I had never really thought about it - I had taken a physical to get into my volunteer fire department, but I was never really given a psychological. I know that I, personally, am fine in that area, but we got a new member within the past year that has raised some serious red flags about his psychological competency.

 

The guy is nice and all, but one cannot help but get that weird feeling when they're stuck alone with him in the coffee room. He brings up awkward subjects, cracks stupid jokes that can be over the top at times, and so on. I understand possible social anxiety, and this is NOT it.

 

The member in question has talked, with a serious demeanor, that his family has been abducted by aliens and that he once was possessed by demons. He also said (although this isn't AS bad, but still... it's extreme) that he goes to 6 or 7 different churches every weekend. He's extremely religious (not always a bad thing, but it's to the point that it can get worrisome).

 

Physically the guy has potential - he's tall and stocky. It's just that he's not all there... psychologically. I am not the only one who has noticed this, either. I am honestly to the point that I would never have him back me up in a working fire. I fear for my, as well as my fellow firefighters', well-being.

 

Does your department have a psychological? Our department is to the point where I've talked to the President and he says that the board is contemplating psycologicals, primarily due to this current member.

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 Are you wanting this individual o have a psych eval or just one for future members?

 If your trying to get one set for this current member then all current members will have to take one. If not then the member could sue the dept. for discrimanation.

  This opens up a can of worms. First off Psych evals are not absoulute.

 You may have members who been on for years who according to the eval arn't fit to be on the dept.  Now you have to let people go! 

  Plus evals arn't cheap. Here is another point to mull over. This member may have had others psych evals in the past. He may be good at passing them, it can be done if you know how to answer the questions.

 

  You may wind up losing 2 or 3 members but this guy stays cause he knows the system.

 

 Just remember you must require all members to take the psych eval not just one.

 

  We have psych evals it is part of our hireing process. We have some crazy people on the job.  I wouldn't trade them for a dozen so called sane people. 

   Have you been on a job with him yet? You may find that he's a damm good fireman regardless of his nuttyness.

  What do the other members think does he have any friends in the dept.? How old is he? What do you know about his back ground? Did he go to college was he in the military? What is his regular job?

I am not a fan nor proponent of psych exams, because they really don't go about diagnosing psychological issues. The examples here are subjectory and the issue is that many of these psych tests focus more on personality rather than issues. So the examples you give here Andrew, doesn't mean they would be discovered on a psych test.

 

Now I have taken a few psych tests for depts and they range from an aspect of the written test to pre-employment physicals. What you see with these tests is consistency rather than actual psychological examination. What you find is many tests are a series of questions rephrased and repeated for the sake of consistency. For example you have a timed test of about 200 questions, one question is "I like to analyze data" with choices of Always, Sometimes, On occasion, Never............then 50 questions or so later you get a similar question of "I prefer not to analyze data"......since the test is timed, you really don't have time to go back to see how you answered. Another test would be simple math type of tests or other problem solving tests that are timed and you get as far as you can before time is up.

There are a few psych tests where you may actually talk with a psychologist, but for the most part is general type of questions, not a diagnosis.

 

The thing is with a psych test, the name in itself gives an indication of testing for sanity, mental stability, etc, etc, but the name is misleading. Much of the test I described deals more with consistency than diagnosis of any mental problem or condition. Basically the name in itself is a false guise of no psychological issues.

 

Another thing to remember these tests do not nor indicate that a person will have psychological problems in the future. There is nothing in these tests indicating that someone may snap etc. An example was a few years ago in northern WI, a police officer shot and killed several kids, before killing himself. There were outcries from the public regarding psych tests, etc. These tests aren't going to make such an indication that this type of event would happen.

 

I have seen several good FF's who proved themselves as an intern, volunteer, etc and made it to a hiring only to "fail" a psych test. Here is another aspect of a psych test, there isn't a way to clarify or defend an answer, the test results are subjected to the person administering the test. No doubt someone may get nervous knowing they have to scale this hurdle to get a job so they may be concerned about answers etc. If being treated for psychological issues a person typically sees a psychologist over a period of time, they don't have a single test and boom, a diagnosis is made.

 

Something else to consider, a person could "fail" a psych test one day and take one for another dept and pass it. So where does such a test thus indicate there is a psychological issue? That is the problem with psych tests, is that they can be very subjective and variable, but yet doesn't necessarily indicate any issues as being described by the OP.

 Exactly.

 

I understand that there may be some firefighters that have some underlying or minor issues that would cast them out due to a psychological exams. Maybe their tests were faulty or they were misunderstood and they WOULD make great firefighters, but this guy is on a totally different level.

 

I've seen this guy at trainings and I've talked to him one-on-one many times - there is something seriously wrong here. Everyone (and I am not just saying "everyone," I mean literally EVERYONE) thinks the same thing about him. He may not be a bad guy, per se, but there is something "off" about him. Very "off." It's to the point that a psychological isn't really necessary to determine his psychological stability, and this is seen through mere conversations with the guy. From his abduction stories to being possessed by demons, there's a minefield of red flags.

 

Will psychological tests keep everyone that's not stable out? No, people will fall through the cracks, but at least it'll help filter out people that can be potentially dangerous to themselves and others.

 

His ability in the FD was so low for awhile that he couldn't handle a stretcher (EMS is integrated in our department). He couldn't ride the ambulance at all, even to just help out with manpower. At training he had a lot of trouble advancing (or even holding) a hoseline (an inch and three quarter). And there's just that feeling one gets around him, especially when alone, as I stated before.

 

Is he strong? Yes, absolutely. He has some willpower. But I feel like he jeopardizes the safety of patients/victims, himself and other department members - and safety should be the top priority.

 

Like I said - he's not a BAD person, but an imbalanced, and I believe that could lead to someone getting hurt or killed.

Good luck trying to undo what already been done... Unless this individual does something egregious enough to embarrass the department or does not follow whatever rules and regulations you have, chances are pretty good that he's going to be around for awhile. 

There are crazy people everywhere, and it would be silly to not think otherwise. And yes, these individuals do get hired, and pass psychological examinations. What you need to go on is background checks and other things used by Human Resources folks looking at potential firefighter candidates. Also keep in mind that the psychologist is probably bonkers as well...

For those who work in this field, we all know that there are a couple of folks on the department that are just not right... We are trained to recognize it and deal with it. When it's under the same roof, folks tend to take the easy way out and simply not deal with it.

Key point is that whoever the individuals supervisor is must understand the importance of documenting behavior and actions on the part of the employee. He should be verbally told to knock off the alien crap and focus on the job. If he keeps it up, his supervisor should then document in writing what the person is doing that is causing disharmony at the fire station. If the problem persists, then it's time to bring in the Fire Chief, Human Resources and the Supervisor to have a meaningful discussion with this individual that may include bye bye.

CBz

I understand that there may be some firefighters that have some underlying or minor issues that would cast them out due to a psychological exams. Maybe their tests were faulty or they were misunderstood and they WOULD make great firefighters, but this guy is on a totally different level.

 

The fact remains that such pre-employment psychological exams have to do more with personality and consistency rather than a psychological diagnosis. The tests are subjectory and basically up to the test administrator whether a person passes or fails. Besides, such tests last a couple hours in length at the most, dealing with different written tests as I mentioned before, computer type version of similar test, etc and maybe, sometimes, talking with a psychologist for a short bit of time.

 

So here is the dilema with such tests, the candidate has no recourse nor opportunity to present their side. The tests aren't going to show who would or wouldn't be cut out for the job, and they don't warn of potential issues in an individual's future.

 

What you are describing here I'm sure, is also over a period of time and not just a couple hours, right? So how would some psych test as I described really going to come to such conclusions as you guys? Besides, when you are talking about psychological issues or problems, you are also talking about a time period that goes well beyond just an simple psych type of test for pre-employment.

 

So once again, the problem here is the terminology of the test and that one can easily confuse a "psych test" as some type of diagnosis of underlying psych issues etc, but in reality they are more about personality and consistency. You will probably get more red flags on a psych test by answering "I like to analyze data" as STRONGLY AGREE and then 70 questions later anser "I don't like to analyze data" as STRONGLY DISAGREE, than you would have about someone talking about aliens or going to several churches in a day

 

Will psychological tests keep everyone that's not stable out? No, people will fall through the cracks, but at least it'll help filter out people that can be potentially dangerous to themselves and others.

 

How so? I'm seriously not blowing smoke up your ass here about what I described. I have taken some psych tests as part of a written test for a dept, as well as pre-employment physical. I also know of several other who have gone through the similar tests and know of a few that didn't pass a psych test, only to end up somewhere else and as a quality FF. The tests really are subjective and really don't delve into the concepts that you may be believing they do.

 

His ability in the FD was so low for awhile that he couldn't handle a stretcher (EMS is integrated in our department). He couldn't ride the ambulance at all, even to just help out with manpower. At training he had a lot of trouble advancing (or even holding) a hoseline (an inch and three quarter).

 

This is the avenue in which your dept should be looking at moreso than worrying about "what ifs" about a psych test. These are tangible aspects of the job which come more into play than goofy talk. If a person can't do a job, then train them, if they still can't, then cut ties and let them go.

 

 

A good background and having a training period goes further for getting good people than incorporating a psych test that becomes subjective. There is a significant cost involved to administer a psych test and that can conflict with many volunteer depts who can't even afford to give a pre-employment physical let alone psychological test. We still see the "take what you can get" approach. So it seems that approach may have bit your dept a bit here, so really the "damage" is done, but there are things that can be done. Training, talking to the person and perhaps the dept look into some professional help for the person if there are red flags.

 

 

 

 

 

If the tests have to do more with personality, then this guy would've been shot down after a few minutes of testing.

 

Honestly, I understand where you're coming from with your in-depth analysis about the testing in itself, but you truly need to meet this guy before making any judgements of my perception on the matter. This guy has a screw lose.

 

Let me ask you - would you want someone that talks about being abducted by aliens and whom states that he had been possessed by demons following you into a burning building doing a primary search? I highly doubt it.

 

I truly, 100% believe that this guy isn't just a little slow or something, I believe there is truly an underlying psychological ailment that has gone undocumented.

 

And yes, this behavior has been over the duration of about a year and a half. However, it started and was observed when he first entered the department. One of my first conversations with him was about how he was possessed. I've talked to many other firefighters and they say the same thing - their first conversations with him were awkward and full of SHOULD-be fictitious stories. People were unsure if they should take him seriously. Personally, I thought he was kidding the first time I talked to him. Then, as time progressed, I saw that he was dead serious about everything that he said.

 

Do I consider him harmful? No. I don't think that he'd take a knife and stab me one day at the firehouse. Do I think he can be dangerous? Yes, he can get someone else hurt or injured on the fireground.  Do I feel that he unable to perform his duties? I haven't seen him to them successfully yet, personally.

 

On a side note, the tension in which he creates is unnecessary. Here's a short story:

 

One day my buddy Jim and I were at the firehouse with the member in question (I'll call him Lenny). An EMS alarm gets toned out and we all jump into the ambulance and respond. We knew where the exact location was already - we had been there a few times during the week already for the intoxicated male. On our way there, while around the corner from the location, Lenny keeps screaming out "You've gotta turn there!" while pointing down a street. The driver, who controls the route in which we take, as you all probably know, states multiple times "Yes, I know where we are going. We're going down the next street." Lenny, still, keeps yelling "You've gotta turn down there!" over and over again. Usually, maybe after a couple times I could understand - maybe he didn't hear us or something. But it was a good four or five times before he finally got the message, and this was within a minute timeframe or less. Then, after that, he kept blabbering about how we should've went down some other road, although Jim has been in the department for much longer, knows the areas, and has been driving the ambulance for some time now. Lenny, a newer member at the time, is not qualified to drive, he actually was banned from the ambulance soon after for dropping not one, but two patients, and he's been the end of many personal complains (already) by our paid and volunteer personnel.

 

Anyway, Jim became extremely irate, something I have NEVER seen in my entire life knowing him - and I've known him for about 10+ years. Lenny, in the back, laughed and kept blabbering about the route in which we took and kept saying "You don't know where you're going." Not only is this distracting while Jim and I try to man the radio, sirens and drive, but it's irresponsible and annoying - something I know that NO one wants, especially when they're en route to deal with an annoying intox, especially one that is a repeat offender.

 

That's not normal behavior in itself, and his demeanor was terrible and unprofessional the whole way, even as a probie.

 

After that I have driven, personally, with him in the ambulance. When I drive I like to be left alone so I can focus on manning the sirens, drive, and scan the area as I drive to avoid collisions and to tactically maneuever through traffic. All I ask for is some silence, unless I talk to the passenger first or ask a question. It is really simple, honestly. One day, en route to another call with just him and I (the first responders were already on scene as our EMTs) I was driving. He kept blabbering on about random stuff. I asked him to please be quiet so I can focus on what really matters - getting to the scene in a safe, yet rapid manner. He kept talking. And talking. And talking. I had to shut him out. This happened many times. Now I try and avoid taking him on any ambulance calls. Jim just won't take him. Period.

 

There's seriously a screw lose. Call it a psychological evaluation or a personality evaluation. I don't care what you want to call it -- but this guy... there's just something wrong. You need to actually meet him and talk to him for a little bit to realize this is an ideal example of a guy that should NOT be in the firehouse and working in emergency services - volunteer or not.  I, personally, think that it gives vollies a bad name to allow someone with such disruptive and immature behavior in the department.

I wish I knew what the board was thinking when they let him in. Maybe he was on his best behavior when they did his interview. He may have a clean record, too, but it doesn't take away from his obvious weird behavior...

 

The problem has been persisting for awhile. He actually has been gone for some time since he got a job driving a truck across the country, but he hurt himself and is now back at the firehouse. He's out injured, but he hangs around in the coffee room (which is allowed). Even some of the most tolerant people I've ever met get aggravated by him - his stupid and persistent jokes, his weird stories, his awkward and tension-filling demeanor, etc.

 

I know you don't know me personally, but I am one of the most laid-back and level-headed people you can ever meet. I take every side of the story into consideration for any problem and/or story.

 

We're a relatively small volunteer (I guess) department. We don't have a Human Resources Department, or not that I know of. Our Chiefs joke and know that something is wrong with the guy. All of the officers know, all of the paid personnel know (we have paid first responders), all of the vollies know - EVERYONE knows. Even the commissioners and so on. I feel like they won't take action until something happens, and it can be too late for someone else at that point. He has already dropped patients when using the stretcher. I understand maybe once, as accidents happen, but it happened twice when he was new in the department. And he's not a small guy, either - he's pretty big, so strength shouldn't have been a problem.

 

Also, read my response above to another poster - it tells a couple of stories about his immaturity and lack of professionalism. It's pretty bad. I'll admit - he's not a BAD person, but there's something clearly missing mentally.

Being a volunteer dept. Don't you vote people on or have some type
of process?
Document your concerns, be sure to use the words "liability and risk" to provide written documentation to justify letting this person go. If he truly is that bad, have others sign the letter recommending dismissal. There is more power in many signing a document than going solo. If he is allowed to stay, and causes a problem, the chief is then liable, having been warned by his personnel ahead of time. Put the monkey on his back, that's where it belongs... he was the one who hired him and has absolute responsibility for this persons actions. Documentation has a tendency sometimes of making people focus on the problem, and in many cases, forcing something to be done. If it's a discussion without documentation, then it never existed.

Three words:

Progressive

Discipline

Policy

I thought about this for the forum. If you have ever  seen  the movie "No Time For Sergeants with Andy Griffith. He is taken to the medical building and sent into the psychologist for evaluation to stay in the Air Force. Its a interesting scene how a county bunkin can drive a psychologist nuts in 15 minutes. 

 

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