Did you miss As the Kitchen Turns Part 1? Check it out here!
Every firehouse kitchen has a minimum of 4 types of firefighters.
Senior firefighters have forever been a fixture in the firehouse. There is always that “old guy” or the firefighter that everybody listens to when they speak. The guy the officers rely on during the hardest emergency calls or the mitigation of situations around the firehouse before they make it to the officer or admin levels.
The firefighters that have spent more time fighting fire and running the dreaded EMS calls have the ability to educate their brothers/sisters at the “house.” These folks usually hold the title of senior man or are unofficially known as such. These guys have the best stories too. The stories of fiery battles that could be in books, the hilarious stories of blunders and screw ups, and even the tall tales.
A story from a friend of ours at Station Pride, who is a “seasoned” firefighter shared with me;
” One story for you that’s still told on a regular basis at our house. I’m deathly afraid of snakes and the guys know it. They used to keep a rubber snake around the house to prank me with. They’ve put it in my guitar case, taped it to the back of my lap top so when I shut it, the thing jumps at me, They’ve laid it around corners, and much more . They don’t have it anymore, that I know of, because they pretty much made me pass out once, so they’ve calmed down on pranking me.
One shift a few years back was a pretty busy shift, busy enough we forgot some things at the grocery store for supper. One of the other guys does a lot of the cooking and it was getting close to time to start cooking. Their truck caught a run so myself, the Captain, and 2 others were in the kitchen trying to figure out what all was bought for supper. Well, just before the alert for the run came in, they were looking for a place in the kitchen to hide the rubber snake. When the alert came in, the guy with the snake ran into our walk-in pantry and threw it up on one of the shelves. While they were gone and we were getting ready to prepare supper, I asked the Captain where the potatoes were. He said that he believes they forgot them but that we had a half a box of instant masked potatoes in the pantry and we can just use those instead. So I went into the pantry to get the box of instant mash and guess where that snake was??? On top of that box! Another surprise was that the box of instant mash was actually never closed well when it was used the first time. Well, I reached up, grabbed the box, pulled it off the shelf, and here comes that snake. Yes, I jumped, yes I screamed, and yes when it was all over with, it looked like a blizzard just moved through our pantry because it snowed instant mash all over everything. Once the dust cleared, there was the Captain, almost in tears, even though he wasn’t in on the prank, nor did he know the snake was even up there, but it was on the floor, just outside the pantry door, and he knew exactly what happened. When the guys returned from their run, the story was told to them and it was marked down in the books as one of the funniest accidental unexpected pranks……in the kitchen at least.”
The kitchen allows the guys and gals to determine who they are working with. Who is in what mood, what is or isn’t the rookie doing, and learning about each other around the kitchen table. Can “the kid” cook or barely boil water? Does the Captain need more coffee or does the Lieutenant have a training idea? The family unit, like a group of men and women in a fire house, is molded around the kitchen and the kitchen table. Take pride in your firehouse, take pride in your family.
Fitness. Diet. Mental Wellness.
Firefighter health and wellness is one of those topics that immediately turns off most readers. It’s not a fun topic to read about and for most people its hard to acknowledge our weaknesses. Likewise, trying to get firefighters to admit their weaknesses is nearly impossible.
Responding to car accidents, trauma victims, fires, destruction, disasters, untimely and timely deaths, blood, screaming, dire situations, rescues, shootings, stabbings, domestic, violence, toxic chemical spills… we handle it all. Each call takes a little piece of us without us even realizing it.
The average citizen would take the action of breaking a window as being extreme or performing CPR for the layperson would be a life changing experience, where for us, it’s all part of daily life on the job. There is a necessary tendency where we have to remove the emotion of the situation in order to mitigate it. Repeating that action over a career has the ability to produce adverse mental health consequences. Sometimes I think we’re just here to bare witness to the worst humanity has to offer and somehow deal with it.
Mental illness in firefighters should be an expectation instead of a rare or embarrassing occurrence. Granted we are a unique breed of people where we can accept the tragedies of the days events and go back to normal life, however, when coupled with the mental challenges of running calls, add in a careers worth of sleep deprivation, poor diet, inadequate exercise, family stress, anxiety leading to depression…and you get the picture. Each one, individually, can deliver an entire host of problems. Together it’s almost a guaranteed recipe for struggle.
As firefighters, we tend to mask , hide, or deny there is anything wrong with us. Some of us are affected more than others, while few, seemingly, aren’t affected at all. Mental illness is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that we have souls, a heart, and a conscience. At times in our life we could all use a guide map or directions.
Station Pride is taking the initiative to promote firefighter health and wellness. A cornerstone of taking pride in the fire service is to take pride in ourselves and each other. We all need to remove the stigma of mental health and obesity, address suicide prevention, PTSD support, and addiction assistance, while promoting positive mental health, physical fitness, and practical healthy eating.
Our initiative involves pulling together existing and amazing resources for firefighters to seek guidance or receive the assistance they may need. We will post regular wellness articles and content provided by FireStrong.org, Firefightersweightloss.com, and Tongs and Turnouts.
Please stay tuned and help Station Pride end the stigma of mental health while assisting brothers and sisters with weight-loss and diet change by making these topics a part of everyday firehouse conversation. It’s time we take the lead on changing the culture of our profession. It’s past time
Firestrong.org is an independently operated online resource for members of the Fire Service and their families. The mission of Firestrong is to offer mental, emotional, and physical support to each member of the fire department and their families by providing educational tools, resources, crisis intervention assistance (crisis line) and peer support services.
Most who participate in the profession start off fit and at least close to reasonable weight standards. Unfortunately, many gain weight and find it difficult or impossible to lose weight. They struggle to maintain enough fitness to pass whatever testing may be required for continued service. The emphasis for many is to “protect their right” to continue in the service.
Many give up hope that they can lose weight and place themselves at great risk because they are over weight or obese. Here at “FireFightersWeightLoss.com” we understand and have experienced the problem.
Tongs and Turnouts is an Facebook page operated by a firefighter/brother in Australia. They provide amazing meal ideas for the fire station. Give them a follow and try to incorporate some of their practical and healthy meals with your shift. Every fireman loves a good feed! This page is to help share ‘Firies’ love of good food, and recipes for/from station cook ups.
One of the only things in the fire service that is 100% guaranteed is that you will be faced with an opportunity to make a difference in somebody’s life at some point.
How you accept that challenge is up to you. The way you mitigate tomorrow’s situations is based, in part, on how you prepare today.
In my last article, “Junkyard Dog”, I talked about the attitude to get the job done, the step up and “do work, get shit done” mindset. But to have the confidence to “do work” you must drill the skills, and the information, of all aspects of the job, into your brain. Make your hands perform skills so much that it becomes muscle memory. You need the same “step-up and kill the objective” eagerness in training as you do on the fire ground or at the next MVA.
Beast mode is that gear you kick into when you need to get shit done now. Adrenaline dumps into your bloodstream. Your pupils dilate. Everything locks into place. Your Halligan placement is swift. Your sledge swings are loaded and on point. Beast mode is that intense focus, that massive groove where you’re inner animalistic nature becomes perfect execution. Heighten 6th sense, eyes in the back of your head, salivating, sweat shedding, target on lock, predatory beast-mode. You are the predator and the fire is your prey.
You must prepare, train, practice at the same aggressive and confident speed that you will perform on scene. The tempo of how firefighters train falls directly on their mentors and the men/women teaching. Training builds confidence. Our confidence in our abilities creates a sense of relieving hope in the citizens we have to help. Objective completion in a quick and effective manner resulting in every responder going home safe and the situational problem solved breeds pride in ourselves and our brothers. Which in turn creates a better attitude during the next training. Sounds like a never ending cycle of “get shit done” awesomeness right?!?!
Do work brothers. #beastmode
No matter how long you have been in the fire service, I’m pretty sure you have heard this one before; “The best thing an old firemen can teach a young firemen is how to be an old firemen”. That said, is the tradition of becoming the old fireman fading? Too often we see firefighters that want to climb the ranking ladder and not earn there street credit riding backwards. Being the old fireman is not a bad thing no matter what anyone tells you! I am by no means the old fireman, yet. But I have stepped up as a Lieutenant and senior man. I have started to pass on what i know by mentoring new firemen. It’s the handing down of fire department operational knowledge that helps hold the integrity of our mission together.
It doesn’t take much to become a mentor in the fire service. If you have an “all-in” attitude and the training to back your tactics then share your knowledge with those new guys. If you are ever selected as a mentor in your department then take it as an honor. Your leadership is placing the task of molding that new member in your capable hands. You are there to be their go-to-guy to teach them and show them what this service is all about.
Now that you have mentored a younger fresher member. What is next on becoming the old firemen? Early morning shift change talks over coffee?. Early and late night training operations? Encourage younger members on gaining not only class room training but using every emergency as a training opportunity. War stories of fires past and bizarre calls and the crazy solutions you invented to mitigate them all help create a picture and an expectation of what future calls may hold. Those are a few things the old fireman does to strengthen their members.
My hope is that after you read this that you think about how you can step up and mentor and help a younger fresh member of your fire department. If you do not open up the doors to a member and encourage his participation in the department then you can not complain when they never show up!
As a rookie, our most important job is to earn the respect and trust of our brothers and sisters in the fire service. Too often, departments get fresh recruits with very little life experience and no idea what they are truly getting into by joining the Fire Service. Here are some general rules of thumb and mindset to follow as you start your journey in the best job in the world.
Know your place. Realize coming in that you have to prove yourself. As you go through your time as a rookie, the rest of the members in the department will be watching you like a hawk to find out if you have what it takes to be a valuable member of the team. Going in thinking you know better than someone else will get you nowhere. If you are a valuable member, the fire service will do wonderful things for you, as will the brothers and sisters that make it up. Recognize and acknowledge the time and experience that others have put into the service. Respect the other members of the fire service and do everything you can to earn their respect in return.
Be eager to learn. One of the most important things you can do as a rookie is to go in with an open mind, open ears and a closed mouth. Speak less and listen more. If you’re talking, you’re not learning. Go out of your way to learn every aspect you can. The more knowledge you gain, the more valuable you will be as a team member. The older experienced members are a fountain of knowledge and most will be eager to teach you the ways! Basic Fire Academy can only teach you so much, it’s the knowledge of the veteran members that will help you fine tune your skills.
Do any job, nothing is beneath you. From loading hose to cleaning the toilets, every job plays a part in running a successful and efficient firehouse. Do any job asked of you and do it with a smile on your face. When I was a kid, it was an honor to clean the toilets of my heroes. As corny as that sounds, that’s exactly the attitude you need to have in these daily tasks. Every job done right reflects on your pride as a firefighter and in your firehouse. Never think you are too good for anything.
Go above and beyond. Go out of your way to do the best you can in everything you do. Do more than is asked of you. If you see something that needs to be done, don’t wait to be told to do it. If you see the trash needs to be emptied, take the two minutes and get it done. If they see you can do these simple things without being told, they will be more likely to trust you with bigger and more important tasks on a fire scene.
Bond with the members of your department. Join in on the extra curricular activities and group events. This is more than a job and these are more than just your co-workers. Bonding with the members of your department creates a relationship and trust that is paramount in our line of work.
Maintain a strong sense of honor. Among the many moral values you should hold true to, I feel honor is the most important. Holding yourself to this standard ensures that you will make good decisions. Holding true to your word helps build that foundation of trust with each other. Respecting your fellow fire service members, and the job will help keep things in perspective for you as a rookie.
Listen to and value criticism. All the positivity in the world will not better you as a fire fighter the way criticism will. We learn more from our mistakes than we do our triumphs. When someone tells you how you made a mistake, rather than get angry and butt-hurt, use it as an opportunity to learn. The majority of the time, your brothers and sisters aren’t criticizing you to be mean, they are doing it to help you become better.
With these basic rules kept in mind, you will quickly become a valued part of your fire service team and the brotherhood as a whole. Firefighting is a humble and honorable job and it takes humble and honorable people to keep the fire service at it’s best. Going into it from the start with the right attitude is key. When in doubt, ask someone. We all play an important role in making the fire service what it is… even the rookies.
What do you think makes up the perfect recruit? Leave a comment and let us know!
Co-Written by Joshua Vanopynen
As this is my first article for the Station Pride movement, I thought it would be fun to write an article in a question and answer format. I’ll leave it open for people to ask more questions. Anyone who has aspirations of becoming an instructor, working overseas in the fire service, or wanting to know more about how things are done in other parts of the world may find this interesting. Anyone who has worked as a firefighter or an instructor “ on this side of the pond”, will likely be shaking their heads, laughing and/or experience PTSD flashbacks.
What is it like to train firefighters overseas?
Instructing outside of the United States is certainly as educational for the Instructor, as it is for many students. Moving so far away from home is never easy, and leaving the majority of your own culture behind is even more difficult. Factor in the differences in fire service culture, mindset and language or translation barriers and you’ve got a little better idea of just the tip of the proverbial iceberg regarding issues that you can run into.
The issue of communication is certainly a big one. While almost all of my students here are well versed in the English language, despite coming from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Egypt or Morroco, their version of English, or the true comprehension of it, can be lacking. What gets fun is having guys from Canada, South Africa, Australia or the U.K. and then trying to get on the same page with them. Either way, it is rare that you find someone who doesn’t speak even the most basic English. What gets difficult is putting things in technical fire service terms and getting non-english speakers to understand it.
For example: Ever had the debate with another fireman from the other side of the country about what a pike pole is called? To some, it’s exactly that, to others is called a hook. However, in South Africa it’s called a Preventor. As in, it prevents the ceiling from collapsing when you use it to remove the ceiling from above you. Imagine if you will, three firemen standing around arguing about what the name of the tool is and what it’s design is for, only to discover that it is used for the same tasks in all three countries…just called something different. We all immediately started laughing at how silly the whole thing is. Jacket vs. Tunic, Nozzle vs. Branch, Apparatus vs. Appliance, Vest vs. Tabbard. Needless to say, we all learn a lot from each other, have a few laughs and give each other a good ribbing, just to pass the time.
What’s up with that “euro gear”?
Without a doubt, it is nothing like anything we would use in the NFPA system. It has its benefits and its drawbacks. I’ll start at the helmet and work down.
The helmet style, often referred to as a “space helmet” or “helicopter helmet” is produced by several manufacturers that include MSA, Rosenbauer and others. It is thermoplastic, like some of our NFPA helmets, but has no brim off the rear. It has a neck curtain that attaches at the bottom to help protect the neck. It also has two separate eye/face shields that stow inside the helmet. My experience with it has not been positive, as it is extremely hard to hear anything except the sound f your own voice, and it retains an incredible amount of heat inside the helmet. It should also be noted that many of our students are fascinated with our U.S. traditional style helmets, and agree that they are of a much better design.
The nomex flash hoods are very similar, if not identical to ours.
The bunker jacket (often referred to as a tunic) is very light weight. In fact, I own North Face jackets that are heavier. It is extremely thin, and offers minimal thermal protection and even less water resistance.
The bunker pants ( referred to as trousers) is made of identical material. However, there are no pockets on the trousers, and they fit a bit like I suspect skinny jeans do on European men.
The boots are actually quite good, and offer a lot of support and have an athletic quality to them.
Finally, the SCBA ( referred only as a BA) is manufactured by Drager or Scott, but is to European standard. There is no gauge on the cylinder, and there is no way to tel externally if the cylinder is full, or empty. There is no integrated PASS alarm, and the external PASS systems are very quiet in comparison to even our older NFPA rated stand-alone systems. All of the buckles are thermoplastic. The cylinders are not much different in construction than ours, but there are some differences.
All of this being said, before you find yourself shaking your head with a triumphant smile on your face that NFPA is superior to our neighbors across the pond, you have to bear some things in mind.
Like their fire apparatus (referred to as a fire appliance) their PPE is constructed to mirror their tactics. Yes, contrary to popular belief that European firefighters do not make interior attacks in structure fires, they do. They just do it under a different set of guidelines than we do. And why shouldn’t they? They’ve been fighting fire for a lot longer than we have. Also keep in mind that their building construction is a lot older and heavier, and that the fuel load is of the legacy type. Something that we in the US are just beginning to understand with the help of NIST/UL.
What type of fire apparatus do you use?
The local fire departments use a variety of equipment, and span nearly a dozen or more manufacturers. Currently they operate Metz, Rosenbauer and Bronto aerials. For engines they primarily use Scania or Mercedes commercial chassis with Metz, BAI or Rosenbauer boxes. ARFF is exclusively Rosenbauer Panther crash rigs. However, our training facility uses new Oshkosh Global Strikers. The ruler of the country here has mandated that all fire equipment and tactics start to convert to NFPA. It is a slow process. As Qatar, as well as much of the region has only had it’s independence from Britain for a relatively short period of time, it’s very difficult to get them to change over. But it is happening. Some other Arab countries are already doing it. In fact, Saudi Arabia is roughly 95% NFPA compliant as of January 2015.
What are the strategy/tactics like?
What our NIST and UL research has taught us in cooling the environment before making entry, is not exactly cutting edge tactics. Many European departments began doing this a long time ago. The concept of “hitting it hard from the yard” has long been the tactics of departments outside of the US. What makes the NIST/UL research unique is that it PROVES it to be beneficial with science. I know, I know. I can hear some of you groaning already. But you simply cannot argue science, provided that the scientific evidence gathering is, well, scientific. Read that word as valid or sound.
What makes a lot of US firefighters groan about it, is that it’s not as “manly” or “aggressive” as how we are accustomed to doing things. We prefer to “take the hit” or “make the push” and “go for the grab”. (Insert your choice of catchy FDNY wannabe fireman speak here). Please don’t misread that last statement. Before you lose your collective minds over it, I mean no disrespect to the phrases, the FDNY or to our US fire heritage. I AM referring to the firefighters who like to simply use the catch phrases to sound more like a fireman. The bottom line is this boys and girls: it’s 2015. It’s time (and long over due ) to take a serious look at how we do things.
All of my students here wonder how and why we kill as many firefighters every year in the US. The fact is, it is truly amazing when you stack up the amount of firefighter LODD deaths from the US compared to that the rest of the global fire community. Now before you techies out there take to the internet to try to either validate or invalidate this comment, bear in mind that we have many more firefighters in the US than other countries. Statistically speaking, this is not hard to understand. But the way that we are dying at incidents (not including cardiovascular emergencies, which we all know is the highest cause) is still much higher than the global average.
NFFF, NFA, IAFF and IAFC (among many others) have amazing and effective initiatives to help bring the average number of yearly LODD’s down from 100.
We have made incredible strides in firefighter safety. But we still need to continue to take a hard look at our tactics, our PPE, and our overall effectiveness to get the job done. Notice that I didn’t say to make the job safer. I have heard too much of that my entire career, and am sick to death of it. I found myself screaming in my bunk room at Lt. Ray McCormacks FDIC speech in complete agreement. I had colleagues coming in to see what had me so worked up. I admired his courage to finally say it in a public forum!
Truth be told though, we are finding that the way that we used to do it, in some circumstances, was actually the right way, even way back then. The 2 ½” line, the smooth bore nozzle, the tactics of “making that push”. But we’re also finding out the hard way, that we’ve been wrong in a lot of areas as well. And our brothers and sisters have paid for it in blood.
But NFPA is really better than British Standard, Right?
Here’s the bottom line: Throw 100 firemen from 20 different countries in the same room together. Assuming that they can all communicate with each other, I would bet a years salary that they would all agree that there should be only one standard for firefighters to follow. They all would agree that there are too many standards that govern equipment, apparatus, PPE and tactics. Where the fist fight would start, is determining whose system to adopt globally. We all know how stubborn firemen can be when it comes to change. And how impossibly stubborn we get when we’re told that we have to relearn something that we learned 10 years ago…or 10 days ago.
Truthfully, the British Standard way is not as crazy as it all appears. NFPA could learn a thing or two from that way of doing things. And we have. Know where the NFPA 1901 reflective chevron requirements came from? That’s’ right… departments all over the world were using this to bring higher visibility to their apparatus decades ago. That NFPA 1500 requirement to use high visibility safety vests on highway incidents? Yep… you guessed it. They’ve been doing that across Europe for years too.
So what is the best way?
In my humble opinion, the Brothers (and Sisters) in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries like Japan, Singapore and the Philippines have got it pegged. They have waded into the quagmire that one can easily find themselves in regarding these two standards, have extracted the best of both worlds, and finally used some good common sense to apply it to the areas that they serve. I am in constant amazement from these firefighters who really research what is going to be best for them. They have a healthy respect for both standards, and their respective places in fire service history.
All of that being said though, the entire world is watching our NIST/UL research. No one else on the planet is conducting scientific research like this. And they are learning as much from the data and research as we are in the US. If you don’t hear Bob Dylan’s voice singing “the times, they are a changin’” then you simply aren’t paying attention.
What is your biggest challenge as an instructor over there?
There are two big ones:
- Fire Service Culture
- Cultural Values and Differences
This is sure to make for an interesting topic for my next piece, but to simplify it for now, you must understand that the fire service in many other parts of the world is not looked upon favorably. In many ways, there are a lot of similarities in how the culture here treats it’s firemen, and emergency services in general, to how the US treated it’s firemen and police officers around 120 years ago. It does give me hope, that one day, hopefully with the introduction of the NFPA system, that one day soon, the overall culture here will realize that these men should be respected for the oath that is so similar to ours in the US.
So, that concludes the question and answer article. If you have any more follow up questions about any of the above, or you have new questions, feel free to post them in the comments and I’ll get to you just as soon as I can.
The purpose here is to dig deep into the tug-of-war between education and experience. In the last two decades there has been an explosion of fire service certification and degree programs sprinkled throughout the country. Brick-and-mortar schools, online colleges, accredited and even less-than-accredited distance learning courses, state, national, international certifications and the like. These programs exist to help us gain an edge within our careers. Some of us start off in Fire Science class before ever riding an engine while others matriculate later in their fire careers when it’s time to move up the ladder.
The argument here is an age-old military quandary. The crusty old Sergeant taking orders from the young, inexperienced, but educated Lieutenant. It’s likely an issue as old as education.
The real question is what is more valuable; years of experience OR a university degree backed with proper fire certifications?
The Fire Service has always been a bastion of process for promoting from within because on-the-job experience is extremely valuable to an organization. The wisdom a firefighter gains from running calls in their area-of-operation is incredibly valuable and irreplaceable. Running emergency calls and mitigating situations can’t be learned in books. Wisdom is so valuable in fact that whatever education you happen to achieve along the way is almost secondary or an added bonus to your experience and ability to execute that wisdom, in some departments.
Wisdom aside, education is paramount. Having the ability to learn the fine intricacies of your craft is an integral part of being a complete firefighter, in the “whole” sense of the term. Reading books, writing research papers, answering a thesis, combing through peer reviewed articles, learning legalities as well as philosophical aspects of the job will help you fully understand where we are and how we got here. It’s not enough to know what decision to make on scene, we have to understand why we’re making those decisions and what the consequences could be if we are wrong.
Core classes such as English, Math and Science will help round out a persons thought process and general knowledge. It helps to provide the ability to generate accurate reports and can also help create a base for proper personnel management. Every decision a leader makes has to stand the test of a court or inquiry.
Education also helps us hammer home the importance of having a legitimate incident commander. Well intentioned Volunteer Fire Chiefs who, sometimes, fall into the job title by way of popular vote may only be equipped with years of volunteer experience. If there happens to be a line-of-duty-death under that incident commander’s leadership, the NIOSH Firefighter death investigation team would most certainly point to that as a contributing factor. Training, certifications, and education is always a hard focus during LODD investigations.
Information is extremely powerful and education is vastly important. Legitimacy plays havoc at the core of the education issue. It’s hard to say you can do the job if you can’t prove that you’ve at least learned the job. It’s not enough to walk the walk, you have to talk to the talk.
Not to flip -flop but education isn’t even not enough. Digging into history, Vietnam was a great example of the brightest minds in the country consistently making the wrong decisions. Kennedy’s “Whiz Kids” had a wealth of education from some of the finest universities in the country. They had information and intelligence, but lacked the experience to pull it all together into an effective battle strategy. Decisions that were made by some of the most educated people in the country were not enough to win a war. They lacked experience and wisdom.
To ensure the title isn’t lost on anyone. The “best” refers to those with wisdom gained from on-the-job experience and the “brightest” refers to those with education. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a common expression such as: “What he lacks in education he makes up for in experience” or vise versa.
Experience and education are not interchangeable. There are many Fire Officer and Fire Chief job descriptions that will accept experience in-loo of education. One should not be allowed to mascaraed as the other. Yes there is a wealth of learning that takes place while gaining experience but it is a stark contrast from the learning that takes place in the classroom.
It’s seems to be good measure to increase your education level as you gain experience. It’s always best to achieve certifications according to your experience timeline. You should not be a 22 year old Fire Officer IV or a 24 year old Instructor II. There is a lack of legitimacy in those numbers. It’s difficult to lead and /or teach what you haven’t experienced
If you don’t think education is the future of the fire service, then you are already behind. It’s an unreasonable expectation for you to believe you can progress through the ranks without it. It’s time to put your brain where your mouth is.
As part of Station Pride’s continuing mission to support Firefighter owned small businesses, I took the opportunity to check out HeroPrep.com. When a company is created and operated solely by firefighters for firefighters it always tends to give me the warm and fuzzies. Without knowing any of them personally I already have an idea of what I’m getting into.
HeroPrep is a firefighter and EMT test preparation website where they guarantee a 100% pass rate on your IFSAC or ProBoard Firefighter 1/2 and/or NREMT test OR your money back! That’s a very bold guarantee for a company to make and I was curious to see how it all worked. HeroPrep.com has designed custom study-question test banks that provide thousands of questions across relevant topics.
One interesting facet of HeroPrep.com is that they also operate a Firefighter and EMT job posting website called Recruit911.com. Not only can you prepare to pass your emergency services exams but you can also FIND A FIRE JOB or EMT JOB, once you pass. Seems like a very convenient arrangement of services.
Upon arriving at the homepage, (www.HeroPrep.com), it appeared very clean, formal and professional. It wasn’t flashy or over the top. The style had a very basic feel about it. You immediately knew you weren’t there to be dazzled and you were definitely there to learn something. The graphics are neat, rustic, and professional.
The website consists of a “How it Works Section”, About, FAQ’s, Support, Job Board, and a section on learning how to become an EMT. All of the navigation tabs provided thorough insight into the process and answered all the questions I had for their service.
In order to utilize the multiple-choice, study-question test banks you must first create an account and purchase the desired service. After creating a log-in and password with a confirmation email you were ready to start. This process was easy and a standard across the internet with regards to purchases.
The Dashboard and Test Banks
Depending on the service you purchased you will be given access to your desired study test bank. For example, if you are taking the Firefighter 1 Test Bank; the bank is divided into function categories such as Fire Service History and Orientation, Fire Behavior, Ropes & Knots, Water Supply, Fire Streams and so on.
If you are taking the NREMT Test Bank the areas are segmented into Airway, Trauma, Medical, Obi & Peds, Cardiology, and a specially designed NREMT Test Simulator that mimics the NREMT exam.
I kept looking for an immediate response to my answered questions and then realized I was literally taking a practice test. All of my correct and incorrect answers were displayed upopn completion of each quiz.
Each functional area of the test appears to be thoroughly covered. After completing each quiz you can see a breakdown of the areas you need to focus on. You will see your grade, an explanation of the answer as well as graphs to show your progress.
Every quiz tracks associated data such as how long it took you to complete, how many attempts to pass each topics and so on. There is valuable, usable data that is displayed to help you hone your studying.
As I made my attempts I did not readily notice any repeating questions.
My Discussion with HeroPrep’s Creator
As with any discussion with an individual who owns a company I don’t like hearing their “pitch” I don’t like listening to what’s so great about their product compared to others. I like to form an unbiased opinion based on my actual experience with the service.
With that said, I had a conversation with the creator of HeroPrep. Currently they provide Firefighter 1, 2 and NREMT test preparation service. In the near future they plan to expand that service into Instructor, the driver operator series, inspector and officer test preparation.
He also explained changes being made with Recruit911.com and a possible package deal. With the purchase of a HeroPrep service you will be given access to Recruit911.
My Honest Thoughts
I’ve invested in several similar services throughout my career.
Taking practice tests or answering practice questions is one of the best ways to prepare for an exam, hands-down. While taking practice tests you become comfortable with physically taking the test while you are learning and studying. Flash cards are great but they don’t give you that test-taking feeling.
The student dashboard was very basic and simple to navigate. There was nothing flashy it was pure Quiz City. The questions in the test bank were nearly identical to questions I’ve experienced in actual tests.
To be entirely truthful…I actually learned a few things I didn’t know, which made me a little excited. I thought I was going to smoke through the quizzes with no issue but I was stumped a few times. Which, by all rights, is exactly what you want to have happen. We learn from our mistakes.
The test banks were exactly what you would expect from a test preparation website. I attempted to access my account from my iPhone as well as my iPad and the website IS mobile-device-enabled which made taking quizzes even easier. I was completing topics while I was out and about in my Ladder Truck.
So there you are with a fresh bottle after sucking the first one dry, and you hear command make the call.
“I need someone to do this thing over there, who do I have?!”
Boom. Here’s your chance. It’s up to you. Do you fight for that chance, or do you let another firefighter take it from you? Are you the first to stand and take the assignment or do you take a couple extra yard breaths and sip a Gatorade?
As a personal point, I take a lot of pride in being the guy that jumps at the chance to gain experience, even if it’s a task I’ve accomplished 100 times before. Not only that, but it’s about getting the job done and pulling your weight in work. If you have brother’s busting their stones while you’re standing around, good to go; not only are you skirting your responsibility to your brothers but there is no pride in your actions.
It’s amazing how many guys will give up their tool at a simple request. Why though?
There are firefighters out there that I call, “show me” guys, they don’t give the tool up. Those guys trust their training and take pride in their ability to accomplish the task and simply say, “show me where you need me to use this tool”. Are you that kind of firefighter?
Likewise, you have the firefighters that have spotless gear. You know, the guys that would rather stand on the porch and hand their tools to the guys, they consider to be, below them and allow them break their backs.
Granted, some of these guys are the senior men, taking the younger firefighters experience into consideration and allowing for that moment to be a teaching moment. On the other hand, there are the guys that just want to show up and be yard breathers. It’s too cold, too hot or too early in the morning for them. They’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt, so let someone else do it.
So what kind of firefighter are you? Have you taken pride in yourself and your work ethic. Do you leap at the opportunity to complete a task, performing that task to best of your ability; or do you hide behind tenor, lack of knowledge and/or laziness?
Training builds confidence and both of these compound over time. Your attitude and your work ethic is the foundation of the respect you get from your co-workers. Don’t be the guy standing around. Be a Junkyard Dog. Step up. Do the job. Roll that hose instead of waiting for someone else to do it. Mask up when it’s time to mask up and take the roof with the ax when the saw breaks. Junkyard Dogs are always Johnny-on-the-spot, they’re always present and they never shy away from their jobs. Junkyard Dogs own their space, protect their guys, and they react with fierce determination when it’s time to Do WORK!