Some of our classes are instructional in nature such as the AED/CPR training, fire extinguisher class and fire safety education.
Two of our more popular classes is the tour of the 9-1-1 Fire & Medical Communications Center and the presentation by the Las Vegas fire investigators. LVFR fire investigations is also the only certified bomb squad in Southern Nevada and the unit not only does a presentation about how they investigate fires, but also a tour of the bomb squad and demonstration. This is our most popular class. The class gets to see things that the public would never see. And that is what the CFA is all about.
Notebook: A notebook is given to each student at the first class. I use a regular three-ring binder purchased at the local office supply. The binder has pockets on the inside. The pockets are filled with fire safety material, pamphlets about our department, a patch from our department and a past copy of Firehouse Magazine. You can put anything you want into the notebook about your department and it gives the participants a place to keep their handouts.
Class Shirt: For our academy I decided to have a class shirt. Students may purchase a special polo shirt that was designed especially for our academy. We take orders the first night and the average price for the shirt is $30. It has the department logo with "Citizens Fire Academy" below it and the person's name. When the shirts come in, the students then wear them to the rest of the classes and on their ride along. It looks very good for the class photo we take and for the graduation ceremony. Ironically the shirt looked so good; it has been adopted as the department's uniform shirt.
Class Plaque: We make a class plaque that has the class photo and the names of the participants on it for each academy. The plaques are on display at fire headquarters. The cost of the plaque is divided among the participants of the academy.
Ride Alongs: We make arrangements for each participant to do a ride along with an engine company for four hours. During that time the crew shows them around the station, what station life is like, usually they are invited to stay for lunch or dinner, and to go on any runs that come in. We have some basic rules for the ride alongs: they can not directly participate in any activities while on a run; they are not allowed in a private home or business while on a run (unless we escort them in special for educational purposes); they are not permitted to talk to anyone or the media while on a ride along (this way they can not be quoted); and they must adhere to all safety regulations such as they must wear their seat belts while in the apparatus and it is in motion. The word has gotten out from previous academies that if you bring a lot of goodies with you, such as cookies, cake, ice cream and the like, you may be asked by the crew to stay longer than the normal four hour time period. Some academy participants have even brought in dinner for the crew and cooked it. In many of those cases it created an extra special relationship between the firefighters and the citizens and that what the citizens fire academy is all about.
Field Day: We have one day at the Fire Training Center in which our Hazardous Materials Team and Technical Rescue Team comes in and does an extra special demonstration for the class. Wrecked cars are brought in and each student has a chance to try extrication equipment working with some rescue crews that are brought it. Each gets a ride in the tower ladder and tour of the department's mobile command post. They try using a fire hose and a live fire exercise using fire extinguishers. Lastly, they are put in full protective clothing with SCBA and crawl through the burn building during a simulated building fire (it is dark and a smoke machine is used, no live fire is ever used.) When they come out, we take their photo so we can use it at the graduation ceremony and for them to have. Most of the time the participants are extremely tired when they leave in the afternoon.