Josh Sanders

Some rookie basics

Anyone that has survived their rookie year working at a firehouse will tell you that there are some important social & cultural expectations they had to meet every day on the job – and that many of them weren’t spelled out in a textbook or manual.  In fact, I’d venture to say that a large part of what makes someone fun to work with/around is when you feel like they not only take their job seriously, but also understand these “unspoken rules” of the fire station and adhere to them without effort or fanfare.

What are the kind of things I’m talking about?  Every fire station I’ve ever visited has a well established daily and weekly routine that all employees follow diligently, but for the sake of this blog, those are the things that are “spelled out” as mentioned earlier.  No, the things I’d like to draw your attention to are things like straightening up around the station as the day wears on, making sure your Captain or supervisor has the things they need to do their job, looking out for your fellow firefighters by picking up for them when they slip up or mess up – things that aren’t in a book, a manual – and most certainly not things you’ll be recognized for.  This is similar to the way a role player on a team would perform their job – doing the little things during the game to make sure the team succeeds, knowing that much of what they do won’t show up in the box score – knowing that what they do won’t make them the “star”.  What they do, however, is vitally important to that team and its operation.

3 small, yet classic examples of what I’m talking about include: raising the flag, grabbing the newspaper and starting a pot of coffee each morning.  If you as a Firefighter candidate have the opportunity to ride-along for 24 hours with a fire crew, these are things you’ll want to be up early to help out with in the morning as you’re going off shift.

Morning Routine:  Click here to view a video of the things outlined below.

Flags: Most fire stations will have a United States and a State flag – some may have a City flag as well.  These need to go up first thing, in a particular order – from top to bottom you must always have the US flag on top, followed by the State flag, followed by the City flag (if applicable).  Many times these flags will be stored in a office or other room close to the flagpole out front, and you’ll want to make sure you can get in and out of the station quietly without locking yourself out THE NIGHT BEFORE.  If you leave researching this to chance or the last minute, you may find yourself locked out and embarrassed when the station door closes and locks behind you.

Newspaper:  While you’re outside raising the flags, you can grab the morning paper on your way back inside.  You’ll want to arrange this so that every heading for each section is easy to find – don’t just plop the rolled up paper on the table and walk away.  Some larger fire stations may order 2 papers each day, so make sure you ask about this the night before – remember, do your research!

Coffee:  So important, yet this is the step most people mess up because frankly a lot of people don’t drink coffee. If you are one of these people, I’ll tell you: wait until you get into Paramedic school and start studying all night – coffee will be your new best friend!  Here again, preparation is everything:  before you show up at the fire station, try making a pot at home for someone that does know what coffee is supposed to look at taste like – a common mistake is making the coffee too light, and as a coffee drinker myself, there is nothing worse in the morning than a pot of something that looks like coffee, smells like coffee, but ain’t coffee.

The basics here are as follows:  make sure you have ground coffee beans, a pot, a filter (very thin piece of paper-like material that holds the grounds inside the coffee machine – you must replace the filter and grounds for each new pot), fresh water and a machine.  Sometimes you may encounter whole coffee beans – this will mean you must grind up the coffee yourself FIRST in a small coffee grinder.  If you are preparing this coffee for a fire station, this is most definitely something you’ll want to do the night before, because running that coffee grinder is sure to wake up the entire station if you forget or try to do it last minute.

Place the coffee grounds in the filter, then the filter into the machine.  Using a table spoon, about 4 generous scoops of coffee grounds seems to yield a good standard pot of coffee. Pour the appropriate amount of water into the machine and make sure there is a empty pot ready for the prepared coffee to brew into.  Last but not least, many machines will have what looks like an On/Off switch – this is a heater for the pot so that after the coffee is brewed, it can remain warm for the next hour, etc – flip this on!

While all of this may sound like a fair amount of work, and certainly a lot to read about – these are activities that a good Firefighter will perform in about 10 minutes time, and eventually, virtually half-awake as they begin their day at the firehouse.  Remember, things like this will not win you any awards or medals, but are the things that help make a firehouse function each day and things that you’ll want to learn how to do early in your career.

Still have questions about this stuff?  We’ve created a quick video outlining these steps at FirefighterMedic.com – and you can watch it here.  I hope this helps – be safe out there and good luck during your career journey.

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