My first day as a firefighter was full of anticipation and excitement. I was not disappointed. After meeting with the chief in charge of the shift, I drove to my first station and met with him to be introduced to the station officer and crew. Within 30 minutes of arriving the bell went off and I was on my way to my first working fire. It would happen two more times that first shift. After 24 hours I was wondering what I got myself into. After that first hectic shift, things settled down and I was able to start learning the ropes, literally in some cases. The fire academy taught me the basics and how to stay safe. Learning the “department way” was another school in itself. Following is a list of some things I learned along the way during my first year. At that time no one thought to tell the “new guy” anything that would help him to achieve a long and rewarding career.
- Always be the first one out the door to start station work. Always be the last one done.
- Always show up to work at least a half-hour early.
- The phone will always be for you, answer it first.
- Always listen more than you speak. A lot more. This is one job where being silent and appearing a fool is better that speaking and removing all doubt. You will learn more too.
- Leave the cell phone in your locker. You really shouldn’t have time to use it.
- Always be the last in the chow line. You will be a veteran someday and will expect the new guys to do the same.
- When at a new station always make sure you don’t sit in someone else’s chair at the dinner table. And yes, you will have your own someday.
- Always be the first one out the door when responding to an emergency.
- You will find that firefighting is the hardest job you will ever do, for 30 minutes at a time.
- Really love the fire service and the job you do. The fire service needs dedicated people of strong character, firefighters who are passionate about helping others and willing to make sacrifices day in and day out to become proficient at firefighting and EMS work.
- Somewhere along the way you made a conscious decision to join the fire service. You should know what is expected of you and that you are held to a higher standard by the public you serve.
- Be Humble; never be afraid to ask for help or admit you don’t know something. This will keep you on the path to success and may keep you alive.
- Attitude. Thomas Jefferson once said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude”. In the end, Attitude is everything. If you don’t approach this job with the right attitude at the beginning, the end result will never be what you want, and maybe this is not the job you need to be in.
- There are no shortcuts to becoming a knowledgeable firefighter. It takes time and you will more than likely go through some internal changes over the course of your career. This is not a job for those that only want instant gratification. There are some things in life that you just can’t rush.
- Expect that you will receive education for the rest of you career. Training, training, training. It can and does save lives.
- Don’t be so eager to get off probation. The time you spend riding backwards will probably be the most fun you ever have.
- Take pride in your profession and in your station and crew.
- If you carry more than one knife, WHY?
- Always be careful how you word your e-mails. You can’t take it back.
- Learn your territory. Know it like the back of your hand.
- You are what you do. Not what you say.
- Never defend the liar, the cheat, or the thief.
Always, always, always remember that ours is a noble profession and that is what makes you a firefighter. No other job is like it. No other job will give you the same satisfaction. Treated properly this job will build your confidence, your self-esteem, and will even stroke your ego (We all have one).
These are but a few suggestions and I’m sure there are a many more. I wish I had at least these before I walked through the door for the first time.
Most important – Stay Safe, Everyone Goes Home!!