LET ME BE THE FIRST TO SAY,
"WELCOME TO VALPO FIRE"
ADVICE FOR THE NEW FIREFIGHTER
The fire service is going through unprecedented turnover due to the Baby Boom generation retiring. Hiring is at an all-time high.
The downside is, we are losing an entire generation of experienced firefighters. Most had military experience; as a result, their work ethic, motivation, and esprit d’corps served as an excellent example for rookies.
With these personnel gone, firefighters with only three or four years experience may be thrust into the unfamiliar position of being the most experienced person on the job – the “Bull Firefighter.” As such, he or she must serve as a role model to new hires.
This information is based on years of instruction that was given to me several years ago by my senior firefighter. I have shared it dozens of times with other firefighters, and it has served them well. Now I will pass it on to you.
I’ll always remember what the drill instructor told me on the last day of academy: “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” Since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking about ways to make a positive first impression – hopefully, one that will last your entire career.
After receiving your initial assignment, you should probably visit the fire station before your first shift. This offers several advantages over showing up the morning of your first day of work. Among them:
• Locating the fire station ahead of time ensures you won’t get there late on your
first day because you got lost.
• It’s advantageous to become familiar with the firehouse in advance. Where do you
park? Is there a gate and, if so, will you need a key? Will you be issued a station
key? Where should you put your turnouts, and what time should you arrive?
• You can talk with the other rookie(s) to learn the morning routine and find out what
duties need to be completed before line-up. For example, what time is the flag
raised? When is the paper brought in and coffee started? Find out any other special
information that may pertain to that particular station, and ask for a tour.
• Don’t forget the importance of becoming familiar with the apparatus on which you
will be riding. You are going to be a vital part of that apparatus and its crew. Know
it; live it; learn it.
When you show up on this reconnaissance mission, be sure to bring ice cream or another treat with you. This will go a long way with the crew.
When your actual first day of work arrives, it is a good idea to show up in uniform (and carrying donuts). Be nice and early.
The absolute first priority is to find out which apparatus you will be riding on and where. Once you have learned this information, relieve the person in that seat and check over the apparatus thoroughly.
My suggestion is, once you have put your turnouts on the rig, immediately check your breathing apparatus and all its functions. If someone should ask you the pressure in the bottle, you should know it!
Now go through the rest of the rig with the same resolve. Your life, as well as the other members of your crew and the citizens you are sworn to protect, depends on this equipment.
Here is something else to consider: If your fire station has multiple rigs, you should know them all. At a moment’s notice, you just might be temporarily assigned to another piece of apparatus.
Once you have completed these tasks, make sure to get right to your daily duties. Finish them expeditiously.
When the captain calls line-up, be the first one in the kitchen. While you’re waiting for the other members to arrive, straighten up the kitchen and start serving coffee. Be the last one seated, and provide service throughout the line-up.
It just doesn’t look good for you to stand around while a senior member of the crew serves coffee. We’ve all had our “day in the sun,” and now it’s your turn.
Once line-up is done, start working on the weekly duty. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do.
If at any time a run comes in, make sure you are the first one on the rig. Write down the address and the nature of the call.
It’s not uncommon for other crewmembers to say, “Where are we going, and what is it for?” This is especially true if the department doesn’t have MDT’s. The point is, if they ask and you have the information, it’s Brownie Points for you.
When you have completed your daily and weekly duties, what is next? This is a good time to ask other crewmembers if they need assistance with anything. If they don’t, it’s time to go through the rigs again and again.
What kind of impression will you make if a piece of equipment is requested and you don’t know where it is? You know the answer to that! I can’t stress enough the importance of not only knowing where everything is, but what it is and how to use it.
As a rookie, you’re under the microscope. In other words, you’re going to be scrutinized throughout your probation.
The following are some general guidelines for not only making a good first impression, but also creating a reputation you can be proud of your entire career:
• Introduce yourself to everyone. Don’t wait to be asked who you are.
• Don’t be afraid of mistakes! If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not learning.
• Never give up your tools. If someone asks to borrow them, inform the person that
as soon as you have completed your initial task you will be happy to assist him or her.
• Always answer the phone.
• Show initiative – do things without being told.
• Do one extra task per day for your station or apparatus.
• Be seen but not heard.
• If you’re not sure if you should be in full PPE, err on the side of caution and fully suit
• Be the last one to bed and the first to rise.
• Prepare completely for drills. Remember, the rest of the crew has heard the drill
numerous times. Do everything possible to give them some new information they
may not have heard before.
• Always give 110%. You want others to tell you to slow down, not speed up.
• Remember, if they want your opinion, they will give it to you!
A career in the fire service is a privilege - so no complaining about being interrupted during dinner or after you go to sleep. When you are given what you feel is a tough or crummy assignment, remember that you don’t “have” to do it, you “get” to do it. Never forget that!
Being a rookie is not an easy task. The fire service is filled with old traditions and quirky nuances, but if you start with these simple guidelines, you’re sure to create outstanding habits and make a terrific first impression. Believe it or not, you’ll probably look back on your probation as the greatest time of your life!
Probationary Firefighter Expectations and Advice.
Review the PowerPoint presentation provided by firefighter Collinsworth;
Below is highly recommended traits to develop. The information will assist you in making your first year successful and enjoyable. Make sure you read it, understand it, live it.
- Morning work begins at 7am sharp. Highly recommended to start earlier.
- Answer the phone whenever possible. Recommend sitting near a phone.
- No remote control in hand prior to 5pm.
- No sleeping in recliners prior to 5pm.
- Always relieve officers or senior personnel of light duty work. (mops,dusting,etc)
- Always ask questions about equipment.
- Go through trucks every morning be ready prior to 8am.
- Stay tuned to your surroundings. If something is needed go get it. Do not wait to be told.
- Arrive early to work, check trucks, check your gear, etc.
- Make coffee in a.m. Always check to see if anyone needs a refill.
- Learn to reset station system after a call then reset it throughout the day.
- During morning clean up be the first to clean the bathrooms. Always do the work that nobody wants to do.
- Study books throughout the day. Always have a book in hand during down time.
- When tone goes off be the first at the map and know where you are going.
- When Battalion Chief visits your station or enters the room ask if there is anything he needs done. Generally he is delivering something to a station.
- No CELL PHONES while duties need to be performed or during training.
- Never wait to be told what needs to get done. Anticipate it then do it!
- Throughout the day ask officers if anything you can do.
- Take Initiative!
- Know what your responsibilities are prior to a call. Don't know ask.
- Address your officer appropriately and respect senior personnel.
- Understand Parameters, SOP's, etc..
- Be positive
- Follow chain of command.
- Find a routine.
- Do not complain about responding to calls.
- When assigned task by YOUR Officer follow through. If approached by another Officer/Chief and they ask you to do something (other than life rescue task in this case notify your Officer). Explain to them that you are completing an order by YOUR Officer. This maintains scene discipline and removes free-lancing.
- Clean your dishes as soon as your done eating. Never leave dirty dishes in the sink.
- Be the first to shovel snow. Show initiative
- On a call, make sure you have a tool when getting off a truck
- Check back often adding more soon.
Valparaiso FD Mentoring Program
FORMAL MENTORING PROGRAM
A formal mentoring program offers a structured approach to developing
firefighters’ talents and abilities. A formal mentoring process capitalizes on
the experiences of successful firefighters (mentors) in the organization who
are committed to helping develop a highly skilled, high performing
workforce. Having the wise counsel and advice of an experienced colleague
can help the firefighter recruits handle difficult situations, accelerate their
development, and avoid some of the pitfalls that can derail a career or delay
MENTORING PROGRAM GOALS
The desired outcome is to
develop a stronger firefighting workforce and foster a learning culture.
The goals of the VFD Mentoring Program are to:
• Enhance communication and collaboration at all levels.
• Foster an open environment where information is shared.
• Foster an environment that promotes the transfer of knowledge.
• Improve individual motivation, performance and innovation.
• Take charge of their careers.
• Grow personally and professionally by taking advantage of
resident corporate knowledge.
• Gain a broader view of firefighting and how his/her work impacts
• Increase visibility and gain exposure to organizational values,
relationships and business.
• Understand the needs of firefighter recruits and the organization
• Gain a fresh perspective on their work and the value of helping
• Share their knowledge and expertise with others through
• Develop potential leaders in their respective fire departments.
The Mentoring Program is open to any firefighter regardless of rank. The
Mentor must have prior firefighter one certification. Participation will be on a
The Mentoring Program has been designed to expose firefighter recruits to a
variety of learning experiences yet is flexible enough to be fire-tuned to each
individual’s own developmental needs.
Mentors have the opportunity to share their knowledge, experience, and
insight, give back to the organization, and build trust through increased
communication. Since participation in the Mentoring Program is voluntary,
volunteer mentors with expertise and commitment to the mentoring process
are essential to the program. The roles and responsibilities of the mentors
• Demonstrate a willingness to commit to the mentoring process.
• Assist in developing and monitoring the mentee’s Mentoring Action
• Participate in meeting(s) with mentee and mentee’s supervisor to
• Give feedback on mentoring progress and design to the FTO
Instructors or Division Chief of Training.
Mentees who participate in the Mentoring program will receive an
opportunity to form a partnership with someone who can provide feedback
on strengths, shortcomings, and possible impacts on career choices or
aspirations. Mentees can gain a better understanding of the department and
culture in which they work. The roles and responsibilities of the mentee are
• Take initiative and be proactive in his/her career development.
• Develop a mentoring contract/agreement with the mentor that clarifies
the expectations of the mentoring partnership.
• Show willingness to meet/connect with mentor on a regular agreed
upon basis during normal working hours.
• Keep instructors informed of mentoring progress and schedule to
ensure that it does not conflict with assignments and priorities.
• Participate in open and honest discussions with mentor.
• Develop a Mentoring Action Plan (MAP) with mentor.
• Maintain MAP and discuss progress with mentor.
• Give feedback on mentoring progress.
Your assigned Mentor is; Firefighter/ Paremedic Robert Cree
Your assigned Field Training Officer is; __________________