Day in the Life of a Fire Recruit

“Good morning Sir. Recruit Academy 7-1 is present and accounted for. There are no other matters to report today, Sir.”

Twenty-two Henrico Fire recruits stand at attention in muster formation ready for the day, awaiting their first test – inspection. Eyes forward, staring into the morning sky, they undoubtedly feel a mix of nerves and subdued excitement as this is the culmination of a six-month hiring process. These individuals are here not only for the thrill and risk inherently involved in firefighting, but because they demonstrate high moral character and are passionate about public service. But before they can learn to save lives and put out fires, they must pass muster. Each recruit has spent several hours ironing clothes, lint rolling, polishing belt buckles, and spit shining boots. While the morning routine, with its emphasis on professional appearance, may seem tedious, the recruits are learning to pay attention to the little things – the things that, in this profession, can literally be a matter of life and death.

The Henrico Fire Recruit Academy is a 30-week structured program which introduces all essential job performance competencies. The recruits first learn about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Incident Command System which is the standardized management tool used by Henrico Fire, and most federal, state and local governments, for meeting the demands of small or large emergency and non-emergency situations. Once they learn the system, recruits spend seven intensive weeks learning the basics of emergency medicine. Recruits learn the fundamentals of anatomy and physiology and how to provide critical and emergent care to medical and trauma patients. Through their applied effort, studying, practical and written testing, each recruit will earn an Emergency Medical Technician EMT)-B certification from Virginia’s Office of Emergency Medical Services.

Although becoming EMT-certified is no small task, the recruits have just finished the “easy” segment of the academy. The remaining 21-weeks involve heavy work and play out at the Drill School, located at Woodman Road. This is where the recruits will hone their practical skills, build their emotional acumen, and enhance their physical strength and endurance. It is here that recruits are first introduced to their new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including a firefighter’s most significant resource, the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). Becoming comfortable and competent in their SCBA, particularly their face-piece, can be a daunting task. Initially, it is not uncommon for recruits to be apprehensive or to be claustrophobic while donning their SCBA, especially during periods of physical exertion. However, success as a firefighter includes overcoming any distress or anxiety and performing all fire-ground tasks while “masked-up.”

Mastering the SCBA is an essential skill and it’s the first to be introduced at the drill school, but several arduous and physically demanding skills remain in the recruits’ journey to success. Throwing ladders, forcing doors, advancing charged hose-lines, and performing Mayday operations, all involve many hours of classroom instruction and hands-on practice. In addition to the physical skills developed, recruits develop a working knowledge of building construction, fire behavior, tactical ventilation and fire protection systems. Once recruits master core knowledge and perfect essential job skills, they qualify to earn their National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certifications which, along with their EMT certification, is required for graduation. Before the recruits earn placement as a probationary firefighter in the District, they must prove to the Instructor Cadre that they know the Henrico Way – that they perform above the minimum standard to meet the high expectations set forth by the Division of Fire and the community they serve.

Hours of EMT preparation and weeks of long days training at the Drill School completing skill sessions, live fire evolution’s, and countless trips up and down the infamous tower ultimately pay off for those who make it through the process. The recruits are sorely tested during their 30-week journey. Each day begins with the muster drill as a reminder that it is the small things that matter in this profession. In the words of Firefighter Lam Le, a recent graduate of Recruit Academy 70, now stationed at Station 12, “Recruit school is long and difficult, but you learn a great deal not only about Fire and EMS, but about who you are, and it is definitely worth it in the end.” As the recruits transition to probationary firefighters, each exemplifies the Division of Fire’s core values – Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Empathy — P.R.I.D.E.

Henrico Fire opens its application process annually on December 1. If you know someone who demonstrates P.R.I.D.E. in their daily lives and has a heart for service, please consider encouraging him or her to become part of our family. General information regarding the hiring process can be found at our recruiting site.

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Walking the Walk!

Henrico County Walks… more like Henrico County Sprints with the amount of support and teams that have signed up to be a part of this fun, Countywide fitness challenge. The Fitness and Wellness Division of Human Resources just received their 100th team registration! We were able to catch up with a few of the team captains to ask them about their experiences thus far, and how they plan to stay motivated for the rest of the journey:

  1. How did you get so many teams to participate in the Henrico County Walks challenge?
    • “We kind of branched off the Henrico County Walks challenge and developed an agency challenge. We had the support of Liz Stovall and as we talked about what we were trying to do she offered to come over and talk with our staff about the benefits of wellness and supported us fully. She brought over Liz Warden from Employee Health and they did a 30-minute presentation that got the teams fired up so to speak.” -Ed Martin, Juvenile Detention (six teams participating)
    • “When I was asked to speak about this program before school started, I took the information given by the program coordinators and made a slide in the PowerPoint presentation at a faculty meeting.  I talked about how cool it would be if we could walk the entire East Coast.  I explained how just walking two miles a day/30 minutes a day would not only make us healthier but also help us to our goal of walking the east coast. We do a pedometer competition in May (Health and Physical Education Month) and that brings out the competitive side of everyone, so this was something I thought our school would really get involved in…” -Len Weiss (Tuckahoe Middle School, nine teams participating)
  2. What are some things you have done to keep teams motivated to walk?
    Len Weiss and her team, ‘Making Tuckahoe Fit Again.’

    • “My team meets every day for lunch and as we eat, we talk about the things we have done to get our miles in for the week. We are all competitive people and we don’t want to lose!!!!!   I wish we did have time to walk together and I am hoping that we all can find time to do that soon. Another team captain sends out weekly emails to the team to encourage them to walk as well as log their miles in.” -Len Weiss and Townsend Duane
    • “We try to stay in constant communication as we all work in different offices within HR and keep encouraging each other. We try to get together at least once a week and walk as a group. Throughout the week we will also try to go grab another team member and just take a quick walk around the courtyard or through the administration building to keep up our movement.” -Patricia Witmer (Team Captain for CirqueDeSoreLegs, most creative team name winner)
  3. What is some of the feedback you have received from the teams since starting this initiative?
    • “Much comradery and encouraging each other. When you see the staff moving around someone’s saying I see you’re getting those steps in. Also, the competitive fun nature along with a little brash talk about being at the top when the dust settles.” -Ed Martin
    • “My team loves it, being Physical Educators, we do a lot of walking already, but we are pushing ourselves to do more outside of school.  Other teams are having fun.  They do wish that we could log our miles in earlier than the end of each marking period, so that we can see where we are on the journey as well as where other teams are too.” -Len Weiss
  4. Would you all participate in an initiative like this in the future?
    • “I truly believe we will. Hopefully this fun internal challenge will lead to more participation in events like this or others that we can make fit.” -Ed Martin
    • “Most definitely yes!” -Patricia Witmer
    • “Both my team and the other teams would definitely do this again!” -Len Weiss
  5. Do you see any positive impacts directly related to Henrico County Walks?
    • “Yes, staff generally feeling better and paying attention to an everyday activity that we do. With the challenge or goal, we’re doing a little more stepping.” -Ed Martin
    • “Most definitely…I am feeling better about myself overall and am starting to experience some weight loss. This program has made me take notice of how sedentary my life had become, and it is forcing me to take time every day and get up and move as much as possible.” -Patricia Witmer
    • “Seeing everyone walking and putting in the time motivates me and others to go a little bit further and get more active!” -Townsend Duane (Tuckahoe Middle School)
  6. Any other comments?
    • “Just remember to walk steady!” -Ed Martin
    • “I recommend any employee who has not joined this initiative to grab a couple co-workers and create a team and join in this adventure.” -Patricia Witmer

It is not too late to get a team together and join the fun! Head to the Power Henrico website to find more information on the journey, walking trails around the County, and what it takes to be a part of Henrico County Walks!

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Simplify the Holidays – Stress Less, Enjoy More

Oh, the holiday season. A time filled with magic, giving and wonder— or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be. For many, the holidays can quickly become stressful and overwhelming, becoming one of the busiest, most expensive and most draining times of the year. With a few mindful actions, there are ways to simplify the holidays and live intentionally through the holiday hustle.

  1. Prioritize your priorities
    • The first step towards simplifying the holidays is to figure out what your priorities are. Take time to understand what’s most important to you. Being intentional involves accepting that you can’t do everything. Pick what you want to focus on and let the rest go. For me, spending time with the people I love is my most important priority during the holidays. For example, I spend less time cooking on Christmas day and enjoy a simpler meal allowing more time to spend creating memories with my family.
  2. Adjust your expectations
    • Adjusting both expectations and perspective is important to simplify the holidays. A “perfect” holiday season isn’t what matters, especially if it means you’re a burnt out, cranky, exhausted mess. Your friends and family won’t remember (or care) if you had five different kinds of cookies. They will remember spending a fun night laughing, talking and enjoying your company while eating cookies.
  3. Keep your focus on gratitude
    • Remembering to focus on gratitude can go a long way to shift your perspective during the holidays. Actively look for things for which to be grateful. Take the time to notice and appreciate the simple joys during the holidays. My favorite memories aren’t the gifts received or how fancy the holiday decorations are, they are the laughter and the cozy fire in the fireplace as we sip hot chocolate on a cold and snowy evening. Keep your eyes and heart open to notice and feel grateful for the simple moments.
  4. Other practical tips
    • Start saving for the holidays throughout the year. Instead of racking up debt during the holiday season, set aside some money each month for holiday purchases, travel and hosting.
    • Plan your time, activities and to-dos well ahead of time. Make a list of everything you need and want to do for the holidays and when you need to have each task completed. Planning in advance is a great way to avoid last minute stress and chaos. With a little intention and planning you can bring joy back into the holiday season.

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