Question - Just wanted to know some first hand experience about my first time volunteering for a local fire department. Very excited, yet I do not want to seem overzealous or should I just be myself and be all out aggressive? I was told by the Captain if we get called to a fire, I will be fighting it (good news) and that unlike most volunteer departments we are a very hands on department. Looking for the right attitude to bring...?
Response - I am not clear if your volunteer efforts are a one time event, or if you are going to be doing this on a regular basis. I will address it as you will be doing this on a regular basis. My department is very traditional. We do not have volunteers, however we have hired literally hundreds of new firefighters in the last few years. Additionally, we do have a series of individuals that ride along from time to time. The common theme is to be seen and not heard. As was pointed out earlier let the firefighters come to you. It is not advisable to tell war stories or give your opinions on any subject. I would recommend arriving early (bring donuts), put your gear on the rig, put the flag up, and make the coffee. Introduce yourself to every firefighter and remember their name. Keep a small spiral notebook in your pocket and write them down if you have to. Many departments have computer printouts of the line up for the day. Ask if you can have a copy as it has everyone’s name on it. Find out which rig you will be assigned to. Open every cabinet door and become familiar with each piece of equipment. If you don’t know about it, find the spec sheet and learn it. One of the most frustrating aspects of having a new firefighter is when he or she is unfamiliar with the location of the equipment on the rig. The best way to learn it is to open the compartment door and study the layout. Close the door and recite the location of each piece of equipment in the rig. If you know how to cook, volunteer to do so for the crew. If you don’t know how, be in the kitchen helping slicing and dicing and setting the table. Ask if it is ok if you answer the telephone. If so, get it by the second or third ring. Be respectful and polite when answering the phone. When you make a mistake (which you will) DO NOT MAKE EXCUSES. Accept the constructive criticism and move on. Make certain that you do not make the same mistake twice. The best advice that I can give you is to have a positive attitude and a smile on your face. We understand that you are here to learn and are very eager. We appreciate the enthusiasm as it reminds us of ourselves at a younger age. Firefighters will go to the ends of the Earth to mentor and help someone get into the profession if they like you. The key is to be viewed as a hardworking individual that has a positive attitude and is willing to learn. There is so much more to tell, but I think this will get you started in the right direction. Lastly, keep in mind that you are establishing your reputation the moment you walk in the door. Best of luck.
Chief Paul Lepore AspiringFirefighters
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