Make a strong first impression on fire recruits

Show a recruit class the department's best instructor from day one to lay the right firefighter foundation

Jason Hoevelmann's recent article examining the five traits that great instructors share made me think of graduate school.

The college I attended has a unique — patented, I believe — teaching method. This method is used in nearly all of the discipline's classes — both graduate and undergraduate.

Those of us new to the program, that is not having done our undergraduate work there, were grouped together. No previous undergrad students were allowed in that group.

We were required to take the same course in our first semester. The college selected its best instructor to teach that class.

Of course the result was that our first encounter with this unique teaching method was delivered and managed by the best the school had to offer, with limited outside influence.

The plan was brilliant as it laid the foundation for all of the classes that followed. By understanding the system the right way from the start, we learned more from subsequent classes than had those other instructors that had to re-teach the method.

That first impression stayed with us through the entire degree program.

Fire academies clearly aren't as long as a master's program, but making a strong first impression is just as important. This is more than a chance to teach proper firefighting technique.

It is a chance to ingrain the correct fire-service values in future firefighters. It is a chance to teach others the right way to think when it comes to identifying and solving problems.

As the saying goes, "you don't get a second chance at a first impression." You will end up spending a great deal of time trying to unteach what's learned from a bad first impression.

It is far better to have the department's best ambassador create that first, and lasting, impression. You'll have safer, smarter firefighters for a long time after.

About the author

Rick Markley is editor-in-chief of FireRescue1 and Fire Chief, a volunteer firefighter and fire investigator. He serves on the board of directors of and is actively involved with the International Fire Relief Mission, a humanitarian aid organization that delivers unused fire and EMS equipment to firefighters in developing countries. He holds a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's of fine arts. He has logged more than 15 years as an editor-in-chief and written numerous articles on firefighting. He can be reached at

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