This will be the first post of a series of mentoring programs that a Fire Chief can establish within his/her fire department. It must be understood that every firefighter is a mentor. For example, probationary firefighters rely on the senior man to impart his knowledge of “the job”. Likewise company officers need to mentor the senior members; chief officers mentor junior officers all the way up the ladder.
As a mentor we need to develop some basic mentoring skills. For example:
- Using the chain of command properly,
- Finding answers to unusual questions,
- Using the training division to get information,
- Respecting confidentiality,
- Resolving conflict, and
- Managing stress.
These basic principles will be discusses further in future posts. But below I explain most important advice related to training I was ever given in the fire service.
When I was in Florida’s Firefighter II Minimum Standards Training in 1978 the lead instructor was a retired New York City Firefighter (his last assignment was to a Rescue Company) and he gave me a piece of advice that I still hold today as one of the most important pieces of advise ever provided to me.
George O’Dell, our instructor told us to keep a notebook, and every time we learned a new “trick-of-the-trade” to write it down. He emphasized that book is not a journal but a living training guide to be utilized throughout our career. Today, over 27 years latter I have 4 books. I occasionally refer to them and will be utilizing them as source material for a Fire Service Leadership book I am writing.
I have provided this advice to every new firefighter I meet; I explain how valuable these books have been in my career. They serve as a source of review for me, but more important, when I was a company officer these book provided a wealth of knowledge that I utilized as a basis during our company training.
The moral of Part 1 of the Mentoring in the Fire Service, keep a book, record new and unique aspects of your position. Pass this information down to the up-coming firefighters and officers in your department. Additionally, explain how these types of book can benefit new firefighters or officers as part of their career growth.