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Creating Habits: How to Form Routines in Your Fire Department

firefighter practicing routines and building habits of putting on equipment.

Forming habits and routines isn't just about getting the job done. It's down to optimizing for performance, efficiency and consistency. When a call comes through in a fire department every second counts. From gearing-up correctly to getting underway in the correct apparatus, practicing routines is of vital importance. It's not just about going through the motions; it's about ingraining habits that can save lives, including our own.

How long it takes to form routines

Building routines isn't an overnight endeavor; it's a journey that requires commitment and consistency. Research suggests that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit, but the benefits are well worth the effort. By establishing routines, we enhance efficiency, reduce errors, and cultivate a subconscious framework that kicks into action when it matters most.

When we consciously think about what we're doing, we're slow because every movement and thought is considered. Once we perform the same task over and over, forming a routine, we perform the task from our subconscious allowing us to work on auto-pilot. It becomes a second nature.

Useful habits to form in the fire department

We've listed out some important habits to consider on the job to make your life, your teams life, and saving lives just that bit simpler.

Check Your SCBA First Thing in the Morning
  • Start your day by ensuring your self-contained breathing apparatus is in optimal condition. It's a simple yet crucial step that sets the tone for safety throughout the day.

Practice Gear Preparation 
  • Practice donning your gear in the correct order, aiming for efficiency without compromising safety. One tip we've found to be helpful is to consider recording yourself to identify areas for improvement, striving to complete the process in under a minute. We've often found that recording ourselves shows some considerable points in which we get caught up repeatedly!

Truck Protocol
  • Whether getting in or out of the truck, make it a habit to set up your SCBA and familiarize yourself with the equipment around you. This ensures readiness for swift action upon arrival at the scene.

Masking Up and Gear Allocation
  • Upon arrival, prioritize masking up and acquiring your assigned tools or nozzles promptly. Smooth execution of these tasks can make a significant difference in response time and effectiveness.

Consistent Truck Checks
  • Establish a standardized procedure for organizing gear on the truck, ensuring everything is in its place for quick access during emergencies.

One way we've found to improve our own habit forming process is to work on developing them within our groups. Each time our group is on shift we run through the same practices to help each other get better and more efficient.

Routines to consider for different ranks

  • Regular gear checks, ensuring the full functionality of masks and bottles, and thorough inspection of equipment and medical bags.

  • In addition to gear checks, drivers should oversee SCBA, fluids, and pumps, maintaining the operational readiness of the apparatus.

Company Officers
  • Company officers play a pivotal role in guiding and supporting firefighters. Alongside gear and SCBA checks, they should actively assist and mentor team members, building a culture of continuous improvement.

Battalion Chiefs
  • Beyond individual responsibilities, battalion chiefs oversee broader operational aspects, including truck and equipment checks, as well as monitoring schedules and overtime adjustments to ensure seamless coordination.

Importance of Routines

In the fire station, every second counts. By adhering to established routines, fire departments can optimize their response times and mitigate risks. One point to note is that embracing adaptability is key; while routines provide structure, they must also allow for flexibility to accommodate unforeseen challenges and changes in schedule. If you carry out the same routine at the same time each day, and on one day a call comes in it can throw you off course. Learn to become adaptable with your routines, and your efficiency will not be swayed by unpredictability.

Final thoughts

Mastering routines isn't just about following a checklist; it's about instilling a culture of preparedness and excellence within our fire departments. By embracing habits that prioritize safety, efficiency, and adaptability, we empower ourselves to tackle any challenge that comes our way, ensuring the utmost protection for our communities and fellow firefighters alike.


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