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Are you interested in obtaining the competitive edge required to be successful in your goal of becoming a firefighter or being promoted to an officer's position within your department?  Since 1950, Don McNea Fire School's seminars, entry-level and promotional products have prepared over 40,000 applicants in their pursuit of becoming a firefighter or an officer.'s entry-level newsletter, which now has over 16,000 members, is about YOU BEING THE BEST - THE BEST PREPARED AND BEST INFORMED!  This periodic newsletter will concentrate on the complete firefighter and officer examination testing process.  We suggest that you start a notebook or 3-ring binder of our newsletters so that you can periodically review them in your examination preparation.

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1. Don McNea Fire School's Test-Taking Strategies:  Arriving for the Examination

2. Firefighter Preparation Tip:  Preparation is a Reality Part I - by Capt. Steve Prziborowski

3. Oral Interview Skills: Why are you going to a oral board - by Capt. Bob Smith

4. Exam Announcements and Seminars

5. New Website

6. Prep Products


1. Don McNea Fire School's Test-Taking Strategies:  Arriving for the Examination

Make sure you know the exact location of the examination.  It is a good idea to do a test run to find out the time frame it will take you to get to the examining site.  Remember that if it is a weekday and the examination is at 9:00 a.m., you will have to factor in rush hour traffic.  Remember, an accident on your route could cause you to be late for the examination.  Allow yourself at least an additional 45-50 minutes if you will be driving at a busy time period.  You should arrive at the examination site at least 30 minutes ahead of time.  This gives you adequate time in the event of any problem. 

Upon arriving at the examination site, give yourself a chance to get your thoughts together and relax.  To relieve anxiety, take 4-5 deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly.  This will help release any anxiety that you may have.  Always remember, it is better to have some anxiety and be well prepared for your examination than to have no anxiety and be unprepared.

Many examinations are held in large auditoriums or halls.  It is a good idea to bring a light sweater or sweatshirt that you can put on before the test.

You will find that most firefighter examinations have a 2-3 hour time limit.  You should build up to concentrating for these extended periods of time.  If the examination is 3 hours, you want to be just as sharp at the end as you were at the beginning. Take some type of snack with you to eat after the second hour of testing to keep your blood sugar up.  This will increase your concentration level and keep you from becoming drowsy.


For more test-taking strategies, go to the following link:

For entry-level examination preparation, go to the following link:


2. Firefighter Preparation Tip:  Preparation is a reality Part I - Capt Steve Prziborowski


Perception is in the eye of the beholder. People are continuously forming opinions about you, based on their perception of you. Alternately, you are also continuously forming opinions about others, based on your perceptions of them. This is something you, the firefighter candidate, needs to be aware of, any time you are interacting with fire service (or non-fire service) folks while participating in the firefighter hiring process. Situational awareness in relation to perception can help you increase your chances of getting hired as a firefighter. However, not being aware of how others perceive you or the message you are sending to others can quickly reduce or eliminate your chances of getting hired as a firefighter.

Let me provide some examples, all of which I have personally experienced (note to the best of my knowledge, all of the candidates that were observed doing these behaviors were not hired by the department they were applying to):

1. You show up at the firehouse to ask the crew some questions about becoming a firefighter in their department, and you arrive empty-handed (bearing no edible gifts that are so graciously accepted at firehouses around the world). Will the crew still make some time to talk to you? Maybe, maybe not. Most firefighters have busy schedules; showing up with some edible gifts will usually allow them to find some time to meet with you and take away from their busy day.

Perception: you are not prepared, and that you think their time is not worth anything. Is it true? Not necessarily - is it reality? In their eyes it is.

Suggestion to not be in the same situation: ALWAYS take the time and spend the money to bring some edible treats to the firehouse when doing a visit. Yes, I know it can get expensive, and you're probably on a limited budget. However, you need to spend money to make money. Take the time to invest in your future and in your career. Is it better to make (or bake) something yourself or buy it in a store? It depends. If you decide to not purchase something at a store, make sure the cook who created it is producing quality stuff.

2. You show up at the same firehouse to ask the same crew some questions about becoming a firefighter, and you are wearing flip-flops, shorts that look perfect for the beach (but not for a visit to the firehouse), and a Metallica t-shirt. By the way, you also haven't shaved in a day or so, or you think your goatee or fu-manchu mustache makes you look like cool.

Perception: same as #1 above and also that you are immature and unprofessional, and you don't believe in proper presentation or taking the time to look nice for certain occasions. Is it true? Not necessarily - is it reality? In their eyes it is. Would you dress like that on a first-date? I would hope not. Think of the visit to the firehouse as a first-date of sorts.

Suggestion to not be in the same situation: Always wear appropriate clothing to ALL phases of the hiring process, not just the oral interview and/or the chief's interview. While visiting a station or showing up for the written examination, wear some khaki pants (like Dockers, casual / clean or polished shoes (not your scuffed up tennis shoes), and a nice polo shirt. While you don't need to wear a suit when visiting a station, you do need to look appropriate and professional. You'll never know whom you will see on your oral board or some other phase of the hiring process. Reputations can be formed very quickly when visiting fire stations.

Note: This might be a surprise to some folks, but I actually like Metallica; so I'm not bashing them. I just can't think of too many places I would wear a Metallica t-shirt, except for going to one of their concerts.

3. You are a male and you show up to an oral interview and you are not wearing a suit, you are wearing a sportcoat and slacks, or a polo shirt and slacks, or some other combination of clothing considered inappropriate for firefighter oral interviews.

Perception: you are not prepared, immature, unprofessional, and you are not taking the interview process seriously. Is it true? Not necessarily - is it reality? In their eyes it is.

Suggestion to not be in the same situation: learn what it takes to be properly attired!

For men: wear a suit in a conservative color (save the mustard-colored suit for impressing the women) such as gray, navy blue, brown, or black. Go to a place like the Men's Wearhouse and you can find a good suit at a good price. Their sales people can also get you set up with dress shirts, ties, and other accessories at the same time. Wear polished dress shoes. Wear dress socks (not white socks). Wear a nice belt that matches your dress shoes. Wear a nice long-sleeve dress shirt (one color and a light color such as white or light blue). Wear a nice tie. Also, take the time to be clean-shaven, which includes no mustaches or facial hair. Yes you can argue that many firefighters have mustaches. Well, they already have a job and you're trying to get a job. Just my opinion, but eliminate the facial hair.

Also, eliminate the unnecessary bling-bling jewelry; wear a nice watch and your wedding ring if you have one. Keep the puka shell necklace and fancy bracelets at home. Liberace is dead and you don't need to wear your Mr. T starter kit to an interview. Save it for impressing the ladies (which ones I'm not sure).

For women: wear a conservative dress and jacket, or a conservative business suit. When I say conservative, I mean not too revealing, not too flashy or flamboyant, one that doesn't make you look too young or too old, and one that is in appropriate neutral colors such as navy blue, black, gray, tan, etc. Wear polished dress pumps (not the four-inch high heels, or the ones with no heels). Wear nylons (as opposed to bare legs). Keep the perfume to the minimum. Keep your hair up. Stay away from excessive jewelry and heavy make-up. Do not wear clothing or accessories that make you look trashy or like you're there to pick up guys. I hope I don't need to explain what clothing that might be.


Parts II and III will be in upcoming newsletters.

Go to the following link to find more career articles:

Steve Prziborowski is a Captain with the Santa Clara County (Los Gatos, CA.) Fire Department and has been in the fire service for 12 years. He is also the Fire Technology Coordinator at Chabot College in (Hayward, CA.), where he has been instructing fire technology and EMT courses for 10 years. He is a state certified Chief Officer, Fire Officer, Master Instructor, Hazardous Materials Technician, and state licensed Paramedic. He has an Associate's degree in Fire Technology, a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, and a Master's degree in Emergency Services Administration.  He also publishes a free monthly newsletter geared toward better preparing the future firefighter for a career in the fire service, "The Chabot College Fire & EMS News," that is available on his website at


3. Oral Interview Skills:   Why are you going to a oral board - Capt. Bob Smith


If you answered that you are selling yourself, trying to make a good impression, and, yes, asking for a job. Good.

But, what you are really doing is auditioning for the part to be a firefighter, engineer, inspector or officer. Just like the part in a play. Do you know your lines? Do you know your part? If you went down to a local college to audition for a part in the community play, you have to know your part and lines wouldn't you? It's the same thing in an oral board. You have to know what you're going to say before you sit in the chair, the "Hot Seat".

Does a Broadway play start on Broadway? Of course not. It starts in Iowa, Miami or Connecticut. They take it on the road to try it out, work out the script, refine and polish it up. If they create enough interest, sell enough tickets and get great reviews from the critics, they may take it to the bright lights of Broadway.

It's the same in getting ready for your oral boards. Without those needed oral board skills, you might as well stay home. You would just be wasting your time every time you test. This is a must. It's one thing though to learn the necessary oral board skills. It's another to put those skills into action to see how they work for you.

How are you able to gain the "Hot Seat" time if you're not testing? Mock orals are one thing. In the real "Hot Seat" is another. How can you keep that edge if you're only testing two or three times a year? Like hands on academy and education skills, if you don't use your oral board skills you will get rusty faster than trying to throw a 35' wood ladder, laying a line or wrapping a hydrant when you haven't done it for awhile.

So, you have to take this puppy on the road to get ready for your oral boards. To get onto the stage to audition for the part you say you really, really want and will do almost anything to get, right? But first, you have to get your script down. A script about you, not a clone of someone else.


Then you practice, practice, practice. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse your script with a tape recorder until it becomes second nature to you. Once you do this it will be in your subconscious. That's where the magic takes place.

When you take it on the road, you gain invaluable oral board experience that will help you overcome stage fright, build your confidence level and learn how to field more questions than you would by limiting your scope of testing. This will prevent you from being caught flat-footed on one or more questions that could take you out of making the final cut. Questions that you had never heard not planned on, that could cause your mouth to go dryer than the Sahara Desert, throwing off your timing, inflection and forgetting your best stuff.

As Nate wrote: Why not broaden your chances of getting on by testing "quality" with as many departments as possible? Most of us test for anywhere from 3 to 5 departments in the surrounding areas where we live every year just because we are close to them and we know about these departments. To not maximize your chances to get on somewhere by testing in multiple places, doesn't make sense. Maximize your chances to get your dream job. Your competition is at that test you decided to not take, I guarantee it.

Consider this. Jon and his nine fire technology academy buddies set out to target six departments in the northwest they wanted to work for. Their plan A would cultivate these departments and be in a position when they tested. After almost two years no one got hired or was high enough to be considered. Then Jon read a section of our web site that encouraged candidates to test wherever they could go. This made sense to Jon especially when he figured out that he was only able to take around two tests a year.

This is not taking into consideration that departments don't always test every two years (LA City and SFFD etc.), switch to medics only (San Jose, Sac City), or hire only laterals (CoCo County).

So, non medic Jon tried to convince his nine buddies to expand their horizons and establish plan B, to test every where they could to keep their oral board skills at the cutting edge. None of his buddies were interested because they believed that because of their academy training, education and how they were laying the ground work, it would only be a matter of time before one of the six departments on plan A would pay off.

In a short time non-medic Jon found out the more tests he took the better he got at taking tests. His oral board scores started climbing and he was getting called back for chief interviews. Then BINGO! Jon got a job offer from THE PREMIUM fire department in the southwest (yea, that one). As he was packing to leave his buddies were still banking on plan A.

It's now three years later and Jon's dream department, The PREMIUM department in the state of Washington (yep, that's the one), announces their test. Guess what? Jon gets a job offer and gets to go home with his new bride, also from Washington.

So, how many of his nine buddies were hired during this period of time? None, zip, nada.

Sometimes life can be plan B.

It finally came together for the new firefighter Steve for Orange County when he wrote: I was not getting the results that I had hoped for, but as you advised us all, we need to be the energizer bunny. And that is what I became. To Seattle, Oakland, Oregon, you name it, I was on a plane somewhere to take a test. I practiced everyday for months and months. I did the private coaching with your son, married myself to the tape recorder and video camera. So I was there and ready for the Orange County Fire Authority. They called me in and it was amazing. I did an oral presentation and my personality came into the room and then when the interview questions came, I was able to hit them with nugget after nugget after nugget, etc.

I just completed the 14-week academy for the Orange County Fire Authority and I cannot explain the feeling. Those of you out there that keep going to academy after academy and certification after certification, please take the time to put your efforts into practicing your interview so you too can share the awesome feeling of getting that badge and asking yourself the question, who will pin the badge on me?

MxGarage wrote: I had interviewed with three departments in three weeks I got two job offers and each interview cost me air fair, hotel and car rental. I had a goal, I gave myself one year to accomplish it or I was going to stay put. I was willing to spend what ever it cost to accomplish it. I took advantage of every any and all things that could help me perform better. I owe allot of thanks to the people of this board and their books CD's and DVDs.


For more information on Capt Bob's oral interview strategies and his CD/DVD program, go to the link below:

4. Exam Announcements

The City of Orange County, Florida

Application deadline: Sept. 30, 2005

Click On the link below for exam details. =4&cboDepartment=1%7C10%7C31&cboJobTitle=-1&cboSalaryRange=-1&t xtPostingID=&txtJobCode=&cmdSubmit=Submit


The City of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Application deadline: Sept. 23, 2005

Click On the link below for exam details.


The City of Upper Arlington, Ohio

Application info can be found below.

The City of Upper Arlington



The City of Lyndhurst, Ohio

Only 200 appplications beginning Sept. 6th. 2005

Click on the link below for exam details.


The City of Sacramento, Calf.

Application deadline: Sept. 16th 2005

Click on the link below for exam details.


The City of Laguna Beach, Calf.

Application deadline: Sept. 9th, 2005

Click on the link below for exam details.


The City of Ventura, Calf.

Application Deadline: Sept. 23, 2005

Click on the link below for exam details.


The City of Clearwater, Florida

Deadline Dec. 31, 2005

Go to the link below for exam details


The City of Davis, Calfornia. 

Applications will be accepted for one day only - Friday, September 16th, from 9:00 a.m. until 12 p.m.

Go the link below for exam details


Las Vegas and North Las Vegas Firefighter Examination

The cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas will be accepting applications for the position of Firefighter Trainee during the period of October 17 through November 17, 2005, at Las Vegas City Hall, Human Resources Department, 400 Stewart Ave, on the corner of North Las Vegas Boulevard and Stewart Avenue.  This recruitment will involve a highly competitive process that includes a written exam scheduled for January 25, 2006, and a pass/fail physical ability test scheduled for mid-March 2006.

Click here for further information on this examination:

For those of you who want a head start on your competition, Don McNea Fire School has assembled a 600+ question practice examination for the Firefighter Selection, Inc. (FSI) 8th Edition test preparation manual.  Go to the link below for further information - remember that luck goes to the prepared!


5. New Website

We have a new website that is being finetuned and will be up shortly! www.

This will be a website to further help you in your pursuit of becoming a firefighter.  We will inform you when this website is up and running.


6. Preparatory Products


The Ultimate Firefighter Examination Package. 

Go to the link below for details!


Taking a Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS) exam in the future?

Go to the link below for exam prep.


Preparing for an upcoming oral interview exam?

Go to the link below for Capt. Bob Smith's oral interview prep.


Taking a psychological exam in the future?  Don't go into this exam unprepared!  Don McNea Fire School's CD/audio exam preparation will help you prepare!


For those of you having difficulty on the Reading Comprehension & Mathematics portions of examinations, go the link below for help:


Have you recently been hired by a department?  Do you have any questions?  Email us at


We hope this newsletter and upcoming editions will assist you in obtaining the best job in the world - a firefighter.  We wish you the best of luck!


Don McNea Fire School

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