Rookie Life

Life Around the Station as a Rookie and Keys to Success

The following section was contributed by Firefighter Paramedic Bill Noda. These are his ideas of how to succeed in the probationary firefighter process.

Prior to your first day

  1. Call the station to which you are assigned and make an appointment with your Captain to come and visit.
  2. Meet the firefighters on your shift. Write down everybody’s first and last name. You will use this list later when you answer the phone and somebody asks to speak to “Mike”. You refer to your list and realize that Captain Fitzgerald’s first name is Mike. It will save you some embarrassment in the future.
  3. Drive the route to your station during morning rush hour traffic. Get a feel for how long it will take you to get to the station. Of course, allow sufficient time for a flat tire.
  4. Learn the location of the “hide-a-key” or the combination for the door lock.
  5. Learn how to use the coffee maker.
  6. Look over the apparatus that you will be assigned to.

Your First Morning at the Fire Station

  1. Arrive early, use the hide-key to gain access. Park out of the way so the firefighters have a place to park. You can move your car into the lot at a later time.
  2. Place your turnout gear on the engine or truck and make sure you are ready for an emergency response.
  3. Check out your breathing apparatus.
  4. Bring in the newspaper, turn on the coffee maker and put up the flag.
  5. Place the donuts or bagels that you have brought on the table. (be certain to bring enough for the off going shift as well as your crew)
  6. Pour coffee for the members that are present but don’t stay in the kitchen. Go out and begin to learn the inventory of the rig that you are on. Periodically return to top off the coffee.
  7. Fill out the station log book.
  8. Sign all members in on the computer.
  9. As each member arrives place their turnout gear on the engine or truck (you will learn the location of everyone’s gear)
  10. Begin your morning housework detail.

Suggestions for Success

  1. Keep your boots shined, your hair cut and your uniform neat.
  2. Be the first to arrive to the station and the last one to leave.
  3. Always wear your uniform including night calls. Arrive in uniform in the morning and leave in it the next morning.
  4. Don’t look tired or worn down, even if you are exhausted. Drink coffee if you are having difficulty staying awake.
  5. Be the last one to go to sleep at night. Set your alarm to ensure that you are the first one up in the morning.
  6. Pour coffee if needed.
  7. Get up well before the morning alarm make coffee, put the flag up, open the gates, move your car out if parking is limited and empty the dishwasher.
  8. Be the last one to eat and the first one to finish.
  9. Be the first one working and the last one to stop.
  10. Be the first one in the suds (dishes).
  11. Help every member of the crew, not just the captain.
  12. Respect every member of the crew, even the firefighter that just got off probation.
  13. Always help the cook in the kitchen.
  14. Learn your apparatus inventory. A good way to learn what is in each compartment is to pull the items out of a particular compartment, clean them, wipe out the compartment and then return them to their rightful place.
  15. Buy a multi alarm wrist watch. Set it for 1 hour before everyone else gets up. Do not use a plug in type of alarm clock. If your rig gets a call and you are gone somebody has to get out of bed to turn off your alarm clock.
  16. Volunteer for all off-duty events such as helping coworker move, CPR day etc.
  17. Keep phone calls to an absolute minimum. Usually a short good night phone call to significant other.
  18. If multiple units in the station, when ANY unit gets a call get the printout from the computer and open the apparatus bay door.
  19. Don’t tell war stories. Listen, watch, and speak when spoken to.
  20. NEVER MAKE EXCUSES
  21. When you are eating and a call comes in don’t be the rookie that takes two more bites, drinks a sip and meanders to the rig. ALWAYS be the first on the rig.
  22. Keep your equipment clean. This includes your turnouts and helmet. Even though senior firefighters may show black dirty turnouts as a sign of experience, you’re a rookie, not a veteran firefighter.
  23. Do not take days off. This includes shift trades or sick leave. Your job is to be a rookie, not to have days off.
  24. Your days off are for catching up on your sleep, studying, preparing for station drills etc.
  25. Anticipate duties that need to be done each day. Monday – Apparatus – start all power equipment, clean stove, roll the trash dumpster out. Tuesday- All of the wood in the station gets polished, clean the refrigerator. Wednesday- inspect for any burned out lights. Thursday- wash all windows. Friday- Polish all bright work. Roll trash dumpster out. Saturday- mow the station lawns and police the yard.
  26. Make a cleaning/inspection routine of the station from top to bottom.
  27. 27. Check the station to ensure that all cleaning details are completed, even if it’s not yours.
  28. Volunteer for all undesirable jobs.
  29. Keep a notebook and pen with you at all times. Write down new information.
  30. Move people’s clothes through the laundry. Wash dish towels.
  31. Keep $20.00 extra in your pocket at all times to buy ice cream, coffee etc.
  32. Don’t bring personal projects to the station, even if everyone else does.
  33. Keep your locker clean and neat. It shows pride.
  34. If other units in the station get a call during meals, cover their plate with tin foil.
  35. Keep your personal vehicle clean and washed. It shows personal pride.

Building Your Reputation

  1. Your reputation will follow your throughout your career.
  2. Impress the big three.
  3. Your crew
  4. Your Captain
  5. The rest of the department will be automatic if you accomplish 1 &2.
  6. Beware of over timers or trades working on your crew. They will talk about your performance when they get back to their own station. “Yesterday I worked with Joe Smith, the new rookie at station 3; boy was he a ball of fire”. “Yesterday I worked with Joe Smith, the new rookie at 3’s” boy was he a load”.
  7. Don’t brag about details done. The guys will know that it was the “heads up” rookie that was doing his job.
  8. You can do 10,000 things perfectly, 1 bad mistake will erase a lot of good work.
  9. All station drills given should be well prepared. Including handouts and pictures. Be prepared!

Life Around the Station as a Rookie

My typical day as a rookie starts off at 4:30 am waking up before the sun comes out. I rehearse my drill for the day prior to me leaving for work. I arrive at the gate of my station at 5:10 Am and open the gate, by 5:15

I enter the station and put up the 1st pot of coffee and proceed to the bathroom to change over into uniform, from there I go back to the kitchen put up the 2nd pot of coffee and proceed to the apparatus floor to get my PPE in line, from there I go to the front office where I check the journal to see yesterdays activities as well as check the “new material” folder and the roster for the day.

Now it’s about 5:35 and I go put up the flag and gather the newspaper and return to the kitchen and spread out the newspaper in sections on the table. I then empty the dishes from the washer and proceed back to the apparatus floor to check inventory on all 4 apparatus (truck/engine/pump/RA).

Now it’s around 6:15 and Members on my shift are arriving as well as members of the off going shift are waking up. I make it a point to say good morning to every member on coming and off going.

Now it’s around 6:25 and I go grab the other rookie so we can practice throwing every single ladder as well as donning our SCBA for time. Periodically between ladders I will go back into the kitchen to put up more pots of coffee.

7:15 am I practice my daily drill with one of the senior firemen.

7:45 am I proceed to the kitchen to prepare for lineup, which entails cleaning up the mess that the senior firemen made from making breakfast.

8:00 am lineup in the kitchen with all members of my shift to go over the itinerary for the day and discuss new material.

8:30 am proceed to start housework; I always make it a point to be the first one in the bathrooms with my scrubber/bleach-water mix/comet etc.

TIP: When cleaning the toilets instead of flushing the soapy water down the toilet once their clean, leave the soapy water in the bowl, it will show the members of your crew that you did the toilets!

9:30 am members of my crew begin their daily exercise regiment, I on the other hand are throwing ladders, doing daily/weekly/monthly checks of our equipment or practicing for my drill. 10:30 am off to the store to gather materials for lunch/dinner. While at the store I will be throwing ladder, giving mini drills on equipment, walking the roof, or something practical.

11:30 am help setup for lunch.

12:00 pm lunch time, I am always the last to gather my plate unless ordered other wise and I usually take the smallest portion. Even though I’m the last to sit down and eat, I’m always the 1st to get up and get in the suds. Do I eat so fast that I don’t even taste the food most of the time? The answer is “probably”. I do dishes till the cook for the day calls for a “game for dishes” which entails some card or dice game where I will intentionally lose because at the end of the game do you think its good to see the rookie at the table while his captains are in the suds…HELL NO….

After lunch I will help the A/O or other senior firefighters with projects that need to be completed around the station/apparatus.

Around 2 pm I will give my drill in front of all 12 members of my station at once (this is the most nerve racking part)

Around 3 pm I will pull out the tool that I will have to give a drill on next shift and start playing around with it.

4:30 pm I will clean up the kitchen and help the cook if he needs it to prepare the meal for the night.

6:00 pm same routine as lunch, I’m the last to get my portion of food and the first to get done and then automatic in the suds.

7:00 pm I will help the A/O wipe down the truck and then help the both engineers wipe down both engines.

8:00 pm I will either pull out another tool to learn, throw some ladders, read the volumes, or prepare for my next shifts drill.

10:00 pm do a final cleanup of the station picking up any residual trash, doing the dishes again, inventory of the truck.

1:00 am – 1:30 am I finally go to sleep when the last member of my crew has gone to sleep.

5:30 am the next morning I am up putting up the coffee, cleaning up, throwing ladders with the oncoming shift rookie.

8:00 am I finally leave the station.

This is just a “rough base” of what to expect as a rookie around the station. Remember this daily routine doesn’t include all of the calls you run and the questions/tasks you are expected to know or perform when asked about SOP’s or tool knowledge

Oh yeah in addition the “GAMES” that the senior firefighters like to play with the rookie at whatever time of the day/night they please.

Hope this helps.