The Future Firefighter Podcast
"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours."
– Richard Bach
In this episode, Chris Baker sits down with Rescue Captain, Justin Schorr, "the Happy Medic" to talk about what he's learned over the last 25 years in the fire service and why one of the worst pieces of advice is "get your Medic." While obtaining the license will get you on a smaller list when hired, there's a catch, they want you to work as a medic when you get hired. Find out more about what EMS means to the Future Firefighter and listen to this episode.
"Should every Future Firefighter become a Paramedic? In one word, Yes. EMS is the future of the Modern Fire Service so each candidate should have a grasp on their place in the system as they get hired. Paramedicine isn't for everyone. There's a lot of stress involved in not only obtaining the license, but maintaining it and, of course, being responsible for the care of your patients." (Schorr)
"When you get hired as a Paramedic, here's a hint...they need you as a Paramedic." (Schorr)
The days of filling out applications on paper are obsolete and now several agencies have utilized technology to expedite their application process. One helpful tip is to save your information in a word document and you can cut/paste this information into these online career websites when you are creating your profile. Review the job announcement and job description specifically the information related to the job performance review standards (JPR’s) and the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s) for each position. Only apply for positions that you meet the minimum requirements in the job announcement. If you have any doubts and or questions, contact the hiring official for each specific agency to clarify these questions regarding the minimum requirements. Make sure you have a keen eye for attention to detail. Several of these items are highlighted in both the job announcement and the specific job description for each position. Remember this is a test and the test is simple; can you follow written directions. If you want this highly desirable position in the fire service, you have to first apply.
Job Search Resources
You have survived the first week as a probationary firefighter in the best career in the world. However, 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. Previously in this article, we covered the roles, responsibilities and duties of being a probationary firefighter. We will now focus on the character traits necessary to pass the probationary period, which will also contribute to building meaningful relationships in the firehouse.
It is imperative to have your own unique morals, values and ethics before entering 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 illegal, immoral, or unethical activity 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. 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. At these times, 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 mealtime 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 every day 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 the 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 you are in a rush to get the kitchen cleaned may actually annoy them and work against you.
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 Firefighter's 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 at the fire station. Early is comprised of at least 60 minutes before the start of our shift. Several tasks are essential and required to be completed before officially starting 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 for 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 probationary Firefighter must perform the next task of thoroughly checking their department-issued personal 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 an air cylinder, mask and the batteries needed 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. Thoroughly checking our safety gear and equipment on "Big Red" demonstrates leadership from the probationary firefighter level. As probationary Firefighters, it is our responsibility to ensure all Firefighter-related tools are accounted for and in working order on the apparatus.
Every fire station in the fire service needs fuel and that fuel is coffee. The task of making coffee falls on the probationary Firefighter. The probationary Firefighter is the barista of the fire station and this is an opportunity to take pride in making the best coffee for your co-workers. Learn where all the coffee-making supplies are located in the fire station. It is our responsibility to make sure these items are accounted for and never run out of stock. As a probationary firefighter, it is necessary to know the difference between coffee and tea. Learn the recipe for coffee; make sure it is always hot and in constant supply. Also, realize that not everyone may drink coffee; don't insult someone who doesn't drink coffee by asking him or her if they would like a cup. More importantly, if you want to really get to know your co-workers, learn their preferences, so you can be the best teammate you can be.
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 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 department's firefighter basics program and became an official probationary firefighter. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of every training class in the basic firefighter program over those eight months. I consumed and digested every piece of information regarding the fire service. I read every magazine on the coffee table at the firehouse at least three times from cover to cover over my first year. I even asked the senior firefighters at my station to 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 classes.
I will never forget my first call some ten years ago as a volunteer firefighter. After that first call, I realized that I wanted to do this 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.
Why should you become a public servant? Do you feel the desire to help your fellow neighbor in their time of need? Have you ever had a bad day and needed to call 911 for help? I am sure everyone reading this article has requested the aid of a public safety servant. I have always been thankful for the Good Samaritan that has assisted my family members in those difficult times. Are you interested in pursuing a career in the fire service? If so, stop by your local firehouse and ask your local firefighters in your community, "why they became a public safety servant?" I am positive they would be more than willing to help you with any questions you might have.
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 manner 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 at 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 with almost every aspect of the society of today. For example, smartphones, 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 with the advancement of this technology in the fire service?