The Station Ready Rookie; Firefighter Preparation Beyond the State Skills Test is a slender gem of a book. Simple. Concise. Direct. And yet it is chockfull of wisdom and common sense. It lays out practices essential for anyone who wants to excel in the fire service. If firefighting is just a paycheck and an ego boost, then this book probably won’t mean much, but if you view firefighting as a career, a calling, then this is a book to read.
“Many times expectations for the new recruit are never carefully laid out. This lack of communication can quickly lead to a perception of unacceptable performance through no fault of the newly hired rookie. And once the reputation of poor work habits has been established it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the rest of the department is quick to spot inadequacies and point out deficiencies.”
Lord, how I wish I’d been given this book as a rookie. I’m proud to say I did a lot of what the author’s recommend, but I also crashed and burned at some of it. I never have been particularly good at keeping my mouth shut, and on my second shift the station captain sternly advised me that talking politics was against policy. I also once managed to screw up frozen lasagna so badly I was asked to never cook again.
As rookies we’re told to do things: clean the toilets, jump in, shut up, but we’re not always told why. The beauty of this slender volume is that each short chapter lays out what to do and then explains why and how it will help us to do this.
One of the most important things that you can do to make a good first impression on everyone is to approach him or her, shake their hand and introduce yourself. Do this to every new face that you see. If they want to know about you, they will ask questions. Others may want you to prove yourself first, and that is fine too. You will have plenty of opportunities to show your character and work ethic.
Station Ready breaks things down into three sections: 1.) At the Station 2.) On Scene and 3.) Attitude is Everything. Within those sections, very short chapters explain what is obvious to every senior firefighter, but not always so clear to a rookie. Things like: Be on Time (Early), Bring Money, Smooth is Fast, Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Listen More Than You Talk, Learn From Your Mistakes. And the list goes on in a perfectly relevant way. It covers practical matters like cleaning the station, as well as the mental aspects of the job like attitude and emotional discipline.
The Station Ready Rookie isn’t just for new guys. It’s a healthy reminder for all of us to stay professional and resist complacency. We don’t have to be a rookie to do a self-assessment. The stakes are high and we need to stay on point even when we’re being worn down by the day-to-day monotony of our calls (hence the last chapter, Learn to Love EMS).
Treat people with respect and dignity. Some members of your crew may be short or rude to patients. Do not let yourself fall into this rut. It does not matter if you deem the situation an emergency or not. The patient made that decision for you when they dialed 911, now it is your job to help.
I recommend this book to all firefighters: rookie, senior, volunteer, or career, and I think it would be especially helpful for instructors. I also highly recommend this to all female firefighters. Sometimes we’re not aware of how we’re being perceived. We may take something personal, when really a guy would garner the exact same reaction (or worse). This book is a guide post, something to check your behavior and actions against to see if you’re on track. If you follow everything laid out in this book, and they still shut you out, you can rest assured that they’re the ones with the problem, not you.
Everyone is going to have strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect. The point is to know yourself and strive for improvement. One way of doing this is to have things laid out very clearly and check yourself against them. This goes for everyone, not just rookies or women. And this is why, after eleven years on the job, I’m keeping a copy of this in my locker, to thumb through from time to time as a reminder to stay sharp.
The first year can make or break you. If you want to be ready, read The Station Ready Rookie.
Always Ready, Proud to Serve