There are two-character traits that will help you stand out from the rest throughout the probationary period; those traits are maintaining a strong work ethic and taking the proper initiative. When it is time to go to work, you have to roll up your sleeves, because work is always the answer. Take the initiative when something needs attention around the firehouse. Don’t walk past any job that you can handle, especially the empty toilet paper rolls or the overflowing kitchen garbage can. The moment that you identify something that needs to be taken care of around the firehouse, nominate yourself to accomplish these simple tasks.
While in the probationary period, you must maintain a sense of urgency when you are performing work around the firehouse. When your officer or senior firefighter requests your presence, take the initiative, and move with a sense of purpose. There is a term called fire-ground pace in the fire service. A fire-ground pace is defined by moving with a sense of urgency. Start off probation by maintaining this sense of purpose and urgency in your movement. It is up to you to keep this fire-ground pace throughout the completion of the probationary period and beyond in your fire service career.
During an emergency call, move to the rig with a sense of purpose and wear your appropriate turnout gear. Take the initiative by locating the address on the map board and map out the call to help your fire apparatus engineer. Make sure and wear your ANSI approved traffic safety vest when working near or on the roadway. Always bunker up and buckle in for every call – Period. You are in charge of your own safety. Make sure and mask up if you are in an IDLH environment. Wear your appropriate personal protective equipment for the emergency. You have to lead yourself when selecting what to wear for each specific emergency. Purchase a pair of safety glasses for EMS related calls to protect your eyes from harmful exposures. Have these safety glasses with you at all times during EMS calls. Keep an extra pair of EMS gloves in your duty pants just in case you need an extra pair.
During the overhaul process of any incident, it is an opportunity for you to roll up your sleeves and go to work. This isn’t the time to go and hide. However, this is the time to maintain the important character trait of a strong work ethic. Be the first one to step forward and raise their hand when something needs to be done. When you return back to the firehouse after the call, several tasks need to be completed in order to return back to service. This is an opportunity for you to hustle and get ready for the next call. The community and the citizens you took an oath to protect are waiting for you to put the apparatus back in service. Move with a sense of purpose.
Take the initiative in maintaining a parade finish on your duty boots and take pride in your appearance. You have the best job in the world. Allow your duty boots to reflect just how proud you are of this opportunity to serve your community. You can learn a lot from someone just by looking at the finish on his or her duty boots. Make sure your gig line is always straight and wear your Class B Uniform shirt when necessary. The public is always watching. Be professional at all times, both on duty and off duty. You can’t simply take the badge off when you are off duty because you are always on duty.
You will start the process of earning the title of a firefighter with every action around the firehouse, on the training grounds and on the fire ground. Remember, work is always the answer. Take the initiative to lead yourself through the probationary process. Roll up your sleeves and find work around the firehouse. If by chance you have downtime while on duty, utilize that time to polish your duty boots.
Photo Courtesy: Andrew Starnes
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.