Being the Right Kind of First

I was lucky to have some great officers and leaders influence my career path in the fire service, and in life.  They were always offering sound advice and sharing their experiences. Some I heeded right away and others I had to learn the hard way.  Either way, their words and actions provided me a template to use to work to be a good firefighter and, later on, officer.

Now I have the opportunity to pass along the valuable bits of information that was passed to me along with my own experiences and thoughts to those that ask or work with me.  I’ve been lucky enough to be able to teach in many formats and locations over the years and it still is impressive how many friends I meet along the way that stay in touch.  With that, I get a lot of questions about different aspects of being an officer/leader in their respective departments and I’m honored that they would ask.

Recently I had a conversation with a firefighter working to gain promotion to the company officer level.  We all struggle with the many factors that may influence promotions and it can be easy to become frustrated with those factors.  But, we need to remember that we can only control what we can control, which is us.

In this conversation the discussion went in a direction basically of him asking me how can get to be number 1 in the promotion process? I asked what he had been doing and about his consistency.  This firefighter went to tell me about the books he’s read, the classes he’s taken and the formal process that he has performed well in at his department. It was pretty impressive, this list of things he was doing and he was being pretty consistent. But, there were a few things that he didn’t mention. That’s not to say that he’s not doing them, but they need to be important enough and ingrained that he can recall them and ensure that he continues to do them.

They are what I like to call the Be First List.

It’s not about “you” in the sense that you put yourself above others, instead it’s about what you do first. Let’s take a look.  Here’s the list and feel free to pass it on, add to it and if think one is not needed, get rid of it.  But, this list has worked for me and others that have chosen to follow it.

  • Be first to report for shift or meeting night; be early and eager.
  • Be first to get up from the table to clean up after a meal.
  • Be the first to start daily duties.
  • Be the first to ask the questions about the job that nobody else cares about or will. (About traditions, why we do this or that, etc.)
  • Be the first to inquire from your officer about experiences and knowledge.
  • Be the first ready to drill and train.
  • Be the first to help with drills or training when appropriate.
  • Be the first to try a new technique or demonstrate skills.
  • Be the first to accept challenges or assignments passed down.
  • Be the first to the apparatus for any kind of call.
  • Be the first to offer assistance to new firefighters.
  • Be the first to take on tasks for jobs nobody else wants to do or will do.
  • Be the first to help prepare a meal at the firehouse.
  • Be the first to fix a problem when it is identified.
  • Be the first to do the right things, for the right reasons, every time.

This list, I’m sure is missing something that you would add.  Please, add it and pass it on.  The point that I made with my friend is that worry about all of these firsts, and being first for promotion will be much easier and more likely.  Of course, there exceptions to the rule, but regardless, these will make you a respected member of your crew and invaluable to your department.

So, be first at the right things and other firsts will come your way.

1 Comment

  • Edwin Arriaga says:

    we older firefighters appreciate what was given to us when we started, we now have to teach or passed on the torch to the newer generation on their safety and the Safety of others. If we keep passing this down this would be a much better place thanks Safety for yourself your co workers at the fire department and the public remember it’s not just being a firefighter is being a responsible firefighter because we are in the public’s eye never forget where you came from the tin man.

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