Station Pride Articles

What are We Doing to our Future Firefighters?

A lot of older firefighters like to talk about ‘the way it used to be.’  But, does that mean that it’s the way it should be?

If you’ve ever spent any time in a firehouse you’ll inevitably hear a sentence that starts with “Back when I started…” quickly followed by a story about how things then were better, more efficient or easier to understand.

While that line of thinking is sometimes correct it goes without saying that this might not always be the case.

I’m not here to debate tactics or technical details of the fire service, I leave that to the officers.  But, what I do think firehouses should begin to reconsider is how we treat the future of the fire service.

You see, I started FirefighterNOW as a place where future and aspiring firefighters could have access to the best resources to understand what the fire service is about, learn what is necessary to be a firefighter and most importantly how to navigate the long hiring process.

It began with the intent of being a place where someone with absolutely no knowledge of the fire service can come learn and not be told they’re stupid or ‘maybe if you’re lucky someday you will be a firefighter.’

Since it’s beginning I’ve had the opportunity to speak and interact with hundreds of candidates, many of whom have since been hired by full-time departments.  One trend I’ve noticed is that many of them have experienced several less than pleasant station visits or ride times with their local department.


In fact, I know exactly where they’re coming from, as when I was in EMT school I did ride time at a local department where even if you doubled my current salary today, I would never take a job there.

We all know that one person in our department who is horrible towards students or visitors, and I’m wondering where they feel they get the right to treat the future of the fire service in that way?

Now I’m not saying we need to fall all over ourselves just to make that individual feel welcome.  But as someone who has worked with hundreds of candidates, and counting maybe we should rethink the way we treat our future firefighters.

You’d be hard pressed to meet a firefighter who claimed not to care about the fire service and the culture it has worked so hard to build and maintain.  But my question would be how much do you really care if we’re letting ‘that guy’ possibly push away some of our best candidates?Maybe instead of letting the one obnoxious guy on our shift treat someone like garbage, we should step in and stop it?

Unfortunately, I know some will read this and accuse younger generations of being ‘soft’ or ‘entitled’ and while I may not entirely disagree.  I’ve always found it prudent to take a look at our own behavior before we begin to judge someone else.

About FirefighterNOW (2 Articles)
Mike started out his fire career by accident. After a short career playing soccer professionally he suffered an injury that kept him out of the game. After some time away, Pertz enrolled in an EMT class on a whim from a recommendation by a friend and soon realized the fire service was in his future. He is now a career firefighter/paramedic for a department in Northeast Ohio. Shortly after beginning his career in the fire service Pertz founded FirefighterNow.com, to give firefighter candidates the best resources possible to help them work their way through the often confusing hiring process.

5 Comments on What are We Doing to our Future Firefighters?

  1. This comes from the perspective of someone with 42 years in the Volunteer Service. The young people entering the service today have a lot of advantages we didn’t. They are more technologically savvy than we were, simply because they came of age with this new tech- there is no trepidation of trying something “new” whether it’s a device or a concept. They aren’t afraid to ask “why”. Those can be good points. However, they think that once they pass Fire 1, they are Firefighters. Sorry kid, it just means you showed up to classes, read the book (that paper thing) and passed the test. We will teach you how we operate and what you need to know to keep yourself and your team members alive. Another part of what you’re entering is a Tradition, and that is not to be messed with or taken lightly. Male or female, you are entering a brotherhood whose dues were paid with sweat, blood and tears- respect that. When we came on, some of us went through hazing, just like a college fraternity. Some of us got the dirtiest, nastiest jobs in the firehouse. You had to make your bones to sit at the table with the adults. You can get the technical stuff out of any textbook or online video. We will teach you what it means to be one of us. That means volunteering to wash the dishes. It means being to drill night a half hour early. It means racking hose, a lot of it. It means treating a senior member with respect, not just for what he did, but for what he knows- and if he deems you worthy, will share it with you some time

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    • FirefighterNOW // April 12, 2017 at 9:47 pm // Reply

      “We will teach you how we operate and what you need to know to keep yourself and your team members alive.”

      followed by…

      “It means treating a senior member with respect, not just for what he did, but for what he knows- and if he deems you worthy, will share it with you some time”

      …so we’ll teach you how to stay alive, but only if you’re worthy of being taught to stay alive.

      This line of thinking is part of the problem.

      Like

  2. Good job, keep it up.

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  3. As I agree, the fire sevice is ever changing. I don’t believe in treating people poorly for no other reason than that they are new and trying to learn. Let’s not forget that a little bit of friendly hazing and the occasional verbal beat down is necessary to see what your new members are made of. Especially if they mess up. The fire department along with other hazardous occupations require a heads up approach to the job. This isn’t sitting at a desk all day. I want to know when things go bad and get serious; that the guy next to me will be there to back me up or heaven for bid, pack me out. Not freak out and freeze up. Worse yet, abandon the situation. All though and m only a 23 year volunteer, not career; I did serve an apprenticeship as a power Lineman. I did always understand the scoldings or hazing at the time; but come to realize it made me vigilant about my job and gave my co-workers confidence and in me when I didn’t give up or complain. In short, if the kind of people that are wanting to join the ranks can’t handle a little tough love; maybe they should set there aspirations elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a big issue with our current processes. We’ve had 6 open spots to fill for over a year (full time dept, about 100 members) amongst 4-5 spots for retirements or people leaving. We’ve hired more green guys in the last year than I can count. Some have never used a chainsaw, some have never made mop water or had to clean a bathroom. Whose job is it to teach those guys that? Some of it is learn as go, some of it we OWE to these new guys to teach them, not to be misinterpreted as coddling. I take the “one time” method. If I think it’s something realtively easy to master (cleaning the bathrooms the right way) I’ll show you how to do it once. If you can’t get it right after that, I take a harder approach. It’s not my Capt’s or drivers job to teach someone how to mop. That’s on me. They’re too busy making sure my ass is covered.

      Verbal abuse or “hazing” will get you in hot water, quick, around my area. I agree that they have to earn their spot, as you should. But, they sit at the same table as me, eat the same food I eat, and do the same drills I do. We tend to think of initiation as beating down the new guy to nothing so he can build himself up. If they show initiative, respect and have a good work ethic from day 1, I can work with that. Now, we did just have a new guy quit because he “didn’t feel like he was being treated well enough”. He was a slug from day one. Big mouth, lazy and didn’t make very good decisions around the house and we met him know that. But to tell someone to clean my shit up, just because their the new guy is not harboring great crew integrity. That’s how you lose it.

      Personally, the membership between 7-13 years is riding a fine line between instructing and coddling. We have to find the happy medium which is beneficial for everyone. I’d feel like an asshole if I made the new guy eat by himself. Our admin felt like they were the right person for the job, our training division put them through 4 weeks of orientation and drills to make sure they can at least find their ass from their hands, so I’ve got that foundation to work off of. It’s my JOB to teach them. It’s my JOB to make sure they’re treated fairly. It’s my JOB to make sure they’re a good fireman and a good representation on my dept. It means doing a timed bunker gear drill at midnight, just after they’ve fallen asleep by ringing the house bell. It means we get just as dirty on the drill field as they do.

      “Do as I say, not as I do” is a death sentence. Wipe that shit out!

      Like

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