What to Expect from the Firefighter Academy and 4 Tips for Success
Once you have successfully navigated the firefighter hiring process and smoked your interview, you will be getting ready for your department’s fire academy. The academy will be very challenging, and your performance there will set the tone for the rest of your career. Needless to say, preparation will be key.
However, maybe you’ve never been through an academy before. Maybe you have no idea what to expect. Don’t worry. That’s exactly what we will cover here.
The fire academy is designed to teach you all of the skills you will need to be a competent entry level firefighter when you walk into the station for your first shift. Obviously, it would be impossible to cover every single possible scenario that you might encounter when working as a firefighter. Rather, the academy instructors will design a training program that closely mimics the job functions of a firefighter. This training program will consist of physical conditioning, classroom academics, and hands-on skills training.
Every academy will incorporate some aspect of physical conditioning into their program. Some will be more difficult than others, but no matter what, make sure you show up to day one in good shape. It will serve you well to have prepared physically for the academy. Typically on the first day of training you will be expected to complete a test of physical fitness. Commonly, this test consists of: max. push-ups, max. pull-ups, max. sit ups, and a timed 1.5 mile run. So if you show up on the first day and haven’t been preparing on your own, not only will you have a rude awakening, but you will also make a terrible first impression on your training cadre; one that may even set you up to lose your job before it even starts. So start an exercise regimen before the academy, and show up ready to work.
The next portion of the academy that you need to be ready for is the classroom. We have all been through at least some amount of schooling so sitting in a classroom shouldn’t be anything new. In the academy, every skill you will be expected to demonstrate on the training grounds will first be taught in the classroom. While the classroom time may feel like a nice break from the constant physical demands of physical conditioning and the hands-on training at the drill grounds, sitting in the classroom poses its own challenges. Inside the classroom, you will be expected to pay close attention to the instructors because everyday there will be some sort of quiz or test that you have to pass. In most academies, academic failure is not tolerated. You may only be allowed to fail one test before getting fired. So you will have to take it seriously and find time at home to study.
The Drill Ground:
Throughout the academy you will be taught various skills, like: fire attack, search, ventilation, forcible entry, salvage, and overhaul. Learning these skills will be challenging. In order to learn these skills, you will go through a classroom portion of instruction and then get to apply that knowledge in a hands-on setting on the drill grounds. Your performance here says a lot about how you will fare at an actual fire once you hit the line. In order to do well on the drill grounds you’ll need to make sure you have paid close attention to the classroom lectures and all of the details that are explained to you prior to executing the tasks. Doing this will show the instructors that you are paying attention. It will also help you to avoid making preventable mistakes, and keep you off the cadre’s radar. While it is always good to stand out for doing something right, you never want to be in the limelight for making mistakes.
Tip 1: Do the Little Things
- Be on time. Nothing says you don’t care about the job you just got, like showing up late. So be early.
Tip 2: Pay attention and be detail oriented
- The academy is a long and grueling process, but if you can manage to maintain focus it will pay off. The instructors know how hard the academy can be so they will be looking for recruits who make mistakes when they are tired. They aren’t trying to single anyone out, but they need to know how you operate under stress. So stay motivated and look to capitalize by being detail oriented.
Tip 3: Presentation matters
- Always make sure your clothes are clean and neat. This point goes along with being detail oriented, but because uniforms in the academy are so important, it deserves pointing out. Your uniform says a lot about you before you ever open your mouth. So make sure your uniform is complete, and always clean. Have a backup of every piece of your uniform somewhere on site (locker, car, truck), so that you never mess this up.
Tip 4: Be in shape
- This one is easy. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. All you have to do is put in the effort. Be the person leading the run, not the one in the back of the pack. The cadre will notice.
Fire academies are tough, but not impossible. They just require desire and effort. At least a month before the academy, make a plan to get in shape and start preparing. Your success is solely dependent on your level of effort and your work ethic. If you follow these tips to help you become a firefighter and stay motivated, you will make it happen.