New Rookie

A few years ago, I talked to a devastated candidate at a written test. This paramedic had been hired with four other medics by a good fire department. After four months he was fired. He said he thought things were going fine. Then, the captain started telling him that the other firefighters didn’t like some things he was saying, starting counseling and documenting him for not taking down the flag, rolling up the hose, etc. He said he was busy doing other assignments. I could see the writing was on the wall.

I asked him what the other new rookies were doing? He said they were busy kissing ass.  My only reply was, “I hope you learned that if you were too busy kissing ass, you wouldn’t be trying to get another job!” I believe that he heard me loud and clear.

What a rookie does when first starting out will set their reputation and follow them throughout their career. If you start out on the wrong foot, the higher-ups will show you the door. Remember – The crew already knows more about you before you even show up for your first day.

Here are more than a few basic standards to keep in mind during your station visits and your interview process. If you pay attention to these, you will demonstrate you already know what to do when hired:

  1. You’re a snotty nose rookie. Keep your mouth shut. Be cordial, friendly, and humble. You have no opinion until you have earned it. You can’t force it. That will come with a lot of calls and a few fires.
  2. Cell phones and other electronic devices are causing problems for candidates and rookies. I can’t believe the stories I’m hearing.  Candidates are carrying their cell phones to written tests.  A candidate was in a department academy and his cell phone started to ring. He asked the training officer if he could hold on a minute because he had a call. The training officer told the class the next time he heard a cell phone go off, they were going to play who can throw the cell phone the furthest.
  3. During an emergency call, the BC was trying to raise dispatch without any success on the radio.  The rookie took his cell phone, speed-dialed dispatch, and handed his cell phone to the BC. Cute? Smart? Innovative?  That’s not the reception he received.
  4. If you are carrying your cell phones on duty and your phone rings, I have two words for you – buyer beware!  Be aware of your friends and relatives – wives, girlfriends, and others that call all day long with “important stuff”, or they just want to talk. Cell phones are ringing in locker rooms. Some try to be cool by putting their cell phones on vibrate. Even though they might not answer them right away, they pick them up to check the caller ID or the text message. Then, when they think no one is looking, they slip off and return the call. DO NOT DO THIS! THIS IS DUMB! THESE CALLS ARE NOT PART OF YOUR EMERGENCY ISSUE! PERIOD! Leave the electronic leashes off and in your vehicle until a time where all your duties are complete. No matter what you might think and how friendly everyone seems to be, you are being watched!  It could hurt you big time. If you have an emergency situation, ask your officer if you can carry your phone because you are expecting an emergency call.
  5. Call your new captain before your first shift and ask if he wants you to bring anything in. Bring a peace offering of donuts and dessert your first day. Homemade is best.
  6. Always arrive early. Ask the off-going firefighter what you should know at that station.
  7. Your new captain should meet with you to outline his expectations. If not, ask him.
  8. Unless you’re told otherwise, put up and don’t forget to take down the flag.
  9. If the Fire Department’s phone, or the doorbell rings, make sure you’re the first one running to answer it.
  10. Know the DAYS! There will be certain duties on each day of the week. Tuesday could be laundry day, Saturday yards. Keep track. Stay busy around the station.
  11. Always be in a clean proper uniform.
  12. Always be ready to get on the rig and respond.
  13. Check out the gear on the rig each morning. Make sure the 02 gauge and the reserve bottle show enough to handle a long EMS call.
  14. Firefighters usually have “their” place to sit at the table, and in front of the T.V. Be aware.
  15. Don’t hog the newspaper. The off-going shift generally has the first crack at the newspaper.
  16. Don’t park yourself in front of the T.V. if you have a test coming up.
  17. Stay busy. No matter what the atmosphere is, you’re being watched.
  18. Though you might be a good cook, don’t volunteer to cook until asked or rotated in. If you are cooking, make sure your meals are on time. The old adage “Keep them waiting long enough and they will eat anything” doesn’t apply here. Be the last one to serve your plate. Don’t load up your plate the first time around. Wait to go for seconds.
  19. Always have your hands in the sink doing the dishes after a meal.
  20. Be ready to take the trash out to the garbage after you eat.
  21. Be ready to mop the kitchen floor after each meal.
  22. Learn how to help the officer do response reports.
  23. Don’t tell jokes until you’re accepted.
  24. Don’t gossip.
  25. Don’t play “your” music on the radio.
  26. Don’t be a stupid generation X’er and always ask why when told to do something.
  27. Help others with their assignments when you finish yours.
  28. Ask how others are doing.
  29. Volunteer for assignments. Keep track of these to present at your evaluations.
  30. Don’t start pulling hose and other equipment at a scene until the captain tells you.
  31. Always get off the rig before it backs up. Stand to the rear side to guide the rig. Never turn your back on the backing-up rig.
  32. It’s not uncommon to move to one or more stations during your probation. At your new station, don’t act like you already have time. Unfortunately, you have to start all over again as the new rookie.

You will have an elated feeling rolling out on your first calls. There is nothing like it. It could last your whole career. Enjoy and savor it. You have earned it. Remember – you’re the last of our Americas Heroes.

I miss it.

. . . Nothing counts ‘til you have the badge. Nothing!

“Captain Bob”