On Monday, Aug. 29, four new members will join the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services. The hiring of these four individuals will return the department to pre-Great Recession staffing numbers. The department is extremely excited for their staff to be increasing. Chief Chad Hollinger wanted to share in this week’s column what a new hire at the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services will be expected to complete as they integrate into the department operations.
When a new hire joins the department, they complete an orientation period. During this orientation period, 120 hours over a three-week period, the new hires are assigned to the department training officer. Lt. Jeff Simon currently serves in this capacity and will oversee all aspects of their orientation.
New hires have much to accomplish in a short period of time. The first assignment for the new hires is to meet with our Human Resources staff, HR Manager Kelly Holthaus and HR Coordinator Deb Morrison, to complete the usual paperwork for any new hire. After the new hires have completed their initial paperwork with HR, they return to begin their introduction to the department.
The new hires will tour and become familiar with all department facilities and apparatus. It is during this time that a new hire is assigned their lockers, equipment and other items necessary for their life and work around the station. The training officer will teach them about our department guidelines, daily schedules, response plans, riding assignments, computer systems, chain of command and other facets of our work that are unique to the fire service and our department.
Lt. Simon will instruct the new hires on how to operate various pieces of equipment and apparatus within our fleet. They are instructed and observed as they learn to drive ambulances, fire engines, aerial ladder trucks and other vehicles pulling department boats and trailers. While learning to drive the apparatus, the new hires also begin familiarizing themselves with the streets and buildings within our jurisdiction. The new hires are taught how to safely operate department chainsaws and rotary saws, a compressed air fill-station for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and hydraulic extrication tools among many others.
During the orientation period, new hires will be given tours of and become familiarized with organizations and facilities that we partner with. Wilson Health Emergency Room and Cardiac Cath Lab, Sidney Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and Shelby County Emergency Management Agency are among the list of places that the new hires will be introduced to.
A personal highlight of the orientation period for Hollinger, is the afternoon that he personally spends with the new hires teaching them about the rich history of our department. A brief lecture followed by a field trip to the Monumental Building, the first home of the department; City Hall, the second home of the fire and emergency department; and Graceland Cemetery. While at Graceland Cemetery, the new hires are taken to the gravesites of Chief Henry Yost and Chief George Hume. Both chiefs died in the line-of-duty and their stories are shared highlighting their dedication and sacrifice.
As the orientation period winds down, the focus becomes ensuring that the new hires are operationally ready. This would include completion of emergency medical protocol testing and review of the new hires’ knowledge, skills and abilities relevant to their certification levels.
They are taught throughout their orientation period using a “crawl, walk, run” methodology. At the conclusion of the orientation period, the new hires will be sent out to their respective crews where their Shift Commanders will conduct the final phase of testing with the new hires. This includes street/district familiarization and fire pump operation competence. Once the Shift Commanders have evidence that the new hires have the required certification levels, the successful completion of the EMS protocol testing, passed the street/district test, and basic pump operations testing; they will be counted as daily staffing.
The amount of time and energy that is expended in a few short weeks is significant. The reason for this is two-fold. Of primary importance is the safety of the community. The Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services must be sure that the new hires will take to the streets to fulfill the department’s mission to serve and protect the community by preventing the loss of life and property and that they are equipped with the knowledge necessary to efficiently and effectively complete that mission. The second reason is the safety of themselves and their crew. At times, this job is an extremely dangerous one and failing to properly indoctrinate and educate new members potentially sets them and their crew up for failure.
The department will have an oath ceremony for the new hires on Monday, Aug. 29, at 4 p.m. at Station 1, 222 W. Poplar St. in Sidney. The public is welcome to attend this ceremony which will be conducted in front of the station.