Thursday, August 6, 2009

First Day at the Kinda Big Fire Protection District.

Welcome FF Newby. I'm Captain Schmoe and I will be your supervisor for the next 6 months or so.

I am sure you have a lot of questions, but we have a tremendous amount of material that we need to cover today. I will ask if you have any questions periodically, so just save your questions until then.

Grab your safety gear and meet me on the apparatus floor. Well Newby, I am sure your mom does call it the garage, but here we call it the apparatus floor.

This is your seat, it is called the #4 spot. Put your gear here, so you can get to it quickly and you can keep track of it. Any time you are on the rig, you are to wear your seat belt. There are no exceptions to this. If you do not wear your seat belt, a little bell goes off and a red light flashes on the dash. I will know exactly who isn't strapped in. The little green head set there is yours. It allows me to communicate with you, and if I should want it, it allows you to communicate with me. Leave the microphone off, If we need to hear you say something, we'll let you know.

You are to stay in your seat until you are directed to get off of the rig, or at the scene of an emergency, until you hear Cyndi set the spring brakes. Unless directed otherwise, just follow The Prince and do what he tells you.

Any time the rig is going to back up, you will be the back up man. Cyndi will tell you to dismount, at which time you will get off of the rig and go to the rear. Your mission at that point will be to act as another set of eyes so we don't back into anything.

Do you have that nifty little notebook that they told you to get? Good. Now write down your first assignment: 1. Learn the six basic hand signals that apply to safe backing. 2. Get with Cyndi and find out how she wants you back her up. Do you have any issues with taking directions from a woman? No? That's good. Don't get on Cyndi's bad side, she will tear you up. 3. Be prepared to demonstrate the information you obtained about backing at roll call next shift.

Now, lets go into the kitchen. Still have your notebook out? Good write all of this down, I only want to go over this once.

This is your domain. Every firefighter that has come before you has served in the kitchen. You must keep the sink clear, the counters clear and clean and the table neat and tidy. This means all of the time. In addition, the floor will be mopped, the stove wiped down and the counters wiped after each meal. It is your job to run the dishwasher and empty it as needed. You are also responsible to ensure that our fridge and our cabinet gets cleaned out on the first and last shift of each cycle. If those C shift weasels try to pawn off their three day old salad on us let me know and I will dump it back in their fridge.

You need to make sure that the salt, pepper sugar and creamer gets filled every morning and that the paper towel stand is placed on the table before each meal.

Now the most important part of the kitchen. This is the Bunn VPR coffee maker. I know that you read tha Fire Geezer BLOG, and I know that the Geeze makes coffee while the crew checks out the rig. It's not like that here, you and you alone are responsible for making sure that there is always fresh coffee available, at least until noon. After that, check and see if anyone still wants coffee. Don't ever let me see the Chief making coffee, it won't be good for either of us.

I know that this is hard to believe, but you will be judged as a firefighter partly on how well you keep the kitchen. I suggest that you hook up with Ricketts and pick up a few pointers, you don't want to screw this up.

No Newby, I don't think it would be a good idea for your mom to bring you dinner. We usually have community chow. You will learn how to cook sooner or later.

We are not like the Very Big City Fire Dept. We will allow you to eat with us at the table. Those knuckle draggers make their boots eat at the tailboard out of a dog bowl. That's just mean. We, above all else are an organization based on love. Tough love, but love none the less.
Lets go into the office and start the formal stuff.

O.K. Newby, I know you're probably a little nervous. I know I was. Here's the deal: Our probation is flat out tough. I will not deny that. But, it is not impossible. Every person that you have met who wears our badge has had the same doubts and fears as you have. They have all succeeded, just as I have. If I made it, the odds are you can too.

You may know some of this stuff, but I have to document that I have explained it to you. Our probationary period is one year. During that year, you can be terminated for failure to meet probationary standards. These standards have both objective and subjective components.
You will be given a written test at the 5 month and at the 11 month point. Each test is about 200 questions and will cover IFSTA manuals, district S.O.P.s, District Information Sheets and manipulative lesson plans. In addition, you will have to know the unit inventory and be able to completely fill in a district map by the 5 month test and you will have to be able to outline the Fire Code by your 11 month test. You must pass these written tests with a score of 80%. If you score below 80% on either of these tests, you will be terminated.

In addition to the written tests, you will be given a practical exam at the 6 month and the 12 month point. You will be tested on the various evolutions that are outlined in your probationary manual. The evolutions will be run one after the other, with occasional breaks for rehydration. I know you are not used to the climate here, so you will need to work on increasing you ability to work in the heat and altitude that we have.

The practicals usually last 4 to 5 hours. While performing the evolutions, the examiners will be asking you questions about the evolution, equipment and procedures. This is to see if you can still think and speak when you are tired.
You must complete the practical exams with a score of 80%. You are allowed to fail one evolution, but remember that the average score for all evolutions must be at least 80%, so it is vital that you get as many points on each evolution. Again, if your final score is below 80 or if you fail two events, back to the ambulance company you go.

You are responsible to learn an incredible amount of information. All of your spare time here at work should be spent in the books. I will make sure that you get enough drill time to master all of the practical evolutions, but the written stuff you are responsible for.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a subjective component to your performence as well. Attitude, adaptability, ability to work under pressure, descision making ability are all things that I have to evaluate while determining your ability to work here.

All aspects of your performance will be documented on a daily basis, both good and bad. Each shift, I will make entries in your probationary outline that will address the training you were provided, your perfromance and whether it met our expectations. Subjective notes will be entered as well. I will retain control of your book, although you may make copies of the daily entries. I will have you sign the daily notes each day, so there won't be any surprises.

Ricketts or Prince will probably give you a sheet titled "Expected Rookie Behavior" or something like that. Use it as a guideline for your actions while on duty. However, there are a few things on there that I do not want you to do. When they give it to you, bring it to me and I will cross out the things I have a problem with.

Okay, we still have a lot more to cover, but you need to check the coffee status and learn how to do the dailys. Make a fresh pot real quick and then get with the Prince to do the daily checks.
One last thing. I heard about your little send off from the ambulance company, the shin-dig over at O'Malleys. I also heard you may have had a little too much beer and that you were running your mouth off about working here. You gotta be careful, people don't like that kind of behavior, especially from a boot who hasn't worked a shift yet. You don't need that kind of publicity. You need to keep a low profile, both on and off the job.

My advice to you is to keep your ears open and your mouth shut. Please, whatever you do, don't tell us how you got it done at the Little Bitty Volunteer Fire Dept.

You better check the coffee.

Thanks for reading,



  1. Cap,

    Very well done, but,

    Your comprehensive outlining of expectations will deny the other members of the house , on all shifts, the opportunity to complain about all the things the probie should have been doing that he didn't know he was responsible for. That is a favorit past time at our place, don't tell the guy anything and then blame him for not knowing what he hasn't been taught.

  2. Yeah Anon, we as an industry have a habit of eating our own young. I try to use a team approach on training our rookies, this, in my opinion, usually produces a better product and increases buy-in on the perceived performance of our rookies.

    Also, the "Expected Rookie Behavior" list that I mentioned in the post actually originated from the "Great Big City Fire Dept." and is pretty explicit in desired rookie behavior. I have to edit it however, as it is rather draconian in some areas.

    All of this however, does not completely eliminate the need for some people to complain about rookie performance, it's just too entertaining for them.

    Thanks Anon for the comment.

  3. "Yeah Anon, we as an industry have a habit of eating our own young."

    LOL, we say(said?) the same thing about nursing. I jumped out of the bedpan and into the fire! ({groan})
    Great advice and a good read as always, Sir!
    FN Dave
    P.S. Nice mug! I once got to deliver water from a hydrant to the Susquehanna's excursion Steam loco, but all I got was a lump of coal...

  4. We had a station here in the City that made the medic van crew sit at a separate table for chow until one of the old time medics pushed his way in and sat down.

    Great run down of the first day, I like it.

    Stay safe,

  5. Captin -

    What the heck is the big red button to the right of the stove in your kitchen?

  6. Regarding the big red button next to the stove. It is an emergency gas shut-off that operates the stove and the gas grill. It is part of a system that automatically shuts off the gas supply to both appliances when our station tones activate. To the right of the button is a key switch that we must turn to reset the system when we come back from a call. The big red button is used if we catch the grill or the stove on fire.

    In short the button is to keep us from burning down our own station!!

  7. Well done, Cap'n. This is a well-thought-out account of how to get the probie going in the right direction starting with his first day on the floor.

  8. MY only criticism is that you didn't (or at least you didn't document it in your blog) tell the probie what you expect from him on a fire or EMS run. Having been a rookie in the not so distant past it's a bit discouraging to get the long list of chores you're supposed to perform but not get any forewarning as to how things should go down on a run. Like am I on the nozzle or do I catch the plug. What line do I pull ? etc. etc. You know the kind of stuff that makes you feel like a fireman and not "just" the kitchen help !
    Other than that.............t'was good.
    Dave O

  9. Well Dave O, I understand you point, but if I had had written all of the stuff that I have to go over on the first day, you would either still be reading the post, or more likely, you would be asleep from boredom. The first day is grueling for both the newby and the captain. We are issued a four or five page document that has a ton of stuff that has to be gone over and signed before they are even supposed to respond to calls.

    You know, exciting stuff like how to put on your gloves, how to buckle your seat belt, how to call in sick, how to wear your hood.

    In practice however it usually takes a couple of shifts to wade through that stuff, so we go over the important stuff first and hope that they don't call in sick on their second shift.

    Also, the statement "Follow the Prince and do what he tells you" kind of covers roles, especially for the first few cycles.

    You were kidding about "Am I on the nozzle or do I catch the plug?" weren't you? I mean really, if I let a first-day boot take the knob, I would have a revolt on my hands. A bloody coup as it were.

    It takes a year for our folks to be considered as firefighters. They have to earn that, it is not given. While we don't want them to feel like kitchen help, they need to know that they have only earned the opportunity to try to be a Kinda Big F.P.D. firefighter.

    There are more than a few, who have not met our organizational standards. So many, that I have forgotten most of them. Some went back to their old jobs, others were on other lists and now work for other agencies. There were some who just weren't cut out for the job and didn't figure it out until they had wasted years of their lives preparing for it.
    A few were just turds who sank to the bottom of the bowl and were flushed away.

    Thanks for commenting.

  10. Interesting. Most rookies in my area spend their first [insert time to next academy class here] years riding an ambulance. They don't have time to study for tests on fire codes. On some jobs it'd be a tall order even if they managed to score an engine slot.

  11. Brendan - We don't transport, so all of our rookies go to an engine. It is a tall order, especially for the ones who end up at a really busy house. I guess that's what days off are for.
    Thanks for the comment.

  12. What a great post, respect!

    It should be shared as an example in Fire Officer I training courses.


  13. Hey Capt, great post. I watched a lot of newbies on their first day in the station. Scared little chickadees most of them. You could see their faces crumble when they found out they weren't riding with the engine for at least the first week.
    Sometimes if I felt generous (generous being tied to how cute they were) I'd let them ride with us in the Ambu since they were EMTs also.

    Just an FYI...I have Firefox at home and I couldnt comment before because Blogger does not like firefox with the "comment as" dropdown box.

    Why dont I download Internet Explorer you ask?? Because my laptop is fragile and I dont make any sudden moves with it for fear of screwing the whole system and not having internet at home at all.

    So I have to wait till I get to work where I have IE and can comment. If I get fired for reading and commenting on your blog I'll be looking for a job. Make sure you have an application ready for me. But I wont be able to tell you I got fired cause I'll be home and not have IE. So if I disappear forever, you know why. Just sayin.

    muah. peedee.

  14. Mike, thanks for the kind words, you guys over at rock!

    peedee - Sorry you are having trouble commenting with firefox. I tried it at home and at my day-off gig both with firefox and it seems to work. Maybe try re-installing firefox?

    Thanks for the comments.