Graduation ceremony: The last night is the graduation ceremony with full honors. The department honor guard starts it off with the Fire Chief congratulating them and usually a high city official, such as the Mayor, City Manager or City Councilperson also making comments. We then have dinner, which has been a pot luck dinner (everyone brings in something). Friends and family of the participants are invited and this has always been a very special night for everyone involved. After dinner, the graduation certificates and a miniature CFA badge pin is awarded to each participant. They are photographed with the fire chief and academy director and it is mailed to them. We also video tape the event and mail them a finished video of all the activities they participated in along with the graduation ceremony.
U.S. Fire Corps: The Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Citizens Fire Academy is now a part of the U.S. Fire Corps program, which we call the Las Vegas Fire Corps/Citizens Fire Academy. Since the past graduates have a very good working knowledge of how the public safety system works in the Las Vegas Valley, especially the fire service, we have extended an invitation for them to continue on and become a member of the Fire Corps program. The U.S. Fire Corps program encourages participation by citizens in their community to assist their local fire service. The Las Vegas program has used CFA members at various Fire & Rescue activities such as graduation ceremonies, open houses' and the like. The can assist during disasters or large emergencies by working in the Joint Information Center or Emergency Operations Center answering telephones, directing traffic, assisting at shelters and many other duties. Many have volunteered to be victims at a number of various simulations the department has participated in. In any event many want to continue to give back to the community and being a part of the CFA/Fire Corps program is one way to do it.
The Las Vegas CFA has proven to be a very worthwhile project. Nearly 400 citizens have graduated from the academy since 2000. Twelve past graduates have gone on to become professional firefighters, three have become wildland firefighters and a number of others have volunteered to work with organizations such as the American Red Cross and Trauma Intervention Program.
We have had a wide variety of participants such as attorneys, judges, physicians, students, housewives, retired people, teachers, city officials, media and city employees ranging in age from 15 to 88 years who have participated. Some have attended twice. One student lived in San Diego, would fly to Las Vegas each week just to attend class and return after class in time for work the next day in San Diego.
And the best part is the firefighters had just as much fun working with the citizens as the citizens did participating. It is a very worthwhile project.
Tim Szymanski is the Fire - Public Information Officer for Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. As the Fire-PIO he is in charge of public information, public relations, fire safety education, Citizens Fire Academy and the Las Vegas Fire Corps program. He is also in charge of photo and video services and manages the "Fire Channel" which provides cable educational services to over 50 fire stations of five fire departments in Southern Nevada. He has been in the fire service for 35 years serving in every position from firefighter to fire chief. Nearly 20 of those years have been working with the media. He was the Fire-PIO for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He is a nationally known speaker on media relations and is now teaching public information and media relations at area colleges in Las Vegas and host a seminar each year in Las Vegas for Fire-PIOs. He is also a Fire-Photojournalist, much of his work has been seen on various TV programs and in trade magazines. Please visit Tim's website at www.Fire-Pio.Com. Or contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.