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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 5

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 5

As previously mentioned in this article, we covered two fundamental character traits: maintaining a strong work ethic and taking the proper initiative. Now we are going to cover two more equally essential character traits that will help you achieve success throughout your fire service career:

  • You must maintain a positive attitude, and
  • Have the mindset of sharing this with others while on duty.

The academy and the probationary period can be compared to a pressure cooker. You will be pushed beyond your physical and mental limits. However, having a positive attitude with the correct mindset will enable you to overcome this pressure.

There will be bad days. There will be days where you will be completely broken down. You will find out what you are made of and what your limits are during this process. It is essential to know what your pain threshold is and what you can achieve under pressure. This is a profession where you will be under pressure your entire public safety career. Therefore, learning how to improvise, adapt and overcome in this stressful environment is essential. Remember, this is the best job in the world. Every day we are on duty is an opportunity to help someone that needs us to mitigate his or her emergency.

Passion is contagious and so is negativity. One is motivating and the other is a disease. Stay out of "Negative Town" city limits. Don't allow yourself to be consumed with negative energy. Instead, focus all of your energy on building positive, meaningful relationships with your fellow academy classmates. Lead your mindset and don't allow yourself to be a victim of the mental trap of negativity. You are in control of your thoughts and you have the ability to overcome any mental obstacle. Rise above the negative environment and be aggressively positive.

It takes leadership to be a follower. First, you have to lead yourself. Everyone can be a leader by first leading themselves. Followership is leadership. Remember this concept while in the academy and beyond in the probationary period. Be the best follower that you are capable of being for your fire officers and senior firefighters. When you are at your best, your leadership can be at their best. It takes a team effort to be effective on the fire-ground. Remember, it is our citizen's worst day in their lives when they place the call to 911. We have to be at our best for them.

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 4

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 4

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 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 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 mapping 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 your hand when something needs to be done. When you return to the firehouse after the call, several tasks need to be completed to return 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. Finally, 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.

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 3

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service: Part 3

This is a profession where you have to make the commitment to 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. Therefore, 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.

Becoming a seasoned firefighter takes a perfect balance of education, certifications, time-in-grade and experience. The task book is the initial phase of the learning process 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. 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 the initiative and train like your life depends on it because in this profession, it does.

Take charge of your own learning. No one will 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 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're 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.

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

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. 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.

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Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service

Leading Throughout Probation and Beyond in the Fire Service

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.

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