Fire Service Mentor

Part 1

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:

  • Listening,
  • 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.

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