This is a profession where you have to make the commitment of becoming a lifelong learner. The fire academy is over, and now you have found yourself in the Jumpseat. Congratulations, you have arrived; however, the learning doesn’t stop at the completion of the recruit academy! The learning has just begun with the start of the probationary period. The main difference between the academy and the job is that you now have to distance yourself from the textbooks. The classroom is extremely important, and now you have to take what you learned within those four walls, and apply it to the street.
You will be issued a stack of textbooks; a task book sign-off binder and a punch list of everything that you have to complete, by the end of the probationary period. This is the time to lead throughout probation and learn time management, among many other things. In this profession, it is impossible to learn too much. Always keep the mindset of being a student of the fire service. The moment that you think you have learned everything about this profession, you will be humbled with an important lesson on humility.
It takes a perfect balance of education, certifications, time-in-grade as well as experience, to become a seasoned firefighter. The task book is the initial phase of the learning process in order to go from a recruit firefighter to an entry-level firefighter and beyond. It takes many years to receive the experience needed to be successful in this profession. The learning never ends if you want to be the best of the best. Be humble; keep your nose in the textbooks and your physical presence on the training grounds. The only way to successfully pass the probationary period is to learn about the job. This is the opportunity to ask questions from the instructor cadre. Take the initiative, and train like your life depends on it because in this profession it does.
Take charge of your own learning. No one is going to learn for you or teach you what he or she knows or has experienced. Hold yourself accountable and follow the course of the recruit task book. There will be deadlines that must be completed on a timely basis. Learn to prioritize and execute accordingly. You are in control of your own destiny. Don’t expect to have a senior member or an officer sign you off or “pencil whip” the task book process. Don’t settle for the easy or mediocre way of completing the task book. Be a professional and strive to do the best in every aspect of this profession!
You are a shell of the books you read, the podcasts you listen to, the fire service related magazines you thumb through, and the experiences you hear from the senior members of the profession. Take the time to absorb it all in, and keep the positive attitude of a student. There are a lot of training seminars and conferences that one can attend in this profession. The main priority right now is the recruit task book. There will be plenty of time to attend additional training at the completion of probation. The training doesn’t stop when you get the badge. The learning continues throughout every fire and incident you mitigate in this profession. The training seminars will be there to attend throughout the rest of your career. In my own opinion, it is essential to attend these training conferences on a consistent basis throughout your entire career.
Make sure to take care of yourself appropriately throughout the recruit-training period. Remember, you are in charge of how much sleep you receive every night. Learn the system that works best to be effective in the classroom and on shift in the Jumpseat. Also, remember to stay hydrated and maintain a quality level of nutrition. The limits of your mind will be explored and exploited in the completion of the recruit task book. Learn how you learn the best to be successful. Establish study groups with your fellow classmates for outside learning opportunities. This is time to develop future leadership skills and assist the other members in the recruit class.
Cover Photo: Author
Chris Baker, has over thirteen years of experience in volunteer, combination, and career, fire departments in California. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Associates of Science Degree in Fire Service Command, Company Officer. Chris is a California State Fire Training certified Fire Officer, Driver-Operator, Fire Instructor, and Lead Firefighter I Certification Evaluator. He has over nine years of teaching experience as an Adjunct Instructor in the EMS discipline, Firefighter 1 Academy Instructor, and Fire Science Instructor in the California Community Colleges System. Chris is a member of the California Fire Technology Directors’ Association and the California Training Officers Association. He served as a volunteer Peer Reviewer on the FY 2017 Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response Grants (SAFER) for both hiring and recruitment/retention. Chris also served as a Peer Reviewer on the FY 2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and the FY 2018 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG). He is a Volunteer Advocate Regional Manager, Region IX (CA, NV, AZ, HI) for the Everyone Goes Home Program through the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Chris also serves as a volunteer member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Safety, Health and Survival Section serving in their staging area. He was a member of the 2018 and 2019 Safety Stand Down committees. Chris is a member of the Board of Directors and Public Information Officer (PIO) for the National Fire Heritage Center located in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He is a National Fire Service Instructor teaching at notable fire conferences across the country including the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) International. Chris is the co-host of the Fire Engineering: The Future Firefighter Podcast, and he writes blog articles published through Firefighter Nation and the Fire Engineering Training Community on mentoring the future generations of the fire service.