed know-it-all.
Remember that actions speak louder than words.
-(Footnote to the above: Here's a challenge for you, and it's hard to
practice: If your officer is teaching a new skill, or a senior
firefighter wants to show you something, and you already know everything
about it, don't say anything. If you keep quiet, you may learn a new
way to do something, or see a point of view you never considered. Even
if you know more about the subject than anyone in the room, keep your
lip zipped and it will be a good review for you. Obviously, if you know
some fancy-pants rescue knot in an emergency and your officer is looking
for ideas, now would be an appropriate time to speak up.
16)-This next point has been given to me by several Appleton officers
and senior firefighters. Your probation-all 18 months of it-is a golden
opportunity to make an impression on your coworkers. Because this
opportunity lasts over a period of months, its effects will last for the
duration of your career. If you work your butt off, are respectful, and
listen more than you speak, you will develop an image as a darn good
firefighter. On the contrary, for the rest of your career, your will
never work hard enough to shake a reputation as a slacker or bigmouth.
17)-Find one aspect of the job that is particularly interesting to you,
and research the hell out of it. If you like it and you become
knowledgeable, you become an asset to your crew in that area. Some guys
love extrication, and have become informal experts because of their
interest. Rope rescue, haz-mat, EMS, anything. No sympathy is available
for bored probies.
18)-In the beginning of your probation, your crew takes you on and
knows nothing about you. You will make mistakes, believe me. All of
this advice is not intended to make you terrified of screwing up. But
it is my opinion that I (as a rookie) am a liability to my crew. Sure,
it is their responsibility to look out for you-but you have the
opportunity to return the favor by thinking of ways to make your
presence a blessing not a burden. Any lughead can bring in ice cream,
but how about the previous point-- How can I be an asset to my crew?
Know your equipment, know the way your officer likes to operate. All
this takes time, by the way.
19)-Firefighters can be a gossipy bunch. You will inevitably be told
things about the business of others, but just remember that the business
of others is none of your business. Resist judging people you may or may
not know based on this sort of low-quality information. This is a hard
one for a new guy because joining in on talking smack seems like a
shortcut to being buddy-buddy with your crew, but it will lead to bad
things. Remember, "Speak only well of others and you need never
20)-The same goes for racist and sexist comments & jokes-just because
it happens, doesn't make it acceptable. There's no need for you to
express disapproval, but don't join in. It's the 21st century, and
there's no place for that anymore. As public service pros, we can set a
positive example even in the firehouse, out of earshot of the public.
Chief Alan Brunacini says "What we practice on the inside, we deliver on
the outside." Choose to practice respect.
21)-Get to know your driver and what makes him/her happy. If the
driver isn't happy ain't nobody happy. Offer to help them if there's
nothing else to do-the driver is responsible for the rig AND every last
piece of equipment on it. If you're back from a call and the officer is
back in bed, but your driver is getting your rig back in service, help
22)-Don't swear or talk smack in front of a Battalion Chief. If I need
to explain this, you're in the wrong profession.
23)-Don't complain. Give me a break-you are getting paid over sixteen
dollars an hour to do a job you already love-you should be smiling all
the time. If your officer assigns you to pick up dog poop, clean the
underside of the rig, or you go a few shifts without calls, suck it up.
You can take it-you're a tough firefighter, remember?
24)-Let me re-iterate the last point: DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT CHORES for
crying out loud!
I'm shocked by this when I hear this coming from the mouth of a new
firefighter. I actually heard a 4 month firefighter complaining that he
had to clean the dish of a 15 year fire veteran. Cry me a river,
smartypants. This is part of a probie's job.
25)-If you're ever unsure of what to do or how something goes, don't
ever fake it. Your crew is depending on you with their lives, so when
in doubt, ask first. Given the choice between bugging your officer with
a question, or having you make a mistake, your officer would gladly
answer your question.
26)-Your driver owns the rig you are assigned to. If you mess with,
alter, adjust, or break anything on it without telling your driver,
prepare to deal with his/her wrath. Imagine going out to your car in
the morning and finding it wrecked or otherwise out of commission.
Well, this is worse. Your driver is staking his/her reputation and your
safety on the knowledge that the rig is as exactly as he/she left it.
27)-Even if your crew seems to be really tight, and everyone acts
buddy-buddy and jokes around with each other-don't get too casual with
your crew; and don't argue, talk back to, or question your officer.
This may seem obvious to you-but I've seen it happen. All of these
tips are based on real experiences or observations.
28)-In my life, when things get challenging at work, my motto is, "look
on the bright side, you could be in Navy Seal training." The point
being, be thankful of your position at all times. Probationary
firefighters have it relatively easy in Appleton. Some larger
departments run recruit schools just like Army boot camps. Madison
doesn't allow probies in the TV lounge for 18 months. Milwaukee starts
chopping at first light, every morning for the duration of recruit
school. West Allis firefighters refuse to even speak to probies at all
for 18 months. So smile.
29)- Avoid having a chip on your shoulder, or something to prove.
30)-Some firefighters are funny about accepting help. If someone cooks
dinner for the crew and there is a sink full of dishes, there's no need
to ask whether there's anything you can help with. Jump in! Want to try
a fun experiment? Try sitting in the TV lounge while a senior
firefighter cleans the pots and pans from the meal he just cooked for
the crew and you.
31)-About sarcasm and jokes and pranks around the firehouse-you can
tough it out. It is kind of an unspoken method the see how you deal
with stress. You think this is bad, try the stress of a fireground at
three in the morning.
32)-About pranks and practical jokes-use your best judgement about the
necessity and severity of your prank, stick to your own recruit
classmates for the majority of your probation, and never, ever mess with
someone's emergency equipment.
33)-Remember, after hearing all of this, as well as advice from other
firefighters, remember one thing-everyone on the whole department is
senior to you right now, and they've got a lot of things to say about
what you are doing, but they want you to succeed. They want your
probation to go smoothly. So don't get overwhelmed by criticism or
34)-Remember to turn your handheld radio down or off before your
officer transmits to avoid Jimi
Hendrix-like feedback. Its an easy way to bug your officer. You will
forget this one, trust me.
35)-Even though you are the lowly firefighter, don't get lulled into
the sense that you should do nothing but run to the rig when the alarm
comes in. Though you may not be a driver for some time, pay attention
to and remember the address when the dispatch comes in-for that one time
when the driver says "What was that?"-it'll be worth it.
36)-When the day finally arrives that you've been waiting for-finishing
probation-you will be tempted to suddenly act like a veteran towards
more new hires and other firefighters. This spells trouble-hopefully
you have formed good habits during probation, don't let go of a good
)-Be prepared for a senior firefighter to get a hold of this and say,
"You're taking advice from Austin Treehugger Powers?? That guy is a few
sandwiches short of a picnic!" These are just some of the lessons we've
all learned our first year. You may choose to ignore all of this and
learn from your own experience. Just know that I do not aim to preach,
but simply to share knowledge that may make your probation easier, and
in turn, will set the scene for a good career.
-And finally, be thankful and proud. You've got the best job in the
whole darn world. Hold onto that thought alone and you'll succeed.
Off to bed now for me-got to be rested and ready for the big one.
-Sincerely Austin J. Treehugger Powers
01-02-2003, 07:26 PM #13
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
this information is AMAZING!! i know most of it is common sense, but it is still great to hear from some of you out there are very willing to help us newbies with tips. thanks a lot!
01-02-2003, 09:45 PM #14
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
- Northern IL
I couldn't agree more. Thanks a million!
01-02-2003, 11:50 PM #15
I disagree with ME...
LOL....I went back and looked at the article
I pasted up here and disagree with one of the
items. The statement that says a four month
rookie should get the plate of the 15 year
I say no way...If I am a fire service veteran,
I should be getting my own damn plates vs.
expecting some new person to wait on me. EVERY
one should work and pull their weight or go
find another job where you can be lazy and
and have other wait on you/me.
My 2 cents...i like to work, no one should have
to feel they need to bend over for me....
01-03-2003, 10:57 PM #16
I agree with CALFFBOU......
I am a 12 year vetran now and I still act like a rookie when it comes to work being done. I guess I should say MOST of the time...
I always clean up my own mess and don't expect to be waited on by the newbie. Likewise, a newbie should not be expected to wait on a vetran like that either. If the newbie is on dish duty, then yes, they wash all the dishes. Where I come from, everyone helps with dish duty, not just the newbies.
Gotta be a Wisconsin thing then I guess.
Altoona Fire Rescue
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