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  • What to do now...

    This is my situation. I am a 21 year old male currently attenting a 4 year university in Washington State. I plan on graduating in May 2007 with a degree in Business. I am currently employed by an airport and have attained the title of ARFF Crew Leader / Training Officer. I have been testing actively for the last 8 months and am in the pursuit of becoming a career firefighter.

    My question is, What are the next steps for advancement to place myself in the position to become the best possible canidate I can be?

    I have aspirations of becoming chief of a large department in the future and want to take pro-active steps in doing so. So any input out there would be greatly appricatied.

    Thanks - Alex

  • #2
    Sorry I forgot to add the few certifications I have:
    Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighter
    ICS - 700
    ICS - 100
    ICS - 200 (soon)

    I am also taking my FFI practical and written in January 2007



    • #3
      Hey man - I didnt see anyone reply, so I'll throw in my two cents. By no means am I an expert, and I'm not even on somewhere full-time. However, I'm in the same boat you are.

      I'm 20 - Graduating w/ a B.S. in May '07, got my EMT, going through Fire I/II right now . . . . then what?

      Well, I ask myself that everyday. You're probably going to have a little bit more time on your hands...right? No school = no homework, no class time on campus, etc. So, it's time to dive into the fire service head first. Get your face around, if you havent already. . . especially to the departments that you're looking to get hired on with. Like BC Lepore, and many others say... Don't stop going to school. If you can, start taking some basic medic classes . . . in AZ, you can take pharmacology and cardiology at all of the local community colleges. In addition, if you can, get into a medic program. That will increase your chances. Make sure you get some solid experience as EMT first though - we've got a lot of private ambo companies in AZ that will allow you to start as an EMT and then obtain the "go ahead" to go through medic school. If medic school isnt for you, then focus all of your time on your interviews. I'm sure, seeing that your a college student, you can get through the basic written exam, and since you've gone through fire I, you can pass the CPAT. Thus, hone your interview skills....there are always room for improvements there. I just had a friend that got picked up by a major department here in AZ. He said that the feeling was AWESOME when we he walked into the oral board and knew nearly everyone presonally on the board. He interviewed well, and had a great time w/ that interview, and he said that the countless hours of getting out to the station each week really paid off.

      Please, if you don't like what I have to say, don't use it. By all means - I'm not an expert. Eitherway, I hope what I had to say sparks some of your own ideas.

      best of luck.


      • #4
        Hey thanks a lot for the advice and your time.


        • #5
          I think you're already on your way to becoming a good candidate. Keep working hard and complete your degree. Continue to focus on staying in shape for any agility tests. Stay out of trouble. Maintain a good work record at the airport. The certs which you currently have will also help to make you more appealing; however, around here (NC) most large departments aren't concerned with your certs because you will have to go through their own academy no matter what. If you are planning to apply for departments who typically hire FF/Paramedics, it might not be a bad idea to consider starting on your Medic cert (as mentioned above). There really aren't any departments in NC (with the exception of a handful) that operate on the Paramedic level, most all are on the First Responder or EMT level. The advice that AZCadet gave is also something to consider. Continue to perfect your interview skills and visit departments you are considering applying to. Not sure about your area, but several departments here in NC allow you to ride-along and see how the department operates first-hand. That might be something else to consider. That's all I can add... seems like you're already on the right track to becoming successful. Good luck!
          Do it because you love it, not because you love being seen doing it.


          • #6
            Strong work earning your 4-year degree. It will help you not only get hired, but promote in the fire service. Here is a template to follow to reach your goal of becoming a firefighter:

            Two Year Plan

             Graduate from High School or obtain your GED. (A diploma is much preferred)

             Talk with a counselor at a community college that offers fire science courses.

            o Set-up a course curriculum that allow you to obtain a two-year degree in fire science. If the local college does not after a fire science program, find one that does.

            o This curriculum should also allow you to complete the required courses for a fire academy.

            o Enroll in an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course.

             Find out if your community has either a volunteer program or fire explorers.

            o If still in high school look into a Regional Occupational Program (ROP). Many local fire departments have community outreach recruitment programs.

            o Volunteering in the community is an excellent way to gain real life experience. This exposure will also allow you to determine if this is indeed the right career choice for you

             Volunteer in your community.

            Find something that you are interested in and volunteer your time. Church, sports, hospital, YMCA, Red Cross, etc. It doesn’t matter. Get involved. Volunteering is something that should be done because it’s the right thing to do, not because it will look good on a firefighter application.

            o Fire fighters are self-motivated and self-starters that have historically been involved in their community.

            o The feeling is if you are helping out in your community now, when hired you will be the type that will continue to stay involved helping out in the various committees and groups on and off the job.

             Start a log that includes everything you have done to prepare.

            Include dates, names of instructors. Include any personal experiences that may be pertinent in to becoming a firefighter. A few examples of this could be:

            o You witnessed a car accident and were able to render aid.

            o You volunteered your time at the Boys and Girls club

            o If you experience a life-changing event.

            o You were voted most inspirational on your athletic team or your fire academy.

            o Your high school athletic team won the championship.

            o You were a lifeguard at the city pool.

            o There are no rules. Anything that you think might be significant. Write it down!

            This information will either go on your resume, or may be speaking points in an interview. This is preparing you to answer those difficult questions in an interview.

            A common question in an interview is: Please share with the panel a stressful time in your life, and please share with us how you dealt with it.

            o Make it easy and accessible. If you are more comfortable with a pencil and notepad. Use it. If you are more comfortable on the computer then use it to formulate your thoughts and ideas. This should just be an easy memory jogger for you. Keep a notebook or notepad in your room in a convenient spot so you wont forget.

             Take an Emergency Medical Technician Course (EMT).
            This will accomplish a few things. First of all, it is a course required by most departments. It will also let you know if this profession is for you. If you find you can’t handle the sight of blood or helping people in during their worst moments, the fire service is may not for you.

             Physical Fitness.
            Stay in, or get into shape! Fire fighting is a very physical job requiring peak performance. If you are not in good cardiovascular shape, it will become very evident in the physical agility testing or the prehire medical exam. It also is important to look the part in the interview. If you don’t, it decreases your chances of being hired. If you see an out of shape-looking fire fighter don’t look at him and believe, “if he or she got on so can I”! Odds are he was in better condition when he was hired. You are trying to do everything you can to improve your chances. This is a very important part that you have complete control over!

             Look the part!
            The rule of thumb in an interview is to hire someone that you can see becoming a member or your crew tomorrow. A candidate who walks in with facial hair, large tattoo’s or body piercing that is not permitted by the department’s policies and procedures, presents as a candidate who is not ready for the position. Do not make the mistake of saying that you will remove them when you are ready to be hired. You are making a statement. It is important to know the fire department is a paramilitary organization. These will definitely not improve your chances of success.

             Invest in a suit and tie
            Although not required for the interview, a candidate who does not wear one stands out. First impressions are critical.

            Make sure the suit is conservative, not flashy.

            Wear it anytime you will have contact with members of the department. This includes station visits. (Remember it is important to make a good first impression.)

             Enroll in a program that lets you know which departments are testing.

            o There are a lot of businesses on the Internet that will allow you to hear the needed information on which departments are testing and what there requirements are.

            o Most departments test every 2-3 years. They will then hire from the “eligibility list” until it expires. The window to file an application is usually very small. The time frame to file an application ranges from as short as 1 day to as long as 30 days. Whichever the case, once the filing period is closed, the department will not accept any more applications. If you don’t have a subscription to one these services, you will miss a lot of opportunities.

             Talk to your family
            The decision to become a firefighter is a monumental one. It will most likely be a long road that requires a lot of time, and sacrifice. If you don’t have a family or friend support network it will become extremely difficult. Most importantly, if your spouse does not support your decision you are destined for failure.

             Surround yourself with reputable people

            Remember a fire fighter position is a life choice, not just a job. You must be prepared to live your life with excellent moral and ethical values. For this you will need the support of family and friends that are good role models. If your friends are not a positive influence in the community, you may want to find a new set of friends. Remember the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together. Not only will you be scrutinized during your background check, but also so will the company you choose to keep.

             Learn a trade

            Woodworkings, framing electrical, plumbing, welding, automotive, are common examples of a trade. Fire fighting is very physical hands on job that requires good psychomotor skills and hands on approach. Typically those that have learned a trade possess these good applicable skills for the job. If you know how a building is built, you will be able to predict how a fire’s effect on it. If you know where the electrical and plumbing is typically run behind the drywall, you will most likely know how where it would be safe to open it up. You will also have become very comfortable with power tools. The importance of being able to work with your hands cannot be overstated.

            o If you don’t currently have this kind of experience, the first thing to do is start taking a trade class of interest at your community college. You will at least learn the basics. You should back this up with some real life practical experience. It will be invaluable knowledge and will play out well in an interview. Mechanical aptitude cannot be learned in an Internet class or while sitting behind a computer.

             Public Speaking. If you are uncomfortable getting up in front of a group, you must take steps to overcome your fear. The largest percent of the testing process (the interview), and ultimately a large part of the job deals with public speaking! No you won’t talk a fire out, but you will talk to different groups about how to prevent them. If you can present yourself well in an interview you are leaps and bounds over the others that don’t. Even if the other candidates have more experience the job will usually be awarded to the candidate who can present him or herself in a clear and concise manner.

            o If public speaking is your downfall, it is imperative to join toastmasters or take some courses in your community college. A speech and debate class is an excellent way to get over the jitters. Acting classes or drama classes can also be an excellent way to feel more comfortable.

            • A typical question could be “what do you consider a negative aspect about yourself”. (Or a weakness). Your answer could be: I used to feel uncomfortable getting up and speaking in front of a group. I knew this was a very important part of my chosen vocation. I took several classes at my community college to help improve my comfort level. Since then I feel very much more confident in my ability to speak in public.

            • You can have all of the best traits in the world but if you can’t effectively convey them in an interview they will go unnoticed. Now that’s turning a negative into a positive!

             Visit the local fire stations
            Interview the firefighters and elicit their help in helping plan your career path. It is a tremendous compliment for the firefighters to have someone aspire to be in their position. Visiting the fire stations will help you learn about the job and learn the culture of the fire service. In addition, you will learn of things that you could be doing to enhance your chances of getting hired. Ultimately when the department hires, you will be in a good position since the firefighters have gotten to know you and have taken the time to mentor you. There is nothing better than a: home grown” prospect.

             Maintain a clean driving and criminal record
            It goes without saying that firefighters are held to a standard that is much higher than the average citizen. The road is littered with firefighter candidates who have failed their background check due to a poor driving or criminal record.

            Paul Lepore
            Battalion Chief
            Paul Lepore
            Battalion Chief


            • #7
              Thanks for the info.

              I cover a fair share of the items you listed, I printed off the list and using the big black sharpie on the accomplished items! I am testing like crazy right now since I plan on graduating in May.
              Last edited by Aeverman; 10-06-2006, 03:12 PM.


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