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Firefighter Applicants - Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions  that fire applicants have about the testing process.  The top entry-level  authors in the country (Capt Bob Smith, Steve Prziborowski, & Brent Collins  from Don McNea Fire School) have offered their insight to keep you motivated  through every step in the hiring process.

Click on any of the links below  to find out what advice our entry level experts have for you to give you that  ultimate edge over your competition.

Good luck !!!!

TOPICS

 

    1. Take Any Test You Can!

    You've got to be kidding me!

    I've talked to three candidates this week who had the opportunity to take some killer entry level tests. They didn't take these tests. When I asked why? They said, I don't want to work there, or that would require me to move and my wife won't go, or I'm waiting for the only department I want to work for now, or I only test in this region. Don't tell me how bad you want this job and then give me one of these stupid excuses.

    I have several candidates who have gone out of state to take tests in preparation for the "City they really want". Guess what? They get offered jobs. How difficult would it be for you to turn a badge down? Guess where they live and work now? And, it's a lot easier to get a job once you have one. I know one candidate who went all the way to Wyoming to get his badge. Now he's testing back in his own State of Washington.

    Understand the more tests you take, the better you will be at taking tests. Then, when the one you really want comes along, you're dialed up ready to nail that badge.

    Our thanks go out to Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  For more information on his book, Becoming a Firefighter:  The Complete Guide to Your Badge, and his entry level DVD/CD oral interview program that has helped thousands of individuals to get the job of their dreams  (included in the Ultimate Firefighter Examination Prep Package), go to our entry level fireman test products page or site map.  Good luck!!

    Click here for Entry Level Products Page
    Click here to review the Ultimate Firefighter Exam Package

    2. Are there any easy fire departments to join?

    There are no easy departments to join; if there were, there would be people already in those positions. Even the departments in B.F. Egypt (technical term) parts of the state do not have easy ways to get on.

    Most of the small departments in the state are maybe even more difficult because they require you to typically have not just EMT, but paramedic and a state firefighter 1 certificate as well as other requirements. Why? Because they have to and can't afford to send you to an academy. While they may get less applicants, they typically have higher standards. In short, there are no easy departments to get on. Trust me, if there were, I would know about them, and everybody else would.

    Now is a critical time for you if you want to get focused. You are at that stage where you will either give up or dig your heels in for the long haul. 20 years old is not old, and in some ways, is too young to get hired in many departments (even though we can't discriminate on age and typically don't know your birth date or age until you're hired). Now is your chance to finish your two-year degree and get some more qualifications under your belt (2 year degree, 4 year degree, paramedic, bilingual, etc.), some quality volunteer experience in ANY field - even non-fire, and most importantly - SOME LIFE EXPERIENCE.

    Don't take that the wrong way - that is what most oral boards and departments see in young candidates, that they probably don't have much (if any) life experience. I mean showing responsibility, having a good solid track record at work, etc.

    How many tests have you taken now? Are you scoring in the top 1%? Are you getting chief's interviews every test? If you are not, then you really need to also spend time working on ALL phases, especially your weaker phases of the hiring process.

    Just some thoughts, hope they help. Don't get discouraged - why let someone else get your badge?

    THANKS!

    Steve Prziborowski, Captain
    www.chabotfire.com

     

    More Helpful Advice

     

    There are no "easy" departments to get hired on, especially not the small ones. If anything, it is easier to get hired on the large County and/or city departments as they hire so many candidates.


    People believe they can get all of their fire science education including the academy, AS degrees etc. and take a job on a rural department until they get hired on their dream department. Good idea, however, these departments have already hired out of the area candidates who took a job from a local who was perhaps less qualified but would have stayed. Departments are wise to this tactics, as they have lost "qualified" candidates back to their home cities.


    There is no easy way to get hired on a fire department. While a rare few may "luck" into a job, the vast majority of candidates spend years pursuing their goals.  While some go about it in the wrong fashion (my opinion), most take years and a tremendous amount of sacrifice to get hired.


    Many of these candidates could get hired much sooner if they understood the testing process. Many focus more on going through the motions of getting qualifications and certifications instead of learning about the testing process. By default they stack so much stuff on their resume they ultimately get hired. Ironically, the person sitting next to him in the academy doesn't have half of the "qualifications" and didn't make half of the sacrifices that said candidate did. He worked smarter, not harder!


    Bad stuff on applications

    If you do not include information that is asked on an application and it is found out later, you are out of the process!  Almost everyone at sometime has problems.  It's how you put them on the application, background forms, and present them in an oral that makes the difference. A reasonable explanation is what's important.

    Many candidates strain their relationships, marriages and finances and do various jobs trying to get the badge. This is understandable with the right explanation.  The oral board seldom knows this information (this is usually covered in background), unless it is an area that is listed on the application, i.e. driving record, arrests, etc.

    I served 5 days in Santa Rita Prison for drag racing at age 18. Yes, I put it on my application. Because if you don't and they find out, you're gone. In my oral board, I was asked about this. I told the panel, "Since that incident, I have been in the army, married, have children, and have been on my job for 9 years. I was a stupid kid. The situation hasn't occurred again. It's hard to believe this really had happened. One of the captains asked, "Mr. Smith are you trying to get go around this problem and ignore it?" Here's the Nugget answer: I said, "No. If I was trying to do that I would have never put it done on the application." He was done with that question.

    When I got my results for that test, the number placement wasn't on the notice.  When I called, personnel told me, "Well, Mr. Smith, you're number one. Not only are you number one, you're five full points ahead of number two!" It was having a reasonable explanation prepared in advance that becomes your "Nugget" answers
    that makes the difference.

    That question and the "Nugget" answer helped me, not hurt me. It catapulted me past the other candidates at light speed, and did indeed help me get my badge!
     

    Our thanks go out to Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  For more information on his book, Becoming a Firefighter:  The Complete Guide to Your Badge, and his entry level DVD/CD oral interview program that has helped thousands of individuals to get the job of their dreams  (included in the Ultimate Firefighter Examination Prep Package), go to our entry level fireman test products page or site map.  Good luck!!

    Click here for Entry Level Products Page
    Click here to review the Ultimate Firefighter Exam Package

    3. Am I too young to get hired??

    Getting Hired DOES Happen!

    David wrote:

    To all of you out there who think you're too young to get hired, guess again. My Dept. is in the process of hiring a candidate who is 20 yrs. old. This individual has a FF Academy and an EMT-B card and that's pretty much it. Mo medic cert., volunteer time, reserve time, nothing! However, I had the pleasure of sitting on the oral board for this candidate and I must say I was truly blown away.

    We were handed a very simple one-page resume which was easy to read and not time consuming. I was very impressed by the maturity, honesty, and basically just the overall likeability that this candidate was able to show us. The candidate had definitely practiced and been coached on the oral board portion of the hiring process which is the reason this person will soon be wearing a badge. It was also obvious that the candidate took everything very seriously and had well prepared for every aspect of the oral interview. Even though the only work experience this candidate spoke of was a part time restaurant job, he was able to use that to his advantage during the interview.

    The candidate moved on to the Chief's interview and must have done incredibly well because he is soon to start our academy. This is not a fluke or a one-time thing, it happens all the time! Great mentors in this forum such as Captain Bob continually pound into you guys that the interview is everything and he is absolutely right! Don't sell yourself short when it comes time to take advantage of a golden opportunity. Visit the stations, research the city and the dept., get a nice suit, do mock orals, ask for help, or whatever it takes. I hope you guys feel some inspiration from this because it is true and it does happen. Good Luck!!

    Our thanks go out to Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  For more information on his book, Becoming a Firefighter:  The Complete Guide to Your Badge, and his entry level DVD/CD oral interview program that has helped thousands of individuals to get the job of their dreams  (included in the Ultimate Firefighter Examination Prep Package), go to our entry level fireman test products page or site map.  Good luck!!

    Click here for Entry Level Products Page
    Click here to review the Ultimate Firefighter Exam Package

    4. Should I move my family to an area I want to test for?

    Do yourself and your family a big favor. Don't even think about moving until you get the invitation in writing that you have the job. Never move away from family, friends, support and established connections thinking that will improve your chances of getting a badge.   If you need an academy check out the home study program at www.trainingdivision.com

    This is not the first time I've seen this question. A candidate is invited to the chief's oral. He just knows they want him. He gives notice at his job, his apartment and finds a new apartment for the city he is being considered for. He starts packing. After the chief's interview he is notified to complete the medical, given the date for the academy, uniform fitting and then the psych. He flies down to complete these items in two days. He goes by with his wife to check on the new apartment, flies home and waits for the mover to show up the next day.

    Don't touch that dial. There is something wrong with the psych interview. It comes back inconclusive. They want him to retake the psych. But the movers are on their way. I can taste that badge. I know they want me.

    A medic candidate moved his family from southern California to Seattle, so he could be in position for the next test. Although he made the list, he was going to have to wait until they got down to him. In the mean time the pressures built up at home, he lost his house in California to foreclosure, and got in a heated argument with his wife. The police arrived and arrested him for domestic violence. This at a time when he was in background for the next academy. Everything came to a full halt. Fortunately, in the state of Washington, if you complete the counseling and probation program and it's your first offense, you can appeal the court to remove the charge. Now a year later, this has been done. The Seattle list he was on expired. Now it's back to square one.
     

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    5. How do I prepare for the CPAT?

    CPAT

    Here are some valuable tips for CPAT from Tom Dominguez and Reed Norwood:

    The secret to passing the CPAT is to be in shape with a high cardiovascular fitness level and to know the techniques. The average time is between nine minutes and ten minutes, twenty seconds. Try to think of the CPAT (or any agility) as a marathon where you are trying to complete the event instead of going for the record time. You can burn out if you are going for time no matter how well in shape you are.

    Most people who fail the CPAT fail the first event (Stair Climb/Stair Stepper), or run out of time during the last event (Ceiling Breach). People who run out of time at the breach and pull lost a few seconds at all the prior event stations because they PAUSED to THINK of how to do the event or PAUSED or SLOWED down to catch their breath.

    #1 Stair Climb: No matter how hard you train for the stair stepper, your legs are going to be like rubber after you get off the machine and start pulling hose. The recovery time for rubber legs depends on your fitness. Even still, rubber legs or not, you have to get moving and keep moving, and stay moving! If you stop at anytime during the events, the clock is ticking and you are losing time.

    The tendency is that as you start wearing down on the stair stepper machine, your pace and stride will change and that will affect your balance. As you lose your balance, you start to wobble and the momentum of the weight on your body increases the swaying. As the distance of the sway increases, you will make a natural grab for the handrails. Grab the rail (more than twice?) to many times and you are disqualified. Instead of "grabbing the rail", use the back of your hand and push your self back. Adjusting your stance and concentrating will help you avoid the "wobble". Just like wearing a SCBA, you also have to concentrate on your breathing.

    #2 Hose Drag: As soon as you step off the stair machine, turn and face the line that takes you to the hose pull. As soon as the proctor takes the two sandbags off your shoulders, get moving! Pick up the nozzle and shoulder the hose and GO! This is not the time to worry about those rubber legs or try to catch your breath. MOVE! Go as fast as you can. Step into the box, turn around, get down on one knee (being careful not to come down too hard and injuring your knee) and PULL the hose, hand-over-hand as fast as you can. That drum will give you some resistance when you turn the corner but if you're going at a good clip it won't be too difficult. You can breathe while hand pulling the hose.

    #3 Equipment Carry: When you get to the saw carry, just do it! Face the cabinet and remove each saw one at a time. Now, turn around and pick up both saws. This will ensure that you have both saws touching the ground before you begin moving down the line.

    #4 Ladder Raise and Extension: When you arrive at the ladder raise, get down, grab the rung and raise the ladder. You have to push the ladder up, rung-by-rung as fast as you can. Move over to the fly extension and just do it.

    #5 Forcible Entry: Breathe, as you follow the line and pick up the sledgehammer. Start swinging as soon as you can in short choppy strokes. Departments may set the forced entry device at a level that fits their needs. When the alarm sounds, let go of the sledgehammer and move to the tunnel crawl.

    #6 Search: Get in and get out! You may not move like a greased pig at the fair but you do need to move. One candidate wrote: Here is where I lost about 15-20 seconds. The event itself is pretty fun if you are not claustrophobic. Be aware of the obstacles inside. I could not figure one out, and I got disoriented and lost precious time figuring it out. Crawl fast as there are no abrupt edges that you'll run into. All the walls are tapered so as long as you keep your head down you can fly through. Doing the practice "run-throughs" will take away all doubt of what and where the obstructions are in tunnel crawl.  Always remember to stay right, and come back to your right after an obstacle. The event is shaped in a horseshoe, so there are two right turns. This can be a good time to catch your breath as well in preparation for the dummy drag.

    #7 Rescue: At the dummy pull, size up where the handles are before you get there. Grab them and get going. You may feel the burn in your legs but don't stop. It saps your strength to have to get the dummy moving again each time you stop. When you reach the barrel, do not make the turn until the dummy's knees are even with farthest side of the barrel. If you try to pull the dummy around the barrel any sooner, it takes more energy and it will take more time. Get over the line and let go of the dummy and get to the ceiling Breach and Pull.

    #8 Ceiling Breach and Pull: This is the event where folks run out of time and fail the CPAT. Grab the pike pole and step in. Start pushing and pulling with all you got! If there's a D-handle on the pike pole put a hand under it for increased leverage. Get a rhythm/fast pace going. An object at rest requires energy to get it moving. An object that is moving requires less energy to keep it moving. If those ceiling hatches are not making lots of loud noise, you are not working very hard. You can buy yourself some time here that you may need to finish the CPAT in time.

    Follow the instructions of the proctor! The proctor will either tell you where the line is or point to the line you are to follow. People have been failed for not following the right line to the next event.  If you were to pause five seconds at the start and stop of every event, or to stop and breathe or think about each event, you can lose about a minute and a half of precious time. Once this time is gone, you cannot get it back.

    You can over train by carrying extra weight in your backpack while you train for the stair stepper. Seventy-five pounds on your back places a tremendous amount of stress on your ankles, knees, hips and back. Practice the event as you are actually going to do it. Work out at the same pace and distance as the actual stair event. The stair stepper event (as are most of the CPAT events) is based on cardiovascular fitness and endurance. It is expected that you will be anaerobic and that is what the CPAT is attempting to do. While strength is required, you don't need to be an Olympic weight lifter.

    CPAT
    Here are two link resources to gain information on the CPAT:
    http://www.phoenix.gov/FIRE/recruit.html
    http://firepat.mtsac.edu  

     

    Our thanks go out to Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  For more information on his book, Becoming a Firefighter:  The Complete Guide to Your Badge, and his entry level DVD/CD oral interview program that has helped thousands of individuals to get the job of their dreams  (included in the Ultimate Firefighter Examination Prep Package), go to our entry level fireman test products page or site map.  Good luck!!

Click here for Entry Level Products Page
Click here to review the Ultimate Firefighter Exam Package

    6. What are the characteristics of a successful firefighter?

  • maintain effective working relationships with superiors and subordinates
  • get along with others
  • stay calm; handle stress
  • use common sense
  • listen to others
  • be flexible
  • be self-motivated
  • be decisive
  • counsel, support and be empathic toward others
  • work under stressful conditions
  • maintain emotional control
  • do repetitive tasks
  • work with little or no supervision
  • take charge when needed
  • determine priorities
  • have a good sense of humor
  • accept constructive criticism from others
  • be resourceful
  • handle critical decision-making under life-threatening conditions
  • perform complex tasks under life-threatening conditions
  • work under tight time frames
  • deal with critically injured/ill people
  • perform tasks requiring log periods of intense concentration
  • perform under unpleasant circumstances or in traumatic situations
  • work as a team member
  • maintain a positive attitude
  • enthusiasm
  • honesty
  • initiative
  • innovativeness
  • judgment and common sense
  • stability
  • willingness to be patient, non-judgmental and accepting of other people
  • desire to serve and help people regardless of who they are, where they are and what their beliefs are
  • demonstrate a genuine caring attitude toward all people
  • must have an awareness and understanding of differences between different cultures
  • have an optimistic attitude and believe that the best outcome will occur in emergency situations
  • driven by strong values and ethics along with an awareness to act upon those values and ethics
  • willing to put the best interests of the organization above personal interests or differences
  • be able to function as a member of a team

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7. What kind of job security does a firefighter have?

    One of the things that we discuss in our seminars and talks to prospective firefighters is the job security the position of a firefighter offers for yourself and your family.  Did you know that 99.7% of all firefighters ever hired are never laid off?  In today's changing economic situation, how many jobs can boast that statistic?  How many people do you know that have been working for a company for 10, 15 or 20 years and suddenly the company is bought out and their job is eliminated?  Once you have worked hard to obtain this job, it is yours for a lifetime.  You have financial security, medical benefits for you and your family, an early retirement plan – these are all benefits that not many jobs today can offer.  The average firefighter salary range is $50,000-$65,000 with hospitalization and a retirement plan after 25 years of service or the age of 48.  How many people do you know who can retire at the age of 48?  Most people have to wait until they are in their 60's before they can think about retiring comfortably. 

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      8. What is a firefighter's work schedule like?

    Normally every 3 weeks, a firefighter is given an additional day off.  We use Thursday, the 13th , as an example for this month's schedule.

    Because of the many days firefighters normally have off during a month, many firefighters maintain a second job to supplement their income.  Many firefighters easily can make as much money on their day off as they do on the job as a firefighter.  These second careers consist of salesmen, ambulance drivers, accountants, landscapers, contractors, attorneys – you name it, a firefighter does it on their day off.

               

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    9. What can I expect on a firefighter written examination?

    Today's written examination commonly consists of approximately 150-200 multiple-choice questions.  The subjects for the written examinations could include any of the testing subjects listed below:

    • Reading Comprehension
    • Human Relations
    • Problem Solving
    • Judgment
    • Math
    • Memory
    • Charts
    • Inductive Reasoning
    • Deductive Reasoning
    • Visualization
    • Verbal & Listening Comprehension
    • Spelling
    • Verbal Reasoning
    • Oral and Written Communication Information

    The key to scoring well on the written examination is preparation.  There are not many candidates who can walk into a written examination and score high on their first attempts without adequate preparation.  You need to practice.  What do we mean by practice?  By taking practice examinations.  It is like studying for any other test you have taken – you need to adequately study and prepare.  The competition for a firefighter position is intense. 

    When you take a firefighter examination, you are ranked on the eligibility list from the higher score to the lowest score.  Obviously, you want to be at the top to dramatically increase your chances of moving onto the other parts of the testing process.  The more you study and prepare, the better your score.  Like we said before, you have to want it, and wanting it means you will put the required time in to adequately studying and preparing.  During your preparation, you need to fine tune the areas where you are consistently weak until you feel confident walking into an examination knowing that no one can beat you.

    The key to your success on this portion of the hiring process will be how much time you put into preparing for this important first step.  You can do it – you just have to want it!

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    10. What is included in the medical exam?

    The medical exam itself is nothing to be afraid of.  It will be just like any other thorough physical exam.  The doctor may be on the staff of the hiring agency or someone outside the department with his or her own practice, just like your own doctor.  Your blood pressure, temperature, weight, and so on will be measured; your heart and lungs will be listened to and your limbs examined.  The doctor will peer into your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and conduct a thorough medical exam.  You'll also have to donate some blood and urine.  Because of these tests, you won't know the results of the physical exam right away.  You'll probably be notified in writing in a few weeks, after the test results come in.

    Drug Testing

    A test for use of illegal drugs can be administered before a conditional offer of employment.  Because firefighters have to be in tiptop physical shape, and because they are in a position of public trust, the fire department expects you to be drug-free.  Indeed, you may have to undergo drug testing periodically throughout your career as a firefighter.

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    11. How do I locate firefighter exams?

  • We suggest you subscribe to your local newspaper – even if it means subscribing to more than one if you city has several major papers.  The Sunday edition's help wanted ads is the most important – it will usually include examination test dates and information.  In addition, the sports section sometimes carries examination information.  Your local library will also carry the current newspapers. 
  • There are also Internet subscription services that will provide information on examinations given across the country.  Your investment in this type of service can be from $3.00-$9.00/month.  Both www.firehouse.com and www.firecareers.com are excellent sources of information on firefighter examinations.
  • Try to keep a current list of cities giving examinations.  Once a municipality gives an examination, an eligibility list is established and remains current for 1-2 years.  If you know an examination is given annually, make a note on your calendar so that you make sure you don't miss an application deadline.
  • Many major municipalities have a recruitment unit.  Click on the link below for a list of 150 major fire departments across the country, along with their addresses and phone numbers.  You should contact these departments and ask to have your name placed on their recruitment list to be notified of examination dates.  You will usually be notified at least 2-3 weeks before the application process.
  • Some departments have a volunteer program.  We strongly suggest that you join this group if it is available in your community.  This will give you valuable insight into the department and personnel.  Most volunteer problems are part of smaller departments – no major departments have volunteer programs.
  • Many times, colleges that offer EMT and paramedic certification programs will post examination announcements on their bulletin boards.  If you are enrolled in such a program, make note of this information.  If not, visiting colleges and locating these bulletin boards will help you obtain as much information as possible.
  • If you have the time and resources, we suggest that you make telephone calls to various departments.  Ask them when their last examination was given and when the next examination is anticipated and make note of this information.  A municipality may tell you that an examination will be given in September, but it may actually be given in July or August.  You need to follow up with the Personnel Department to find out the current information on an examination.  Departments with Fire Training Academies may also have examination information available.
  • There are also numerous fire magazines that will publish entry-level examinations given across the country.  You may subscribe to these magazines or you may find them at your local library.

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    12. How do I become an EMT?

    Emergency Medical Technicians (known as EMTs) are trained to provide emergency care, including ambulance services.  Peoples' lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care of EMTs.  Incidents as varied as automobile accidents, heart attacks, drownings, childbirth, and gunshot wounds all require immediate medical attention.  EMTs provide the vital attention as they care for and transport the sick and injured to a medical facility.

    In an emergency, EMTs are typically dispatched to the scene by a 911 operator and often work with police and fire department personnel.  Once they arrive, they determine the nature and extent of a patient's condition while trying to ascertain whether the patient has preexisting medical problems.  Following strict rules and guidelines, they give appropriate emergency care and, when necessary, transport the patients.

    At the medical facility, EMTs help transfer patients to the emergency department, report their observations and actions to emergency room staff, and provide additional medical treatment.

    EMT Basic (also known as EMT I) represents the first component of the Emergency Medical Technician system. An EMT I is trained to care for patients at the scene of an accident while transporting patients by ambulance to the hospital under medical direction.  An EMT I has the emergency skills to assess a patient's condition and manage respiratory, cardiac and trauma emergencies.

    The EMT Intermediate (EMT II and III) have more advanced training that allows the administration of intravenous fluids, the use of manual defibrillators to give life-saving shocks to stopped hearts, and the applications of advanced airway techniques and equipment to assist patients experiencing respiratory emergency.

    Working conditions: EMTs work both indoors and outdoors in all types of weather. They are required to do considerable kneeling, bending, and heavy lifting.  Many people find the work of an EMT exciting and challenging and enjoy the opportunity to help others.  EMTs employed by fire departments work 40-50 hours per week; those employed by hospitals frequently work between 40-60 hours per week; and those employed by private ambulance services work between 45-50 hours per week.

    Training and other qualifications and advancement: Formal training and certification is needed to become an EMT. All 50 states have a certification procedure.  To maintain certification, EMTs must register usually every 2 years. In order to register, an individual must be working as an EMT and meet continuing education requirements. Basic coursework typically emphasizes emergency skills such as managing respiratory trauma and cardiac emergency and patient assessment.  Formal courses are often combined with time in an emergency room or ambulance. The program also provides for instruction and practice dealing with bleeding, fractures, airway obstruction, cardiac arrest, and emergency childbirth.  Students learn how to use and maintain common emergency equipment such as backboards, suction devices, splints, oxygen delivery systems, and stretchers. Graduates of an approved EMT training program who pass a written and practical examination administered by the state certifying them with the title of Registered EMT Basic.  This course is also a prerequisite for EMT Intermediate and EMT Paramedic Training.

    EMT Intermediate training requirements vary from state to state. Training commonly includes 35-55 hours of additional instruction beyond EMT Basic coursework.

    Job opportunities: Employment needs for EMT is expected to grow faster than the average of all other occupations through 2012. Population growth and urbanization will increase the demand for full-time paid EMTs, rather than for volunteers in a department.  In addition, a large segment of the population – the aging baby boomers – will further spur the demand for EMT services as they become more likely to have medical emergencies.

    Opportunities for individuals will be best for those who have advanced certification such as EMT Intermediate and EMT Paramedic as clients and patients demand higher levels of care before arriving at the hospital.

    Where can you find training to become an EMT?  Almost all community colleges and some state colleges and hospitals offer training for Emergency Medical Technicians. This is usually a 3-month course that can be completed as part of other curriculum at a college.

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    13. How do I become a paramedic?

    Peoples' lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care of Paramedics.  Incidents as varied as automobile accidents, heart attacks, drownings, childbirth, and gunshot wounds all require immediate medical attention.  Paramedics provide the vital attention as they care for and transport the sick and injured to a medical facility.

    In an emergency, Paramedics are typically dispatched to the scene by a 911 operator and often work with police and fire department personnel.  Once they arrive, they determine the nature and extent of a patient's condition while trying to ascertain whether the patient has preexisting medical problems.  Following strict rules and guidelines, they give appropriate emergency care and, when necessary, transport the patients.

    Some paramedics are trained to treat patients with minor injuries on the scene of an accident or at their home without transporting to a medical facility.  Emergency treatment for more complicated problems is carried out under the direction of medical doctors by radio, preceding or during transport.

    Paramedics provide the most extensive pre-hospital care. In addition to carrying out the procedures described above, paramedics may administer drugs orally or intravenously, interpret electro cardiograms (EKGs), perform endotracheal intubulations, and use monitors and other complex equipment.

    Working conditions:  Paramedics work both indoors and outdoors in all types of weather.  They are required to do considerable kneeling, bending, and heavy lifting. Many people find the work of an EMT exciting and challenging and enjoy the opportunity to help others.  Paramedics employed by fire departments work 40-50 hours per week; those employed by hospitals frequently work between 40-60 hours per week; and those employed by private ambulance services work between 45-50 hours per week.

    Paramedics held about 265,000 jobs in 2004.  Most career Paramedics work in metropolitan areas; there are many more EMTs and Paramedics especially in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas.

    Training and other qualifications and advancement:  At the Paramedic level, the caregiver gives additional training in body function and learns more advanced skills than an EMT.  Education for a Paramedic requires the individual to graduate from a school and take the National Registry EMT Examination to become a certified EMT/Paramedic. Extensive related coursework and clinical and field experience is required.  Due to the longer training requirement, almost EMT/Paramedics are in paid positions rather than being volunteers. Refresher courses and continuing education are available for Paramedics at all levels.

    Job Opportunities: Employment for Paramedics is expected to grow faster than the average of all other occupations through 2012. Population growth and urbanization will increase the demand for full-time paid Paramedics, rather than for volunteers.  In addition, a large segment of the population – the aging baby boomers – will further spur the demand for Paramedic services as they become more likely to have medical emergencies.

    Where can you find training to become a Paramedic? Almost all community colleges and some state colleges and hospitals offer training and certification to become a Paramedic.  This training usually consists of between 750-1,500 hours of classroom and field instruction. Reaching this level will require a lot of sacrifice and studying on your part, but becoming a Paramedic will increase your chances of becoming a firefighter.

    Approximately 10-20% of all fire departments across the country now require their fire applicants to become Paramedics even before they take the examination. Remember – you must first become an EMT before you can go on to become a Paramedic.

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    14. Should I get my paramedic certification or my two-year degree first?

    I'm interested in becoming a firefighter and I happened to read the letter, "You Want To Become A Firefighter, Should You become a Paramedic?"  Should I get my two-year degree in Fire Technology first before becoming a paramedic?  Should I get my EMT certificate before getting into a paramedic program?

    We strongly recommend that if you are deciding between a 2-year degree and your paramedic certificate, that you work towards your paramedic certification.  Many municipalities are currently requiring applicants to either be certified paramedics or to be in paramedic school to take the exam.  Your goal is to have the credentials that cities are requiring to be able to take the examination and to put yourself in a position to be hired.  Less than 1% of municipalities across the country require you to have a 2 or 4-year degree to take a firefighter examination.

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    15. Should I become a Paramedic?

    I am currently in paramedic school but not enjoying myself at all. I want to become a firefighter and everyone says the easiest way is to be a medic first. My concern is that, while I enjoy the idea of saving lives through my knowledge of paramedicine, I don't really want to be a medic. Am I wasting my time? Should I put my effort into getting into a fire academy and looking for jobs? (I'm 33 and have a BA and a Masters Degree, so it's not like I am an 18 year old with no life/work experience.)

    Answer:

    Firefighter or Fire/medic? Should you become a paramedic to get a firefighter job?

    No, it's not a day at the beach to become a medic.

    You do understand that there are up to 800 candidates for each firefighter job, know you would have to spend about a year getting certified and it will be the toughest thing you have ever done.

    Know that 80% of the job offerings now are for fire medics and up to 75% of our calls are EMS related anyway.

    You're the energizer bunny who will keep going and going and going when others would stop. Know that if you are a medic taking a regular firefighter entrance test you will probably get a better shot. You won't be happy until you can puff your chest out with a badge and have people wave at you in the jump seats, carrying on a family tradition. You want that shift work with great benefits that go way into retirement, a career position with chances of advancement.

    You will have the opportunity to use the education and experience you have acquired. To work for a department that offers you everything a firefighter hopes for. Calls that cover anything from air, land and sea. A place where you can't wait to get back from your days off. You will be able to go from one call to another to another on a busy rig. Riding big red! Believe me there is nothing like it.

    I know you will hear that if you really don't want to be a medic don't just do it to get the job. That all you really need is your EMT to get hired. But, if you answered yes to the majority of the above there is no doubt where you will be the happiest.

    Because unlike a regular entry level test where there are up to 800 candidates for each job, there are only 20 candidates for every fire medic job. It is by far your fastest way to the badge.

    Your degrees might never place you in a better position than gaining that medic cert.

    Our thanks go out to Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  For more information on his book, Becoming a Firefighter:  The Complete Guide to Your Badge, and his entry level DVD/CD oral interview program that has helped thousands of individuals to get the job of their dreams  (included in the Ultimate Firefighter Examination Prep Package), go to our entry level fireman test products page or site map.  Good luck!!

    More helpful insight…

    The main reasons a paramedic license will help you are:

    1. Supply versus demand. There are not that many medics compared to EMTs. If a department holds a test and just requires an EMT certificate, they may get over 1,000 applicants. If they instead require paramedic (not in medic school), they'll probably get less than 100.

    2. Many departments (especially in the S.F. Bay Area) went ALS about 10 years ago; this is requiring them to hire paramedics on a continuous basis, especially since many departments don't allow (or require) medics to stay medics once they promote to Engineer or Captain or BC.

    3. Some departments prefer to hire medics, even if they only have EMT vacancies. Why not? I bet you if I were a fire chief and I offered a medic a job as a FF, but told them I only had an EMT position available, I bet most would take it. Why? Many folks who go to medic school (right or wrong) only go to become firefighters and would probably drop the medic license in a heartbeat. Now, take it a step further. I the Fire Chief offer the medic a job as an FF/EMT, agree to pay your medic CE costs and tell you I will pay you the 10% medic bonus when I use you as a medic (vacation, sick days, etc.), I bet medics will jump on that.

    4.  It is cheaper for a department to hire a medic than put you through medic school. Put the school costs aside, that is minimal. Now I hire you as a FF and I have to put you through medic school. You're probably not working as a FF for 6 months to 1 year. That whole time I'm paying time-and-a-half to cover your spot. That's where the cost comes in. Most Northern California Departments do it this way. My understanding of many Southern California Departments is that they will put you through medic school after probation (LA County, Long Beach, etc.). Just all depends on the labor-management agreement that was worked out.

    5.  There are still many departments, especially in CA that are still BLS. Eventually, there is a good chance they will go ALS. Even if they don't go ALS, I bet they still would like to hire medics, just to have the level of training if they do go ALS, to have someone with a higher level of skills to do EMT recertification, coordinate their EMS program, etc.

    Just some ideas off the top of my head.

    Beyond the above, don't go to medic school just to get a FF job. The citizens and the department deserve much better than that. They deserve folks that want to be medics and have their heart in it. If you go to medic school, have the thought and intention that you may have to be a medic for your whole career (some departments require you to sign 5 year or longer contracts to stay as a medic once they hire you).

    If you don't want to go medic, so be it. Good for you. You can still get hired as a firefighter, without a doubt. Instead, make sure you get your 2-year degree in fire technology, your EMT (that is just the bare minimum to stand equal to your competition). Then look at maybe becoming bilingual, having an awesome track record at volunteering, getting a 4 year degree, and just being so unique that you stand above the crowd. Obviously it is the oral board that typically gets you hired, so make sure you have that portion dialed. You don't need the best resume to get hired, you just need excellent oral board skills (problem solving ability, oral communications, decision making, interpersonal skills, etc.).

    Steve Prziborowski, Captain
    www.chabotfire.com

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    16. Volunteering while in school

    Being a volunteer can help or destroy you! Candidates want the opportunity to be a volunteer as a way of showing interest, gain hands on experience, have something to put on their resume and can say in their oral they have been a volunteer. Often they don't know the culture, politics and etiquette.

    You will make and impression becoming a volunteer. Good or bad. Because of the politics something could happen that could ruin any chances you will ever have as a firefighter. And the big problem is you will never know what or who badmouthed you.

    I've seen this happen far too much. Candidates wait years trying to become a paid member of their volunteer department or candidates like yourself want to be a volunteer as a stepping stone to a full time position and they have been marked because of some incident they don't even know about that will keep them badge less.

     

    Have you ever listened to wind chimes? One hangs in our back yard. It contains 6 chimes. When there is not much breeze, only one chime is heard. It's a constant monotone gong, gong, gong, gong. When the wind changes direction ever so slightly all-6 chimes begin to play a melody.

    It would only take you a short time as an oral board rater to hear the same constant drone when too many candidates use a flat monotone voice. It sounds like they were giving a patient assessment, sounding like the gong, gong, gong, blah, blah, blah of the one lone wind chime.

    Then a candidate, who knows what the panel is going to hear out of his mouth, because he has prepared with a tape recorder, sits down in the hot seat and comes out swinging. Hitting all the notes, with the necessary timing, inflection, enthusiasm and volume polished. Just like the slight increase in a breeze to activate all the notes on the wind chimes, if candidates only knew it would only take a few minor changes to orchestrate their interviews closer to their badges.

    It doesn't take long on a phone conversation with a candidate to realize why they are having problems.

    A recent candidate had such a monotone voice I asked if he knew? He said yea, but that's just my voice. I told him I didn't believe that for a second. What can I do about it? I've been testing where I can for four years, going to school and work as a federal firefighter.

    Trying to get on his turf, I asked him during a coaching session what do you do with your time off? What are your interest, hobbies? What really rings your bell? Nothing seemed to work to break his monotone voice.

    That was until a few days later I get a call from an energized candidate. I didn't recognize the voice. Yes, it was Mr. Monotone. He told me he didn't realize how bad it was until he listened to the tape recording of his coaching session. He said, "Man I sounded retarded. I can't believe how much stuff I left out. How many times I said "What Ever" and other stupid pause fillers I didn't know I was using."

    The mystery of why this super qualified candidate could not get hired was solved by listening to a tape of what the panel had been hearing for four years.

    You too can create the winds of change that can turn things around and ring all the chimes; coming out of the fog with the chimes that turn into tones dropping and you're moving towards the rig on another call. The fifth call in a row. It started at shift change. You haven't had a chance to stop for anything more than to restock and get the rig ready for another run and not getting anything to eat. You're not hungry anyway. Because you're working with a crew where the red-hot captain tells dispatch you're available from the scene you are on so you won't miss any calls. You're living the dream of a lifetime. Riding big red. The monotone voice a distant memory.

    Our thanks go out to Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  For more information on his book, Becoming a Firefighter:  The Complete Guide to Your Badge, and his entry level DVD/CD oral interview program that has helped thousands of individuals to get the job of their dreams  (included in the Ultimate Firefighter Examination Prep Package), go to our entry level fireman test products page or site map.  Good luck!!

    Click here for Entry Level Products Page
    Click here to review the Ultimate Firefighter Exam Package

    17. Veterans Taking Entry Level Tests

    I often hear comments like this one where seasoned firefighters test for entry-level positions for another or larger department:

    I have been in the fire service for 20 years both volunteer and full time. Last year I had to relocate across the state, leaving my full time ff/pm position. It took me 10 years to get that job as a white male - Now I'm looking over here and have been passed over several times for the younger people. I have all the credentials and the certs and still - I've been passed over! I think the testing should be thrown out if you have been working in this career for over 5 years, let's look at the resume and past employers!

    The biggest problem I've seen on oral boards with these seasoned veterans is they can't place themselves in the position they are applying for; that of being a snotty nose rookie. They try to hammer the oral board with their credentials thinking the board will just hand them the job. Their oral board's skills are rusty and antiquated. It's hard for them to remember how it was to be a rookie.

    It's not the younger candidates that are keeping them from getting the job. It's them! Presented correctly, there is no way a younger candidate can match their personal life and firefighting experience. This is a delicate balance here. You must be humble, place yourself in the rookie position and build a natural bridge to the oral board panel. Without this bridge, you're dead meat. This is not easy for many seasoned candidates. An attitude adjustment is needed. Attitude is a small thing that can make the big difference. Remember the position you're applying.

    The seasoned veteran candidate can roar past any of the other candidates if his attitude and game plan is in place.

    Our thanks go out to Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  For more information on his book, Becoming a Firefighter:  The Complete Guide to Your Badge, and his entry level DVD/CD oral interview program that has helped thousands of individuals to get the job of their dreams  (included in the Ultimate Firefighter Examination Prep Package), go to our entry level fireman test products page or site map.  Good luck!!

    Click here for Entry Level Products Page
    Click here to review the Ultimate Firefighter Exam Package

    18. Paramedic to Fire/Medic

    If you're taking a firefighter/paramedic interview understand we are looking for firefighters first! You can hurt your chances if you don't let them know your first love is to be a firefighter. Too many paramedic candidates push their desire for the medic end of the job. Who's sitting on the board? Mostly Fire officers.

    Understand that the burn out period for a paramedic is five years. Then, many medics try to get on fire departments. This has caused problems in the fire service because the paramedics come from a position of doing things on their own in the field. They have problems with the chain of command system on the fire job. Not wanting any more of these problem children, departments try to determine in the oral if the candidate has the heart of a firefighter first.

    A way to approach this is to convey your first love is to be a firefighter, but because 80% of the job offerings are for fire/medic it was a career path that offered the best change to become a firefighter.

    Our thanks go out to Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  For more information on his book, Becoming a Firefighter:  The Complete Guide to Your Badge, and his entry level DVD/CD oral interview program that has helped thousands of individuals to get the job of their dreams  (included in the Ultimate Firefighter Examination Prep Package), go to our entry level fireman test products page or site map.  Good luck!!

    Click here for Entry Level Products Page
    Click here to review the Ultimate Firefighter Exam Package

    19. Student Loans

    Many institutions don't list or qualify as eligible education institutions when it comes to federal financial aid or financially eligible/accredited programs or vocational schools (let them tell you no before making assumptions). 

    Most private institutions do have a particular bank that is utilized by their students; you may want to get in contact with them.  Although student loans though banks can be at a higher interest rate, they're still at a lower rate than credit cards.

    One candidate wrote: I went through Wells Fargo PLATO loans. . I got a great rate and it was very east and quick to get the money.  Of course, it all depends on your credit history.  It's also good to have your credit cards just in case since there are so many things you get nickel and dimed by in school.

    http://www.wellsfargo.com/student/loans/undergrad/career.jhtml

    Another candidate wrote: I highly recommend trying FAFSA first it's the cheapest route. By utilizing FAFSA I was able to get Pell grants, the BOG (waives tuition) and still use my GI Bill.

    Still more: If I had attended an eligible program, and received the appropriate 1098-T form at year's end, I could have deducted up to $4000 off of my 2005 Adjusted Gross Income tax filing.

    Another way to get in an academy is through http://www.trainingdivision.com This is a home study program that you can complete on line at your time schedule and then go to Texas for the hands on 2-3 week completion to obtain your certificate.  Cost?  About $2,800.

    Our thanks go out to Capt Bob Smith for his article and insight.  For more information on his book, Becoming a Firefighter:  The Complete Guide to Your Badge , and his entry level DVD/CD oral interview program that has helped thousands of individuals to get the job of their dreams  (included in the Ultimate Firefighter Examination Prep Package), go to our entry level fireman test products page or site map.  Good luck!!

    Click here for Entry Level Products Page
    Click here to review the Ultimate Firefighter Exam Package

    20. What is in the heart of a firefighter?

    What is at the heart of a firefighter? What sets the firefighter apart from all others? And what brings us together this evening?

    A firefighter's heart is the heart of compassion. It is a heart of giving. But Peace Corps workers are compassionate and giving.

    It is a heart that wants to save lives. But surgeons do, too.

    It is a heart with a yearning to produce meaningful acts on behalf of society. And yet, social workers want this, too.

    The firefighter's heart fills itself with raw courage at the very moment when courage is most needed, a heart that will make the ultimate sacrifice to do the right thing. But so, too, is it with our bravest soldiers.

    It is a heart that accepts the burden of an entire community in its worst moments, a heart that says, Yes, I will take your burden on my shoulders-I will, in all humility, be your hero. But heroes come from the unlikeliest of places, sometimes from outside the fire service.

    The firefighter's heart is willing to place on the body incredible physical demands, but surely no more so than an Olympic athlete.

    So what is it? What makes the firefighter heart different?

    It's hard to crystallize a metaphor that approximates true "firefighter-ness" in the barest terms, but I think maybe we know what it is deep down, and that is why we share these moments this evening, not just to congratulate the new crop of leaders in the fire service - you - but to share, in a show of solidarity, what really binds us together, what links the souls of firefighters gone before us with the firefighters present and firefighters yet to come.

    This is not some editor's exercise in words. This is not Fire Philosophy 101. This is about the center.

    We must find the center, all of us. In this self-discovery, we find the energy for future actions of greatness. And it is in our future actions, true to the center of this business, that we do the greatest honor to the brave people of the fire service who sacrificed their lives doing what you are about to do. We must honor them through our own daily actions. To do otherwise would be to diminish the greatest of traditions, gained from the blood, sweat, and tears of your predecessors.

    You respond to all types of emergencies. You are Joe Citizen's 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week emergency store. Your sirens will wail in the day and in the night. You are the ever-present community security blanket.

    But even beyond this, what sets you at the highest level of giving and self-sacrifice and courage and duty and lifesaving is the fact that you perform your duty in the most uncontrolled environments known to man, where lives, including your own, are in the balance and time is of the essence. What sets you beyond law enforcement and the military and the social worker in this regard is the simple fact that you can't talk down, or negotiate with, or smother with kindness, a fire. You are dealing with an enemy that cannot reason and has no conscience. You are dealing with an enemy that only you and no other group-no other group-can deal with.

    And the public expects it of you. The citizens expect you to control the uncontrollable, this terrible thing that has no reason, no soul, no conscience. They are counting on you--and no one else--in their darkest hours. This is the sacred trust. This is from where your essence springs.

    We are all just passing through this life. We are hearts and minds on a huge and unfathomable continuum. How will you leave this for future generations? In this life, as you graduate today, you become caretakers of the sacred trust. And that is immensely important to the world.

    By becoming a firefighter, you have assumed your place as a caretaker of the noblest of traditions. You are the new caretakers.

    This unspoken understanding transcends all geographic and natural boundaries. It transcends all personal differences. It is our uniting force. It is what makes a firefighter call another "brother" or "sister" and why those words mean something different-something more-when spoken from firefighter to firefighter than is the case with anybody else in society.

    It is what makes duty, honor, and self-sacrifice not the esoteric concepts of an idealized yesterday but, rather, an unchangeable way of life, today.

    And so we honor you, the graduates, this evening, not just because you passed a curriculum but because it is now your honor and privilege and responsibility to live out the sacred trust and, in doing so, do your part to preserve and move forward the great fire service.

    But it is not easy. Nothing good ever is. To be a caretaker is a great responsibility. You can't take a break from it. You can't go on vacation from it. Tonight, you enter the ranks of a service that will define you, and you it. Now it is part of you-forever. How will you accept the challenge that lies ahead? How will you fulfill your role as caretaker of the sacred trust?

    Yes, tonight formalizes your acceptance of the responsibilities that come with being a caretaker. Now you are responsible for doing everything humanly possible to see to it that, while exercising your sworn duty, not only you come home after shift but so, too, your brothers and sisters come home with you.

    You have accepted the responsibility to be the best firefighter you can be. Anything less is a betrayal of yourself and, more importantly, this service. This is not a job. It is a calling. Act like it.

    You have accepted the responsibility of making your new organization better because you're in it. That requires character. Character matters. Virtue matters. Vows matter. Honor and integrity matter. It comes with the territory, comes with being a caretaker of the trust.

    But your responsibility is also a great gift. You have the future in your hands. You have in your hands the ability to strengthen the future of the greatest and noblest profession in the world. A great gift.

    So I ask you, as you are here to celebrate your new beginning, never be deterred in your commitment to the sacred trust. There will be forces outside and even inside the fire service working against you. Be guided by what is right. Be guided by what it means to live the sacred trust.

    Be a leader. Leadership is not a function of gold horns or silver bars. It is not won by promotion, but by development of character. Lead, but when you follow, follow in the footsteps of those who carry the torch of the sacred trust.

    Train as if your life depends on it, because it does. Train for fire, your greatest enemy. Talk fire. Think fire. Live fire. Never become complacent, because there is not such thing as a routine incident until you're back in the firehouse, safe.

    Become a thinking firefighter, remembering that safety is not a word, not a board or a tag or an OSHA regulation or an NFPA standard or a good intention-safety is a learned behavior, an action that springs from thinking firefighters who hold "the basics" close to them at all times.

    Let us learn the lessons of those who have gone before us. They speak to us from beyond. And after we bow our heads for the 100 firefighters who die each year in the line of duty, after our prayers, let us come up swinging, aggressive in our pursuit of avenues that will support must be the first order of business in this fire service: to increase response effectiveness and make us operationally safer on the fireground. It is incumbent upon us to do so, as caretakers of the trust.

    Having assumed the responsibility of caretaker, make it count. You can do no more, but you must do no less.

    As an adopted son of the fire service, as a journalist fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to study this business from the inside, I must tell you how proud and privileged I am to be associated with you, and how much I admire you. The heart of a true firefighter is the heart of greatness. A heart of greatness pumps within you, else you would not be here tonight, accepting your role as caretakers.

    Welcome to the greatest service on earth. I welcome you, the new caretakers of the sacred trust. I wish you great success and happiness. God bless, stay low, and be safe.

    Thank you.

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