Congratulations! You have been successful in your application to be a wholetime firefighter.
It’s the phrase many have been longing to hear for a very long time but it is also just the beginning of a very long journey.
Starting a wholetime recruits course is daunting for anybody. You may be lucky enough to be transitioning from the Retained Duty System to the Wholetime one in the same brigade and therefore the equipment, policies and procedures are familiar to you, or you may find that they’re not all that different from whichever brigade you have served in previously. This is where your character and inter-personal skills are immediately put to the test. It’s no secret that nobody likes a ‘know it all’ and what you may feel is confidence can often be interpreted as cockiness likewise what you think may be helpful to a course mate may actually be a barrier to their learning.
There’s no ‘I’ in Team
It’s a tired old cliché but only because it’s so true. A wholetime recruits course is as much about developing and assessing your ability to work effectively within a team as it is your ability to put up a ladder or wear breathing apparatus. This is where you have a head start, you’re able to recall how you felt on day one of your retained recruits course, recall how you had no idea what a length of hose looked like, felt like, how heavy it was and how awkward it was to carry comfortably. You can recall how you didn’t understand the rank structure and what rank markings meant.
Be humble, be approachable and be empathetic.
“Remember you are as much a wholetime firefighter as the rest of your course mates are. Take that approach out on to station and you won’t go far wrong.”
Working the Wholetime Duty System is an entirely different kettle of fish to that of the Retained Duty System and this is where your learning journey really begins. Take your time to get to know your colleagues, listen to their advice and put in plenty of effort. The more you put yourself out and volunteer to do things (both on station and on the fire ground) the quicker you will learn.
One of the most invaluable qualities of a professional firefighter is modesty. It is right to be proud of your service as a firefighter but remember that often less is more. Be mindful of what your social media presence says about you.
Do I keep quiet?
Personally, when I started my wholetime recruits course I kept my time as a retained firefighter quiet but within the first couple of weeks it became apparent that myself and four others had been retained in the past. Be very mindful of how you carry yourself. You may find that some aspects of your course are familiar to you but there will also be aspects where your course mates excel and you’re left needing to catch up. For example, I had an ex-paramedic on my course who became the font of all knowledge during our trauma training weeks.
Get to know your course mates, these are very often some of the strongest and long-lasting friendships you’ll form in your life. Put 100% into your course and regard yourself no differently to the rest of your squad.