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Where Do I Start To Become A Future Firefighter?

(Photo Credits: Mark Tabay, Fresno City College, Public Information Officer).

As Fire Science Instructors and Fire Technology Directors, we are frequently asked by perspective fire academy candidates, "what fire academy should I attend?"  Our response is usually a series of questions for the prospective future firefighter.  Where do you reside?  Where is your community located?  Where do you want to serve as a firefighter?  Where does your family live?  Where will you have a stable support system established?

There are several State Fire Marshal accredited academies in California.  Our suggestion is finding a location that can support you during one of the hardest and most challenging college semesters you will ever experience.  Having a support system is quintessential and vital in having a successful experience during this grueling process of becoming a firefighter. Build a network of people who support your journey and finding those that can mentor you along the way can be the difference between success and failure. Start by being open and upfront with your family about the challenges you will face and what you need from them to finish. The level of commitment required for the fire academy isn't something that you can take for granted. The fire academy will consume your whole life for at least six months, and you will have no free time.

The level of preparation before the academy is just as important as during the academy.  You have to be in top physical condition before you embark on this journey. Many academies require candidates to pass a physical fitness assessment or hold a current candidate physical ability test (CPAT) card as a pre-requisite to starting the academy. To prepare, try various fitness activates such as running, high-intensity training, and functional fitness programs. Many basic fire academies include a run of 1.5 miles, pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, or a combination of fire ground movements as a standard entry assessment. The start of your day during the academy is as early as 4:30 AM and somedays you might leave the drill grounds at approximately 7:30 PM in the evening. Both of us can recall studying for exams till midnight and only receiving four hours of sleep per night. The weekends are not days off; however, they are full days of continuous self-improvement and preparation for future firefighter skills examinations.

 

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The Future Firefighter: Fire Engineering Blog Talk Radio Show with Dr. Harry Carter

Live from FDIC 2018: Day Five

The Value of Education in the Fire Service

 

“I have achieved a great deal in life through education.”– Dr. Harry R. Carter

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 2

You have survived the first week as a probationary firefighter in the best career in the world. You might need to pinch yourself because you possibly feel like you just won the lottery. The first week undoubtedly went by so fast, that it feels like a blur and you are still in the process of trying to find out how you will “fit-in” to the firehouse culture. The last article covered the roles, responsibilities and the duties of being a probationary firefighter. This article is going to focus on the character traits that are necessary to pass the probationary period and these traits will also make a major contribution in building important relationships in the firehouse.

It is very important to have your own unique morals, values and ethics prior to gaining entry into the fire service. These traits are the reference point for anyone seeking a career in this field. It is those same traits that you will need to harness and rely upon while leading throughout probation. Always do the right thing. Do not participate in any activity that is illegal, immoral or unethical on or off duty in your fire service career - period. The impact of violating these values will be catastrophic for your fire service career.

The probationary period allows you the opportunity to display your own personal character traits. It is during this time that you will want to listen more than you speak. Let your actions speak for themselves around the firehouse.   Everything you touch is an opportunity for you to leave your own unique set of fingerprints. Actions speak louder than words. Keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone while you earn this position. Be effective and efficient with your time while on duty. With every action is an opportunity for you to make an investment into the department and your fire service career. Always remember you were hired as a public servant. Accept this title with enthusiasm and humility.

On your first day, you probably learned where to park your vehicle and your officer gave you instructions on how to access the firehouse. That first day, you probably learned where all the cleaning supplies were located and you started the process of learning the layout of the firehouse. At times it can be overwhelming as you learn your place in the firehouse. It is at these times that you need to pace yourself and absorb all the information like a sponge. Carry a notebook with you at all times and keep detailed notes of important information regarding where everything is located.

Over the last week and while on probation, you probably haven’t had the opportunity to sit down. As a probationary firefighter, you need to learn what is acceptable during this time while you are gaining entry into this prized profession.   Most departments don’t allow their probationary members to have a seat in the firehouse, with the exception of meal time and/or classroom training time. Again, this brings up the notion of earning your seat in the firehouse. In my humble opinion, you earn your seat everyday in this profession. I would ask your senior firefighter and/or officer if there is an acceptable place for you to sit while not performing the tasks related to your probation. Ask for direction and accept humility that this seat is something that is earned throughout your career. Every member has an assigned seat in the day room and also at the kitchen table.   Learn where all the members prefer to sit on your shift. Make sure and wait until all members are seated in their assigned seating arrangements. Probationary firefighters always are the last ones to sit down. You have to know your place in the firehouse culture; that place is always first to do work and last to sit down. When the meal is finished, don’t be in such a rush to jump up and start cleaning the table. Try to find the right time to be the first up, without disrupting the nightly traditions, as many crews enjoy sitting around the table for a while before cleaning up and your in a rush to get the kitchen cleaned may actually annoy them and work against you.

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part I

 

From our first day in the fire service, we have the opportunity to be a leader and lead throughout probation and well beyond, until long after our retirement.  This article is not the perfect recipe or golden ticket to pass probation.  It takes more than a list of rules to be successful in passing probation.  Ultimately, the responsibility of passing the probationary period rests firmly on the probationary firefighters shoulders.

On our first day, as we embark upon this prized career in the fire service, it is necessary to show up and arrive early to the fire station.  Early is comprised of at least 60 minutes prior to the start of our shift.  Several tasks are essential and required to be completed before we can officially start the day on “Big Red” in the Jumpseat.  Don’t be late in this profession!  You will be left behind at the station if you are late, and more importantly, you don’t get a 2nd chance for a 1st impression!

Someone has to raise the American flag.   This is an opportunity for the probationary firefighter to take responsibility of raising Old Glory for the community we have the honor to serve.  It takes leadership from the probationary firefighter to raise the flag.  No one is going to issue this order because this is our responsibility.  It is also our responsibility to lower the flag and properly fold the flag in the evening.  Learn proper flag etiquette and take leadership in learning how to honor the American flag.

The next task that the probationary firefighter must perform is thoroughly checking their department issued personnel protective equipment (PPE).  No one is going to check our gear for us in this profession.  This is our responsibility to make sure our gear is in order and that we have all the required important pieces of our safety gear ensemble.  Preparation is just one of the key ingredients to the recipe required for successfully passing probation.  Thoroughly check all the components of our SCBA; including air cylinder, mask and the required batteries for operation.  Also check the flashlights and make sure the batteries are in proper working order.  Make sure to have at least two working flashlights at all times.  By thoroughly checking our safety gear and equipment on “Big Red,” this demonstrates leadership from the probationary firefighter level.  As a probationary firefighter it is our responsibility to make sure all firefighter related tools are accounted for and are in working order on the apparatus.

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Why I Became a Public Servant

 

I will never forget the day, I signed up to be a volunteer firefighter for my community.  In 2005, I can recall watching the devastation on TV from the natural disaster Hurricane Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Region of the United States.  I felt like I needed to help in some form or fashion, I wanted to do something.    At the time, in my local area of California, I visited my local volunteer fire station and signed up to become a volunteer firefighter.  I really didn’t know that I would soon be embarking on my future career in the Fire Service.

I attended training on Wednesday evenings and weekends for eight months at the Firehouse.  I graduated from my departments firefighter basics program and became an official probationary firefighter.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of every training class in the firefighter basic program over the course of those eight months.  I consumed and digested every piece of information regarding the fire service.  Every magazine on the coffee table at the firehouse, I must have read three times from cover to cover over the period of my first year.  I even asked the senior firefighters at my station if I could take home the old magazines to glean the valuable information they contained.  I became a student of the fire service.  Over the next year following the department sponsored training program, I attended various emergency medical and fire service related training class.

 

I will never forget my first call some ten years ago as a volunteer firefighter.  After that first call, I came to the realization that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my career.  I approached the crossroads of my life and I had to make an important decision.  I wanted to become a public servant.  I wanted to help my community.  In December of 2006, I served my first paid shift as a reserve firefighter. And in my first year, I signed up for a total of 96 - 24-hour shifts at the firehouse, in addition to my regular full time day job position.

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Are you a Change Magnet?

Do you embrace change or do you resist it?  Do you approach a conversation with an open mind or do you approach the discussion with a closed mind?  Are you willing to accept technological advances or discredit them?  Are you willing to pull up a chair at the table and join the conversation?

I am a humble public servant.  My ultimate goal and purpose, in my position in the fire service, is to serve the public.  Our customers expect a highly competent professional that will arrive in an effective and efficient manor to mitigate their emergency.  Are you willing to be a change magnet?

The fire service is rapidly approaching the age of discovery in the realm of scientific information.  This scientific data is on the forefront of many conversations and discussions around the firehouse kitchen table.  The application of this scientific data is very difficult to apply, digest and even comprehend.  Are you willing to embrace this information?

In this age of discovery, this scientific information is highlighting information that has already been discovered in the past.  However, in this current age of information several are reconsidering this preexisting information.  This age of technology is integrated in almost every aspect of the society of today.  For example, smart phones, smart televisions and now even smart refrigerators.  You can see this advancement of technology by attending national fire/ems conferences and walking the exposition floor.  Are you willing to attend these conferences and become familiar on the advancement of this technology in the fire service?

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