Planning for Your Career in the Fire Service – The Triangle of Preparation: YOU
By Anthony Kastros

Learn more about Online Fire Science Degrees, certifications, and CEUs The Triangle of Preparation (TOP) is a helpful tool for fire science students who are planning their career in the fire service industry. The TOP is comprised of three components: the fire department that you are aspiring to work with, the job you are seeking and – the most important part – you.  

The Most Important Part of the Triangle: You

You are comprised of countless strengths, weaknesses, opinions, experiences, passions, triumphs, failures, dreams and nightmares. Many students don’t take the  time to do an appropriate assessment of themselves.  This may sound awkward and esoteric at first, but like the foundation of a building, the foundation of your career must be solid, strong and upright.  A great place to start is with a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis.


Understanding these strengths thoroughly is imperative to ensuring they are communicated properly in a critical setting

Strengths are the traits  that you already possess. For example:

  • Calm under pressure
  • Hard working
  • Team player
  • Integrity
  • Loyal
  • Service-oriented
  • Passionate
  • Social

Understanding these strengths thoroughly is imperative to ensuring they are communicated properly in a critical setting, such as before an interview or before a promotional assessment process Plus, these strengths are the main component of the message that you want to convey to the interviewer.

Proper preparation includes having examples  of each strength  and how those strengths would manifest themselves in the job. For example, “I am extremely hard working. I learned that at a young age from my parents by working on our farm.  I would get up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows and feed the chickens. In the same way, I will get to work early and start cleaning the firehouse with pride or start a project that is needed without being asked because I enjoy the feeling of satisfaction from a hard day’s work.”


Weaknesses are traits that you know need work, including:

  • Impatience
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication

Notice this list is shorter. The goal with understanding your weaknesses is noting your areas that are in need of improvement. We all have weaknesses and no one is expected to be perfect, but defining your problem areas is the first step in making improvements.

For example, “I tend to be a bit impatient. However, I have just had my first child, and he is already teaching me the virtue of patience.”  Or, “In the past, I have had a bit of an issue with written communication, but being a paramedic has really improved my skills. Writing patient reports has become a source of great learning and has increased the level of my overall written skills.”

Opportunities and Threats

Opportunities and threats are those factors that are outside of your control or sphere of influence. Opportunities might include attending a fire industry conference, getting started on your fire science degree, participating in a volunteer project or participating in a ride-along with a mentor.

A threat is an obstacle to your goal. Not all threats are bad. For example, a family vacation in the middle or just before a promotional process may threaten your study time. A home business or children may also threaten your time and energy that could be devoted to preparing for a test.

Planning to accommodate these threats is necessary to staying on track. A vacation may be re-scheduled, or you may agree with your significant other that you will not study during vacation, but the time before and after must be spent in preparation for your test.

In summary, the SWOT analysis, coupled with the TOP are excellent tools for analyzing the most vital part of the foundation: you.

Bio: Anthony Kasatros is a 29-year veteran of the fire service. He is author of the Fire Engineering/Pennwell book and video series "Mastering the Fire Service Assessment Center" and video series "Mastering Fireground Command - Calming the Chaos!" Chief Kastros was the Keynote Speaker for FDIC International 2013.

Columbia Southern University (CSU) is an online university based in Orange Beach, Ala., that strives to change and improve lives through higher education by enabling students to maximize their professional and personal potential. If you are interested in learning more about Fire Science Degree offerings, please go to: