Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mini-Academy Selected Images

Several weeks ago, a group of ten was put through a three day mini-academy. The objectives were to orient the new people to our way of doing things, expose them to various crews and equipment and to evaluate how suitable the new people were going to be in our agency.

Remember, all of these people have graduated from a state certified fire academy, typically through a jr. college program. Regardless of their performance in this mini-academy, all will have to complete an 18 month probation period with very arduous tests at the six month and one year point in their career.

Right now, the numbers say that roughly a third of this group will be deemed not acceptable and will be seeking other employment before  their probationary period is up. That is a tragedy, not only for the newly unemployed, but for the unsuccessful candidate's crew and for the agency. The time and effort spent training new people is considerable. Despite our best efforts, some are just not capable of performing at a level that we expect our firefighters to perform at.

We have learned the hard way that as difficult as it might be, it is best for the organization if we weed out sub-standard employees during the probationary period rather than be stuck with them for thirty years or more. 'Nuff said on that.

This post isn't about our probation period, performance or policy. It is about the photography and the capturing of visual images of people working hard to achieve success. None of the images were posed for, all were taken while the new employees were performing various evolutions during the mini-academy. I don't know anything about any of the boots depicted in these photos, other than they all were polite and treated me with dignity and respect. Probably more than I deserved.

Teamwork is an important part of this gig. Can an employee work well with others, even under pressure and in trying circumstances?

Even simple tasks like loading and rolling hose can reveal issues with teamwork, skills and concept retention and the ability to receive direction. I noticed no problems with any of that stuff while shooting the photos.

The rookies are the ones without shields on their helmets. The guys with shields are peer instructors, each shift has a cadre of them. Frankly, the peer instructors carry a large load for the training division. Training would be in the hurt box without them.

Everyone buys in. Everyone. This is the probably the last time these rookies will perform manipulative drills in station pants and brush jackets. Shortly after this photo was taken, they went "full metal" and donned full structural PPE. That is how they will be adorned for all of their future drills as well.

As my first captain at the RFD used to say - "A day without drill is like a day without sunshine". Plenty of both here today, a perfect February day.

Pulling a metro-pack off of the cross-lay. Loading these properly is critical, it's the details that can mess you up.

Hustle was in abundance. A good thing.

Hopefully, I will be able to catch these guys slaying real dragons in the near future. Much more exciting than hosing down steel props.

I and most members of the department, wish these guys well and want them to succeed.  They looked like a well motivated group, hopefully their performance is as good as their motives.

Thanks for reading,



  1. Such a strange concept, coming from my area of the Other Coast. Short of getting arrested for a felony while on probation, I've never heard about a career firefighter not making it through probation- ever.

    May have something to do with the fact that in my area, most career probies are banished immediately to the driver's seat of an ambulance, where they're generally too busy to get into trouble.

    That, and there are no tests to pass to get off probation for any department that I know of- just survive, and keep your nose clean off-duty.

    I can't even imagine what the union negotiations for anything else look like.

  2. BH - It has been this way since long before I came on the job. Out here, probationary employees have minimal employment rights. They can be terminated for not meeting probationary standards, as long as adequate documentation of substandard performance exists.

    Trust me, it's not easy and it isn't something that we take lightly. By the time probation is over, a thick book is created documenting all aspects of a boot's performance.

    Though a major pain in the ass, it's worth it. No one wants to be stuck with a turd for thirty years. That creates far more work for everyone.

    Thanks for the comment.