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  • Ride Alongs

    Ride alongs can help you or destroy you! Candidates want the opportunity to do ride alongs as a way of showing interest, gain information for their oral, and can say in their oral they had been to the stations. Often they don't know the culture and etiquette.

    We had a candidate in one day for a ride along. He had an opinion on every topic that was brought up, including sports and the current movies. When it came time for lunch, he was the first one on his feet to fill his plate. His mother would have died if she had seen it.

    Let me be blunt here. Dummy Up! You don't have enough time to have an opinion! In this situation you have to be humble, have your questions already written down and realize you are a snotty nose rookie. Too many candidates come in wanting the badge so bad they act like they already have time and want to impress the guys with all of their knowledge. BIG ERROR!

    Be prepared to ask the size of the department, personnel, engines, number of calls, break down of EMS to regular calls, budget, 5 year plan etc. But also ask what the captain thinks there looking for in a candidate and anything unique about the department the other candidates might not know. Let him puff his chest out. Be a good listener.

    Because, this information will spread like wild fire and destroy you with those who will be making the decisions. Too many candidates tank themselves here and they never know what happened. This applies even if you're already a firefighter applying for another department.

    Don't take the bait. Even if you have a friend in the station. If the guys want to joke around and play games, don't do it. You are not part of their family yet. You have not time!

    Some departments don't allow ride alongs during test time. If you're lucky enough to do a ride along, show up on time with a desert. If it's ice cream, make sure it's the round stuff; not the square stuff. We had so much square stuff during one of test we had a contest in the back yard to see who could throw the square stuff the furthest.

    After giving this information at a college fire program a candidate shows up at my station the next day. He didn't make an appointment, have desert, or have any questions ready. McFly?.

    One candidate told me in another class that he had made an appointment and had to wait a half hour when he got there. Poor baby. Understand this is our home. We spend more time at the fire house than with our own family. So here you come waltzing into our home with not knowing what to do.

    If you're fortunate to get a ride along stay for lunch if offered. Offer to pay your share and do the dishes. Leave before dinner and never spend the night. You might interfere with the kick back time during and after dinner.

    Should you go to as many or all the stations in a department? Please spare us this part. Don't turn yourself inside out trying to cover all of the stations hoping the word will get back that you did. It will make you look anal and compulsive, which you probably are if you're doing this. This will raise its ugly head in the psychological test if you get that far. One or two stations is fine. If you try to do them all only increases the chances of saying or doing the wrong thing or catching a shift of malcontents that will bad mouth you.

    If you're bent on doing a ride along, first make an appointment. During test time things get crazy. Be patient. Act like you would if you were the new rookie in the station.

    "Absolutely Nothing counts until you have a real BADGE . . . Nothing!

    "Captain Bob"

  • #2
    Your opening statement about ride alongs helping or hurting is true in my book. The rider should know his place in that house. On the other hand the station involved in this learning opportunity has a role and responsibility to that rider. Yes, we have all had those riders that are full of themselves. You will need to let a little air out of his or her sail. Then you as a vet FF should help this rider to realize that even with years of experience that a FF will never know everything or will never stop learning. Show that rider that listening is a very important tool in the service. As far as the riders etiquette is concerned if some one does not explain this unwritten rule to them how is this suppose to be followed. My first ride was with St.Louis and on a resque squad. I spent the entire morning looking through the trucks and studing equipment while the company took care of morning duties. I offered to help numerous times only to be told that it was not needed. I waited until duties were done until I started conversations with the guys. It would have been easier pulling teeth with tweezers. It was not until after I helped with lunch, cleaned-up and helped with dinner and clean-up before I could get one guy to finally loosen up enough to talk about their S.O.Ps and some war stories. It was after I left that I swore that I would not allow my self to become so self rightous that I would not take the time to help a possible candidate. I was taught that all people deserve to be treated with respect until they proved that they deserved otherwise. You seen to label your riders before they get there because they are new and do not understand that unwritten rule of etiqutte. Yes, ride alongs can help or hurt you but FF with your attitude can destroy a future for someone who could give this career years of good service.

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    • #3
      I'll preface my post by stating that I am a Paramedic program Coordinator who has the responsibility of scheduling students for
      clinical internships. I hear both sides of the story from ride-a longs and fire service and private companies.Our students are given clinical orientations that speak to the culture and etiquette when you're in someone elses "house". Has it been that long ago Captain Bob, that you've forgotten what it's like to be enthusiastic about a life long dream? Has it been that long ago that you've forgotten what it's like to be new and how hard it is to fit in and find your place?
      Nervousness about new experiences comes in many shapes and forms. Those with the least amount of confidence often are the most overly enthusiastic. I am fortunate that most of our clinical preceptors have the
      insight to recognize when a student is exhibiting behaviors that will eventually
      alienate others,and the compassion to take
      these individuals aside for a heart to heart.
      Youth has a lot to do with it. Some of our younger students have not the life experience to read how others are reading them. A little kindness can go a long way in mediating enthusiasm and lack of insight.

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      • #4
        Good points have been made here. Don't get my posting wrong. I'm on the side of the candidate. I have great passion for what they must go through to get a badge. I talk to many college programs and fire academies to keep them from stepping on any land mines that would take them out of the hiring process.

        As you must know, the reality here is a candidate can be eaten alive by in service firefighters if they don't understand the culture and some simple rules. This is not a touchy feely inviornment. I've talked to numerous candidates who were devastated by the experience because they know what they were doing.

        A quick check of my profile and site will give you an idea what my rewards are.

        "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Absolutely Nothing!"

        "Captain Bob"

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        • #5
          Capt. Bob-
          I thought I would pass a quick story on to you about your post. I have a cousin who turned 21 last year. He hadn't been doing all that well in college and talked to me looking for advice on what he should do with his life. Naturally, I talked up the fire service and everything it stands for. This past fall he decided to take an intro. to fire technology at the local community college. Part of the class was to do ride time with a dept. My full-time dept. had been in the middle of several detail projects so I felt he wouldn't get the time and appreciation, so I invited him to the part-time dept. I work at. BIG mistake!! What one 8 hr. day was suppose to be ended up in him starting to come around the dept. everyday! At first my friends (chief included), were very receptive to him because he showed a lot of enthusiasm. But when he went up to our equipment room and took a set of turnouts without permission was strike one. Strike two was how he started getting on the nerves of everyone around. Not that they were mean to him but he tried to make friends too hard. He became clingy and wouldn't give anyone ten seconds of peace while he was around. Finally strike three came when he started signing himself in the log journal as "on duty". Needless to say the chief asked him never to come back and asked me never to invite anyone else to do anymore than a one day ride along! Talk about embarassing! So I know excactly what you are talking about.

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