Many departments offer ride-alongs, but others do not. Sometimes though, even the ones who say they do not offer ride-alongs will let you go with them if you know someone, or make yourself known to them, and are willing to fill out paperwork (full of waivers and agreements). Note: By make yourself known, I mean hang around a lot.
The way it worked out for me was that I have a friend that is a Captain with one of the local departments. He suggested it and sent me all of the paperwork. I’ll be posting about that soon, so stay tuned.
My EMT instructor tells me that most departments only allow you to ride-along for a few hours. However, some departments (especially if you know someone) will let you ride-along for an entire shift.
While on your ride-along you will start to get a feel for what life at a station can be like. Granted, most people act differently with strangers hanging around, but you will start to get a good feel for what life *can* be like. If you are lucky, those tones will drop while you’re there. If that happens, then you will get to feel the rush of running on a call. Also, there are daily tasks that need to be performed: mopping, washing the engine, cooking etc. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can pitch in. I’ve never in my life felt more fulfilled while mopping a floor.
You have to be prepared. You may see the worst of humanity. You may see the worst in yourself. You may walk away from this career.
You may fall in love.