Have You Seen These

My Nod to Chief Bruno

A long time ago, I read one of Chief Brunacini’s books.  Can’t remember which one.  But, I remember a section in the back of the book that contained a bullet list of lessons learned during his career. He had a habit of writing on index cards things he observed and learned on the fireground and the fire service in general.  Well, a few years back I started my own list below that I share with new employees on their first day.  In it you’ll see a sprinkling of some of Bruno’s”pearls of wisdom”along with my own.  I’m sure there are lots of other chiefs out there with much more experience than me who have their own lists.  Perhaps we should start a list club!

Chief B2’s “Things you need to know as a new proby”

This is by no means a comprehensive list.  It is a list of things I learned from officers I respected and some I didn’t in the past, my own personal experience in the fire service, and general common sense things that will help you make a long career out of working for the Fire Department.

  1. Never run on the fireground (unless something is falling towards you, and then you probably won’t make it anyway).
  2. Everything you do – or don’t do – in your first year on the job will follow you the rest of your career.  We have loooong memories.
  3. If you screw up, admit it.  You don’t have a good enough memory to lie.
  4. Don’t minimize your mistakes.  Learn from them and move on.  If you don’t, the next time the consequences could be much worse for you and your teammates.
  5. Wearing dirty or worn out turnout gear makes you look sloppy.  Your job is to keep clean so you don’t catch cancer.  Dirty gear shows disregard for your personal health.
  6. Look behind you before swinging an axe.
  7. Never throw anything on the fireground.  The only exception to this is a rope bag.
  8. You need to have your knots down cold.
  9. Look up before throwing a ladder.  Lighting up the skyline with aluminum is bad form, and usually lethal.
  10. Screaming on the fireground is only OK if you break a bone.  Otherwise, speak in a controlled manner that demonstrates your calmness and professionalism.
  11. Get to work early, check your gear, replace your off going partners gear and stow it properly.
  12. Find out what happened the previous shift and check all of your equipment and any equipment used the previous shift.
  13. If it is dirty, clean it. If it broken, get it fixed. If it is missing, report it.  If you lost it, find it.
  14. Backers make poor wheel chocks.  If you can’t see them stop until you can.
  15. Always chock your rig.
  16. Wheel chocks tend to shatter when you run over them, and always result in copious amounts of ice cream purchases.
  17.  Look at the smoke…. If it is “pushin” and dark, the fire is hotter than Hades and will take your maximum effort and attention to conditions to put it out safely.
  18. Sometimes the best it gets is so so. (I stole this from Chief Bruancini).
  19. NEVER turn your back on traffic; Especially on the freeway. You are not a traffic cone….
  20. Before going into a burning building, you better know where the windows and doors are so you can bail if you can’t get out the same way you came in.
  21. Calling a “Mayday” is not a sign of weakness.  We will bust our asses to get to you.  When in doubt, call it early.  If you wait, you may die.
  22. EMS is the largest part of what we do, and has the most impact on our citizen’s lives.  Do it well.
  23. Citizens don’t care if you are an expert in dealing with their problems.  But, you better look like you care, keep them warm and be nice.  Otherwise, we’ll hear about it – and you will to.
  24. Driving the BRT is fun. We loan you the rig to drive.  Wreck it, and your loan may be cancelled.
  25. Activating the emergency lights does not place a force field around your apparatus.  Drive defensively and use ALL of your lights and siren.  If you run a red light or stop sign, you WILL hear about it.
  26. Understanding how buildings go up helps understand how they may come down.
  27. Often in emergency situations we do not have time to explain why.  Just do it!
  28. Cleaning up unpleasant messes – and I mean REALLY unpleasant stuff – demonstrates compassion, professionalism, and pride in providing quality customer service.  Don’t leave messes for family members to clean up.
  29. Missing an address is embarrassing.  Start now in learning your streets and numbers.
  30. Memorize the pump panel.
  31. Memorize friction loss and hydraulics
  32. Look under the engine – study the piping and where stuff goes. (Look for leaks too).
  33. Put water on fire, not smoke.
  34. Roofs are designed to shed water.  Squirting water on a roof looks stupid.
  35. If the fire goes out – SHUT THE NOZZLE!
  36. If you are alone in a fire building, you are halfway to dead – either by the fire or by your company officer who has been looking for you….. to paraphrase Viper in the movie Top Gun, “you never, ever leave your wingman”….
  37. Rip snortin’ car fires can cripple you. Wear your full PPE, and approach from the side.
  38. Don’t get off the rig until your officer tells you.
  39. Our drivers are smart.  Listen and learn.
  40. Stay away from the “gripers”.  Those disgruntled firefighters who don’t know how good a job they have and complain about everything about the fire department and their co-workers.
  41. Be skeptical of co-workers who have an opinion on everything and think they know it all.  On the fireground, they tend to be complacent and get surprised.
  42. Being a paramedic is a great training ground for a future company officer.  Most life and death decisions and scene management are performed by paramedics on a daily basis.
  43. Take criticism as it is intended – to make you a better firefighter.  If you can’t take it and learn from it, you don’t belong in this job.  We have to depend on you.  So, we will be hard on you.
  44. You may be wearing the uniform.  But, you have to earn the right to keep it your first year.
  45. If you embarrass the department, get arrested or otherwise do something really STUPID – ON OR OFF THE JOB – we will likely be helping you to be successful somewhere else.
  46. Firefighters and officers have great bull%^$& detectors.  Don’t try and bluff us.  It only makes you look stupid and ticks them off.
  47. Your name is “somebody”….. if a firefighter asks if “somebody” could get a piece of equipment, clean a gurney, grab a towel….that is YOU!
  48. Leave your cell phone in your car.  Having your “Who let the dogs out” ring tone go off during a cardiac arrest call will follow you the rest of your career (bow wow).
  49. If you gossip, you are just as bad as the person who told you.  You don’t have time to listen to that crap.  You should be busy studying your streets and numbers.
  50. If you work with another proby on the same shift. Your job is to beat him/her to any training tasks, and if unsuccessful support them in looking good.  This is a team sport.
  51. Your station better be clean – including the toilets and the dishes.  If the chief shows up at the station, coffee better be on (or be brewing within 5 minutes after arrival!)
  52. Coming out of a fire – including training fires – with a melted helmet makes you look like a reckless idiot.  You may be paying for your new one….. in more ways than one.
  53. If you get hurt on the job report it.
  54. Amazing Grace played by bagpipes sounds really good….unless it is being played for your family.
  55. If you get exposed to infectious disease on the job, report it…then ask yourself why you were not wearing the appropriate PPE available to you.
  56. Stay fit.  Work out…. It is bad form if the paper pushin’ chief officers are in better physical condition than you are.
  57. Watch what you eat.  Garbage in, garbage out.
  58. Some things we are just not meant to see.  If a call “rocks your world”, talk to your officer.  We have all seen horrific events that challenge our sense of mortality.  We have been there, and will help you.  We’re in this together.
  59. First names are for your peers.  Officers are called by rank.  Regardless of whether you like them or not.
  60. If you go to inappropriate internet sites on the city computers, or send inappropriate emails, you risk your job…. Can’t you wait 24 hours till you get home?
  61. Take pride in your appearance.  You may know your job cold and be an expert in something.  But, if you show up to the little ol’ lady’s house wearing a department t-shirt with food stains and Birkenstocks she’ll think you are a goof ball.
  62. Your job is to keep your rig clean – throughout the shift.
  63. TV watching, internet surfing or X-Box is for those who have passed their streets and numbers test, have hydraulics down cold, can recite the BLS protocols, and know where every single piece of equipment is and how it is used.  If you can’t do this, you have no reason to be watching “Dancing with the Stars” (Exceptions may be made for programs of national significance…World Series or Super Bowl for example).
  64. Take a deep breath before talking on the radio…Stop and think about what you want to say before pushin’ the button.
  65. If you get uptight when a fellow firefighter gives you “the business”, you better figure out a way to deal with it.  Bustin’ chops is part of our culture.
  66. If you feel you are being hazed, report it.  We don’t tolerate it.
  67. It is not acceptable to simply “look” on the fireground.  We expect you to “see” and maintain situational awareness.

Who else wants to join the list club? Bring it on!

About chiefb2

Retired fire chief ,Type 3 AHIMT IC, PIO, Fire service consultant. Social media emergency management disciple (no, I'm not a "guru"). Crisis communications consultant. Father and Grandpa with an open wallet.