1. #1
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    Default Treatment of Probies

    Until last Monday, my department had just seven career firefighters. All seven of us were hired one at a time. Our rookie experiences were unique because each of us were on our own. So, we have NO experience either as members of a larger rookie class or in dealing with multiple probies at a time.

    Last week, we hired FIVE new firefighters to bring our total up to 12 guys. Their first week with us was quite the adjustment for everyone. We'll spend a few more weeks with these guys before and after rookie school before they join a regular shift. A lot of the senior guys are curious how exactly we should treat the newbies.

    The suggestions run the gamut... One guy wants the new guys carrying around a toothbrush, having it ready for presentation on demand and using it to scrub things during the day. Other guys like the idea of just sticking them with the house chores and apparatus cleaning. Others fall somewhere in the middle.

    So, how do you treat rookies? Is it like boot camp in your department or the country club? How do you establish discipline while giving new employees at least a minimum amount of respect?

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    Considering that your "sr. guys" never had their chops busted I think it fair that you leave the rooks alone. As far as your last statement of the min. amount of respect I kind of hope I am taking it wrong, the way I was always tought was to show people respect until they show you they don't deserve it. Meaning giving just the min. to appease them is garbage, treat them like piers and give them proper respect. These are guys that I hope you will be spending 25 years or so with, breaking stones and pranks are not going to get you respect or instill discipline, all this will do is create resentment if they show it or not. Bottom line show them the respect they deserve as humans, show the bits you may have learned along the way and keep them safe as they learn.

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    Originally posted by MEck51
    Considering that your "sr. guys" never had their chops busted I think it fair that you leave the rooks alone.
    Certainly, most of us did get our chops busted. We all caught some amount of flak while rookies... Which is acceptable because I think a probationary employee is bottom rung on the food chain. That designation alone means that they'll have to handle some of the crap duties that come along. However, there's a line between making them do rookie chores and disrepecting them unneccessarily. We certainly don't want to cross that line.

    Although, I totally agree when you said, "I was always tought was to show people respect until they show you they don't deserve it." I'll copy that and share it with some of the guys.

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    Traditionally, a probie assigned to a group/platoon/shift gets the pleasure of doing those housework chores that nobody else likes to do, ie., cleaning rthe heads, collecting and taking out the trash, etc. Some senior firefighters actually prefer to do this themselves.

    They should be expected to assist when asked.

    They should be expected to keep the coffee pot full!

    As for the "toothbrush" bit...

    A friend of mine had a rather sadistic senior firefighter who insisted that the probies carry the "toothbrush" to scrub whatever they were told. That stopped when the senior firefighter's toothbrush was the one used to scrub and ever so carefully placed back with his toiletries with a note...

    "sir, I forgot mty toothbrush, and used this one... hope you don't mind..."
    ‎"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."
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    We are quite easy on our probies. They do have to bring in doughnuts the first couple shifts. And keep the ice bucket full in our fridge(the ice machine is downstairs). We do play a few jokes on them from time to time. I always like the old set of the station alert when there in the shower trick.

    Dave
    Last edited by Dave1983; 07-18-2004 at 11:09 AM.

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    Yeah, I kind of figured I took your post wrong coz. Anyway I would keep it to the stuff that I would do to the guys that I'm already working with. If you pick out the new guys you're bound to get one cryer.

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    We have grown from 35-60 over the last 5 years. Now hopefully the newbies will feel like they should be doing something. I know when I started, I didn't want anyone thinking I wouldn't do something. People who join the fire service usually have some knowledge of the hierarchy. Then once they get to shift, you have to baptize them!

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    One guy wants the new guys carrying around a toothbrush, having it ready for presentation on demand and using it to scrub things during the day. Other guys like the idea of just sticking them with the house chores and apparatus cleaning. Others fall somewhere in the middle.
    IN THE MIDDLE????? In the middle of what? If you guys take all three of these approaches (including the middle) all you will have are a bunch of untrained, disrespectful, malcontents. I'm not saying they should not be given a crap job now and then but where in your question did you ask about making them firefighters.

    My personal opinion, let someone break their shoes but be sure there is another person mentoring them. Give them a lousy job, then take some time to show them some of your knowledge.

    Probies are not some toy thrown to the wolves. Probies are the guys that may pull your fat outta the fire someday, some sooner than later. I suggest you have your fun with them but take the responsibility to build them into a part of your company and teach them all the mistakes you made due to the lack of guidance you, so obviously, had.

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    Like E229Lt, said you can bust their chops a little but you need to also teach them what they were not shown in the academy and rookie class.

    We play tricks on all rookies....but that is the job. Just make sure that you mentor them and show them the ropes.
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    I've gotta agree with E229Lt- Try focusing on getting them trained in something useful- the BS with the toothbrush is just that-nothing more than BS. I don't believe pointless harrassment will help build a better firehouse. Assign each of them a mentor, who will tell them the stuff they didn't learn in Probie school, as well as the stuff that will keep their butts out of the wringer back in quarters.
    They will, in due course get their chops busted on a regular basis, That is as American as Apple Pie and Mom. Doing the household chores and equipment maintenance is a probably a pretty good way to see how good they follow direction, and learn the tools of the trade at the same time. The military likes to inflict mental stress to "simulate" the stress of combat- hence the hazing you see in basic training. But in the FD, I think your time would be better spent applying that princple in a training situation that will do them (and you) some good.

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    the career guys in our area, once they get out of the academy, are assigned a mentor, who teaches them stuff they don't get, and keeps them from screwing up too badly in the station. the probies do have to do a greater than normal share of the housework, and are not allowed to watch TV prior to 2100, but that depends on the shift captain. they are expected to try to get hte phone before it rings 3 times, and take part in any drill that is organized. they are also expected to do any duties taht are assigned to them by their mentor or the shift captain.

    we do play some tricks on the probies, but no more than we do to everyone else.
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    How do you establish discipline while giving new employees at least a minimum amount of respect?
    I know- why don't you try something new and treat them as an equal

    I think you'll find you'll get more out of them if you treat them fairly.
    Luke

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    Originally posted by scrappy78
    the career guys in our area, once they get out of the academy, are assigned a mentor, who teaches them stuff they don't get, and keeps them from screwing up too badly in the station.
    I'm partial to this approach. Don't assume that new guys even know how to mop a floor. Some will, some won't. A mentor should help teach the technical and mundane, traditions, why things are done in a certain way, etc. Leave the hazing to college fraternities (where it is also frowned on).
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