Career FD Hiring - Part 1: Unwritten Rules of 'The Game'
The process of becoming a firefighter can be really fucking stressful. It's even more stressful when you’re uneducated, uninformed, and have no idea what to do. I have done my fair share of spreading the good word, and have done my best to help people be successful in the hiring process. There are a lot of ways to be successful, but I have noticed that being armed with a little bit of knowledge on what to expect makes life easier. I will be writing a series about the game of becoming a firefighter in a large city. I want to cover things like riding along, college courses, GI Bill use for veterans, interview prep, academy life, and how to be successful as a probationary firefighter.
Part 1: The Ride Along
Riding along is usually the first step that people take when they decide they want to be a dragon slayer. This is the most basic step. Simply getting in a station to learn about station life and day-to-day operations benefit you in countless ways. My station has riders come through fairly often and we have hired some great people, but some of them really suck. It has become pretty apparent to me that a lot of people could benefit from these little nuggets I’m about to drop. It’s extremely important to understand that your interview began the second you pulled into the parking lot. I have seen people come through and completely kill any chance they had of getting hired just by being a shitty rider. I think a lot of the issues come from riders just not having any clue of what to do or expect. Daddy is gunna tell you how to be a good rider.
Do not, under any circumstance, show up empty handed. Firefighters are fat kids and we love treats. Bring ice cream, Oreos, donuts, bagels etc. This is a very common fire service tradition and lets the crews know that you appreciate their time. A small token of appreciation goes a long way. If you’re riding at a station with multiple crews, make sure that you bring enough for everyone. If you show up at shift change, make sure you bring enough for both shifts. Introduce yourself to everyone. No hand left unshaken.
Unfortunately, you’re going to need to leave your WorstResponders shirt at home for this one. Your attire and appearance can make or break your reputation. Polo, jeans, close toed shoes. Nothing crazy. Please leave your chain wallets, tank tops, backwards hats, crocs, and furry tails at home. You are trying to make a good first impression, so don’t dress like a bum. Be clean and be professional. I am torn on this next one, but if you have a beard or mustache you might want to consider getting rid of it. Yea, you’re not a firefighter yet but some people interpret facial hair as not being too serious about getting hired. Personally, I wouldn’t really care, but I work with people that would. Just understand that’s how critical people can and will be of you.
You’re being judged like a mother fucker for everything you say or do. Don’t give them any more reason to make fun of you because you probably look like a mongoloid already. Be humble and be professional. Don’t show up talking about the dankest meme you saw or all the puss you slayed at the family reunion. Sit up straight, listen more than you talk and try not to say anything stupid. When I said you are being interviewed the second you show up, I meant it. They’re going to talk about you the second you leave. It could be “That’s a good dude we need to get them back in here for some interview prep and get them hired.” Or it could be “Whose guy was that, and why the fuck did he shit in the shower?”
The number one thing that guys seem to not like about a rider is how comfortable they were at the station. You’re not there to hangout with the boys in the recliners and talk shit. You are there to learn about the department, learn about the job, and what a typical day as a firefighter is like. Ask questions, show interest, be a student. If there is a probationary firefighter at the station, follow them. They’re probably looking for a reason to get out of cleaning so most people would be happy to talk to you. They will also have the most recent and relevant information as far as getting hired goes.
If someone is working, help them. If a crew is cooking, do dishes and ask how you can contribute. Don’t ever be the only one not working. When the station catches a call, don’t be the last one to the truck and don’t get in the way. And if you’re sitting in a rear facing seat don’t just stare at me like a fucking weirdo the whole time. Ask the captain or captains of each apparatus what their expectations are on calls. Know where to sit, when or if you need to be wearing a reflective vest on calls, and if you need to stay in the truck on certain calls like freeway calls or codes. Some Captains are completely ok with you getting a set of vitals on a patient, and others will suplex you if you touch any gear. Just a quick “Hey Sir, what would you like for me to do on calls?” is enough to open the dialogue and let them know you’re being respectful but still like to party. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. Nobody likes a dumbass. Nobody wants your opinion on patient care...just don’t. Even if you have experience in the field, just let the crew work.
If you’re going to be staying for a meal, ask how much skrilla you need to throw down. Chow money varies but generally 5-10 bucks should do it so bring a little cash with you. Try to sit with your back to the TV. This is a pretty common new guy and probationary firefighter seating arrangement as the primo spots are saved for the primo dudes. Hang back and let the crews get their plates first. They’ll probably tell you to get in there and grab some food but try and eat last. If someone is done eating and starts to clean, give them a hand.
When its time to go home, make sure you thank everyone for their time and remember to #LeaveNoHandUnshaken. Ask if you can come back again, or ask if there’s anyone you can call with questions or information. Each department, shift, station, and truck has different personalities and vibes. Ride with different people and get multiple points of view. Get out of your comfort zone. Get yourself out there and make a reputation for yourself. Riding along can be pretty uncomfortable at first but once you pop that cherry you’ll be good to go. Be humble, be engaged, and be professional. Getting hired can be a long, tiring, and frustrating process and this is the first step. Don’t fuck it up.