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 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 simply 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 10 years of experience in volunteer, combination and career fire departments in California.Chris holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Associates of Science Degree in Fire Service Command Company Officer. He is a California State Fire Training certified Fire Officer, Driver-Operator, Fire Instructor, and Lead Firefighter I Certification Evaluator. Chris is an Adjunct Instructor in the California Community College System. He is a member and educator with the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Chris is an Advocate for the Everyone Goes Home Program through the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation.
You can contact Chris through his website:instructorchrisbaker.com