OK, first post after cruising this site for quite a while. I couldn't any similar preexisting threads.
I am as new and green as they come. I just submitted my application for a suburban area VFD after years of hesitation. Hesitation mostly because I figured the local VFDs were swamped with people and, frankly, I was always a little intimitaded by the inevitable "clicky-ness" that you'd find in any established organization. After hearing from a volunteer that the department actually needed people and needed them bad, I put in my application three days later. No official word yet on my status (it takes a few weeks to clear all the background checks I've been told), but hopefully the initial processing will be as routine as they come. So far, everyone I've met there has been as nice as can be.
I just turned 40 and I work on computer networks for a living. I'm in OK shape but I need to hit the weights more often for sure! I've been doing as much reading as I can regarding the technical aspects of firefighting and reading forums such as this to get a general feel for how things actually are.
Does anybody have any suggestions on what I can do to better prepare myself to be as useful as possible to my department? Any links to good online or printed resources?
I'd like to hit the ground running with some semblance of being clued in! My goal is to be FF1 as soon as I can, and afterward, I guess I'll see what the department needs the most.
I already know I'm gonna be pranked and stuck with cleaning bathrooms, I'm OK with that! Many thanks in advance!
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08-05-2005, 09:23 PM #1
Help for someone not even a probie yet!
08-05-2005, 10:17 PM #2
- Join Date
- Nov 2004
- Richfield, NC
two words for you brother DROP TANK or anytime someone says hey is it raining and the sky is very very clear
I think your on the right track just remember you will never know everything.
08-06-2005, 12:43 AM #3
- Join Date
- Jun 2005
- Syracuse, NY, USA
I recently joined a local VFD. Getting off probation this coming Monday
It took two months for my final approval. I had to be approved by the FD at there monthly meeting then I had to be approved at the towns monthly meeting.
You may want to join a gym or at least start getting some low impact cardio exercise in. Physical strength isn't as important as good cardio health is. Doesn't matter how much you can bench press if your heart gives out.
There is a lot of good training info on firehouse.com I personally have learned a lot from firehouse.com. Firefighter training in print I don't think there is any substitute for IFSTA Essentials of Fire Fighting. This is also the book required for FF1 and many other classes.
Remember though there is no substitute for actually doing a task. So once youíre in make sure to attend as many practices as you can and ask questions.
Practice served me and the victims I helped today well. My department responded to a MVA with extraction necessary (My first of this type). Thanks to the practice I had with the tools I was able to perform the tasks needed without hesitation. I knew what needed to be done and how to do it.
Donít worry about not knowing anything when you start. It is expected. If you really want to be immediately helpful. Use the skills you already know. For example your computer skills. See if they need help in that area. I for example being a diesel mechanic put my skills to use performing routine maintenance and PM inspections on our apparatus.
In closing remember someone has to do, it if not you who?This is my opinion and in no way represtents the opinion of my department.
08-06-2005, 11:43 AM #4
- Join Date
- Jul 2003
- Plymouth Meeting, PA
Congratulations on taking your first step. I have been in the fire service for almost 15 years now, however I do remember when I first submitted my application. Yes, it was a little intimitadating.
From reading your post, I think that you are doing the right thing by reading as much as you can and viewing these forums. Until you have the opportunity to get your hands on the equipment, more you read the better understanding you will have to use the equipment. However, I stress on learning more about the basics than anything.
Just be yourself and offer your help. I have seen a lot of individuals get involved in the "clicks". If you are not usually associated with clicks, then you probably would not get sucked in.
08-06-2005, 12:45 PM #5
- Join Date
- May 2005
I'm a computer guy too, about 4 months farther down the road (and a dozen years older) than you are now. You said:
"My goal is to be FF1 as soon as I can, and afterward, I guess I'll see what the department needs the most."
That's what I thought, too, but found I had the priorities backward. The goal is to see what the department needs the most. You may find that another FF1 is not on the top of the list! I've found there is no shortage of young(er) guys with FF1 and lots of experience eager to run into a burning structure when we have an incident, but that there are also a ton of necessary tasks that don't require FF1 certification. Jobs like driving the apparatus, monitoring the pumper, filling the tankers, rolling hose, swapping out SCBA bottles and cleaning up are also critical. The FF1 inside is in deep trouble if he runs out of water.
Take every opportunity to ask questions. Go over apparatus and equipment and learn where it is kept and how it works. Help with routine maintenance on the apparatus. Empty the washer and dryer. If you see something that needs doing, and you know how, do it. If you don't know how, ask someone to show you. If you don't know what needs doing, ask how you can help. Early on the answer will be "stay out of the way," but that will quickly change as you learn your way around and the guys get some confidence in your commitment and dependability.
As to advance prep, I read a borrowed copy of Essentials cover to cover my first month. Then I bought my own copy and am half way through the second read. Just reading it won't teach you how to do things, but will certainly help you understand what you see during drills and at incidents.
08-06-2005, 04:17 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jun 2001
- Lawng Eyeland, New Yawk, USA
Good luck with your application...sounds like you're on the right track. THE most simple yet sound advice I can offer is this...keep your eyes & ears OPEN and your mouth SHUT. If someone tries to show you something, even if you
know it already ("ok, probie, this here is a hose & water comes out of it"), just nod politely & say thanks for the info. Don't try to impress other FF's with what you know, they'll see your true abilities in time through your actions.
You'll gain plenty of valuable info about this business OVER TIME (and you never stop learning)...while the book learning is an important to build the base knowledge, practical application is by far the best teacher. Remember to try to adapt to the situation at hand...remember to think outside the box if needed...just remember the motto "Improvise, Adapt & Overcome"...works for me & I pass this on when I teach new guys coming up...
Just my 2 cents..hope it helps..Stay Safe...
08-07-2005, 04:23 AM #7
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
- S. Jersey/Northern Delaware
My Friend you have entered or about to enter a very special breed of individuals -- Firefighters -- I entered this business at 18 years old and now 17 years later I'm still learning this business as both a Volunteer and a Career FIrefighter.
Like already posted keep your eyes open and absorb all that you can. Welcome to the Fire Service
08-07-2005, 11:50 AM #8
08-07-2005, 02:44 PM #9
- Join Date
- Mar 2005
I'm 19 and I am a probie...
My mom's dad was a fire chief for a great department, and then my mom always wanted to be a firefighter and never did anything about it. If it's something you want to do, go for it and I'm glad to hear that you did after "years of hesitation".
I was pretty nervous/hesistant about applying as well. My home is the same distance to three departments so I just decided to start out with the smallest one and I am loving it so far.
I don't really have any advice for you, since I am new to this as well, but all the best to you.2005 Pontiac Wave 5 Hatch
Pontiac... built for drivers
08-07-2005, 09:24 PM #10
Please don't get on and quit 1 or 2 months down the road because its not what you thought. It will get a lot closer to your predetermined notion. It seems like here lately for every 5 that join only 1 sticks around. We try our best to educate them right off the bat about what to expect, but they are more interested in being heros. One of the new guys first thing he said was "how long before I can run into a burning house and start saving people?" Training, training, and more training. Let the others know you are serious,and you have a good head on your shoulders. The more they respect your abilities and trust you the more you will get to do. I don't know about how your department is set up but it may be a year or two before you get the training and certs to make entry. On scene always be willing to assist with anything, being the gopher geting tools or the fan, changing out bottles. Go to the station and clean-up, wash trucks and the like without being told. Doing the jobs that have to be done that knowbody likes. EASY way to earn some respect.Just my humle two cents. I know that doesn't mean much.
08-08-2005, 12:28 PM #11
- Join Date
- Mar 2004
- Memphis Tn,USA-now
I've been on my vfd for two years now and have just turned 40.
If you've been keeping your nose clean,you shouldn't have any problem with the background check.It's no worse than buying a firearm.
Though not an officer,I've overheard the chuckles they have when interviewing a new prospective member about the responses they get on the question of"Why do you want to be a volunteer firefighter?"
It's usually a variant of my response which was taken more or less directly from "The Untouchables"where Sean Connery was interviewing recruits to help out Special Agent Ness.Not expecting a why question,I stammered out"Uh,well,uh uh,I could help."Apparently getting my brain into gear and finally admitting to have been trained in shipboard firefighting by the Navy and had skills that could be used in a rural area with numerous riverboats passing through the district was acceptable.
I have a reputation that whenever the Chief mentions a school or a training meeting at a neighboring department,I have my hand up,my bags packed and am climbing into a vehicle to ride over there.
You'll have to put in a lot of effort to get started in this part time job but it is well worth it when you start hearing officers say"Well,I reckon we can make a firefighter out of him."You'll see what I mean soon enough.
Just don't expect that they'll be turning you loose right away to work the nozzle.At first,you will be learning more than actually doing but that will change as they get to know you and what you can and cannot do on a fireground.
Best advice anyone gave me was to show up for the scheduled details and use that time to learn what equipment is on what truck and where it is stowed.
I won't claim to know without fail where each item is but I have a 50/50 chance at getting the correct side to start looking on.
As a last piece of advice,reporters love when they find a new guy on the fire ground.Before you tell them what all happened,learn who the department designates as the PIO and politely direct them to that worthy.
It'll save a lot of trouble as all you could do is talk about what you did,even if it's not the whole story.You also will avoid giving out incorrect information.
Last edited by doughesson; 08-08-2005 at 12:32 PM.
08-08-2005, 02:39 PM #12
- Join Date
- Feb 2005
My experience is very simular to yours. I always wanted to join but couldn't devote the time needed. Finally, last November, after moving to a small town in a new state, I decided to do it.
I sent in my application and after waiting 7 weeks, I decided to stop in during drill night to find out what was going on. I did not know anyone in our town or the FC. I can definatly relate to your apprehension about breaking into this new environment with all of the stuff that is specialized ...and... being green and all that. I'm 46 and like you don't want to get into the clickes and have that feeling of bewilderment about the fire service. So when I was accepted, I started right away trying to learn as much as possible in as short a time as possible.
Those who tell you that there is much to learn are 100% correct. You will make mistakes. However, I encourage you to take as many classes as you can if it doesn't interfear with your other responsibilities in life. Making FF1 your immediate goal I think is a good idea.
As i said, I started last Nov and didn't take any state classes until March. As of today, I have completed 125 hours of state training including Essentials. I'm taking FF1 exam at the end of September so if all goes well it will be less than one year from total newbie to FF1. This is way faster than anyone else in my FC has done this.
It is true that after you have been in the service for a few months you will be better able to decide what jobs you are interested in. Being FF1 certified doesn't make you an expert in anything, even if only a small percentage of the guys in your dept are FF1. FF1 is a general all around basic knowledge indicator. You will do little in FF1 with vehicle rescue (for example) and you will not learn how to run the pumps, drive trucks and so forth. You will learn how to put out a fire and you should be interior certified.
I really believe that you will be glad that you decided to commit to FF1. You will quickly learn that guys that have been in the service for many years but didn't take the classes will never stop, fall back and regroup. Guys with 10 years don't want to spend a day raising and lowering ground ladders but there is a right and wrong way to do it. I say go for it.
08-08-2005, 04:20 PM #13
- Join Date
- May 2005
I agree with whoever said use your skills to help out. Each person has their own set of skills that set them apart from others.
I just got back into the fire service recently (4 mos or so now) I was an EMT for 5 years and a volunteer firefighter for a year but had no training. I had 10 years off and just got back into it. The best thing you can do is have innitiative. Ask a lot of questions, show that you are willing to learn by asking an experienced FF to show you some equipment or ask how/why something is done. That is the best way to learn.
I live by a simple motto with EMS/Fire related stuff.
See one, do one, teach one.
After that stuff sticks in your memory pretty good.
Example: Say you want to learn how to strap on an SCBA.
Have someone show you the first time. Then you do it yourself. Then you teach someone else (could be the same guy that showed you) how to put it on. By that time you should have it down pat.
Hope this all helps
Garfield Twp. Fire Department
08-08-2005, 09:56 PM #14
This is all exactly what I needed, so thank again!
I'm seeing a few recurring themes here: Ask, Show Initiative, Then shut up
I can't wait to start.
08-09-2005, 10:47 PM #15
- Join Date
- Jun 2005
- Syracuse, NY, USA
Also don't pee in peoples cheerios at least for a little while. (Boy I really need to take my own advice) I ticked off all three chiefs last night and the president. Not really a good thing for someone still on probation.This is my opinion and in no way represtents the opinion of my department.
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