Congratulations probie! Welcome to the fire family. Becoming a firefighter is an incredible achievement. But the work is just beginning.
For probies, or probationary firefighters, there is no magical firefighter confidence course to instantly turn you into a seasoned, experienced first responder. Instead, we rely on firefighter tools, training, mentoring, and on-the-job experience to shape us into educated and confident fire professionals.
However, here are 3 tips to help you get off to a good start.
Preparedness is the hallmark of a firefighter. Our job is to be ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice. You can practice this same level of preparedness personally in your job.
Start by arriving early to your shift. When you get to the station before your shift starts, you give yourself time to check your gear and mentally prepare for the day. You can also take advantage of talking with coworkers from the previous shift to get a headstart on what to expect for the day.
It also helps to ensure you have the right personal gear on hand. While each firefighter has their own preferences as to what gear they carry, it’s always a good idea as a probie to have a pen, something to write on, and a watch—that way you can be on time and prepared to take notes whenever there is something important to remember. In the world of smartphones, I know a pen and paper might seem old school, but if you take notes on your phone you might run the risk of getting distracted or of your mentors thinking you are not paying attention. Stay present, and pay attention. You are going to be digesting a lot of new information, so don’t expect to remember it all. Write it down and review the information after your shift or before the start of your next shift.
Some other lightweight tools to consider keeping on hand, especially during a call, are a necklace or keychain flashlight, Sharpie, multi-tool, and paracord.
As a probie, you can prove your worth and willingness—not to mention build your personal character and skills—by striving to be proactive. Complete your responsibilities without being asked.
If someone needs to do the dishes, volunteer. If an undesirable task arises, take it on. Offer to help your team members if you finish your own tasks early.
You can also be proactive in developing relationships with your team and your superiors. Respect authority and speak calmly. Remember to listen and learn from others’ experiences. Work to be part of the team. Eat meals together. Ask for advice from team members. There’s no better way to get someone talking then to ask them to share their expertise.
Your time as a probie is a time of growth and learning. As firefighters, we can never get enough training. During your time as a probie, jump at any opportunity you have to learn something new. Be proactive in asking questions or asking for advice. Your fire family has a lot of years of combined experience, so learn from it.
Aside from in-person training at your department or in your community, look into online training options, whether that be YouTube videos, online magazines, or online courses. Find out if your department is currently engaged in online firefighter training or continuing education. For example, at CareerCert, we offer firefighter courses online that can be completed at your own pace and expand your knowledge in a variety of areas, including safety training, HAZMAT, firefighter skills, treatment for specific injuries and trauma, active shooter response, and more.
These resources allow you to sharpen your skills, get essential practice, and better utilize your downtime at the station. Get creative and ask for suggestions to help you solidify the skills you need to best protect your community.
Spell J. 8 tips to survive your first firefighter shift. Fire Rescue 1. Sep 23, 2016. https://www.firerescue1.com/fire-careers/articles/8-tips-to-survive-your-first-firefighter-shift-nVdEnhGR3JHSR2jU/.