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    Default Students that fight fires

    Hey everyone. I'm new to this forum and didn't see any information regarding this issue. I'm a graduate student in physics. Since early this year I have wanted to volunteer as a FF where I live. I was wondering if anyone had any experiences, stories, or maybe opinions on how departments look upon students that volunteer, or anything related to students and volunteering. Thanks for any responses.

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    I think that you're going to find that it depends on the department, the student and everything in between. It helps to try to look at things from the Department's point of view. The main thing is, can you meet the department's activity requirements? For how long?

    Without a doubt if it interests you look into becoming a volunteer firefighter. It can be exciting, and rewarding, and may be a good change of pace from sitting at a desk doing physics . Most departments are accepting new members. Just be upfront about your situation.. specifically: how long will you live in the area? Do you live there full time or do you go home "in the summer"? While there how much time do you have to comit to the department?

    The concern has to do with time and training. If you're only staying in the area during the school year, and only for a few years then by the time you're trained and functioning on your own in the department you may be looking to graduate and move away.. On the flip side, maybe you're a year-round student looking to become faculty, with lots of hours during the day to run calls..

    My suggestion, go talk to your local FD and figure out how you can fit into their organization. Be up front with them, and get an honest idea of the hours required.. it could certainly be a good fit..
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    As voyager stated, it depends on the situation. I do know that College Park VFD and several other departments surrounding that campus rely heavily on students for their operations. They are to the point that they provide housing to students in return for running calls. It can work in the right circumstances.

    We would welcome students if they were going to be around for most of the year and were able to meet our minimum requirements.

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    The department is located within a stone's throw from the campus. I know that they DO indeed depend heavily on the volunteer help from the students. I plan to be around for a minimum of 5 years as I just started the program.

    To be quite honest, I am unfamiliar with what a volunteer firefighter does or how it works. I know that's a vague statement and might seem obvious, but allow me to clarify. There's been mention of minimum requirements. Now I assume these are set by the department itself but there has to be some similarity among all departments. I know there's CPAT that I have to pass and take annually (I think) but that's all that I really know.

    I'm curious to find out how a department can be dependent upon student volunteers considering most students don't have a steady schedule. Do they just need a warm body (no pun intended) to fill the position and staff the crew or are they advantageous to a department because they can usually fill in spots on a schedule that most other members can't?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigT View Post
    The department is located within a stone's throw from the campus. I know that they DO indeed depend heavily on the volunteer help from the students. I plan to be around for a minimum of 5 years as I just started the program.

    To be quite honest, I am unfamiliar with what a volunteer firefighter does or how it works. I know that's a vague statement and might seem obvious, but allow me to clarify. There's been mention of minimum requirements. Now I assume these are set by the department itself but there has to be some similarity among all departments. I know there's CPAT that I have to pass and take annually (I think) but that's all that I really know.

    I'm curious to find out how a department can be dependent upon student volunteers considering most students don't have a steady schedule. Do they just need a warm body (no pun intended) to fill the position and staff the crew or are they advantageous to a department because they can usually fill in spots on a schedule that most other members can't?


    Go and talk to the guys at the firehouse. Ask to see the Chief who can give you a better view of the department and what is expect and what you can expect as far as training and being available for calls.

    In my department which is a combination, career and volunteer. The volunteer has to be certified as the career members are. All training is equal for all members.

    Career is paid and volunteer isn't. They do it because they want to be a part of the structure and hopefully one day they may get hired if that is what they want.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigT View Post
    The department is located within a stone's throw from the campus. I know that they DO indeed depend heavily on the volunteer help from the students. I plan to be around for a minimum of 5 years as I just started the program.

    To be quite honest, I am unfamiliar with what a volunteer firefighter does or how it works. I know that's a vague statement and might seem obvious, but allow me to clarify. There's been mention of minimum requirements. Now I assume these are set by the department itself but there has to be some similarity among all departments. I know there's CPAT that I have to pass and take annually (I think) but that's all that I really know.

    I'm curious to find out how a department can be dependent upon student volunteers considering most students don't have a steady schedule. Do they just need a warm body (no pun intended) to fill the position and staff the crew or are they advantageous to a department because they can usually fill in spots on a schedule that most other members can't?

    Unfortunately, the minimum requirements do vary drastically from department to department. Around here, minimum training requirements would be EMT-B and FF1. Beyond that would depend on the department. Fortunately for us, the training is free, so all you have to do is find the time. We also have minimum call standards, but those would not be a problem to achieve if you are around much at all.

    The lack of a steady schedule is actually an advantage. Students are able to fill in during the day, when "working" volunteers have trouble staffing the apparatus. They are also generally available overnight as well.

    The best idea is to stop in and talk it over with the department in question. They can explain the process and requirements much better than I can.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eng34FF View Post
    Around here, minimum training requirements would be EMT-B and FF1. Beyond that would depend on the department. Fortunately for us, the training is free, so all you have to do is find the time.
    Also look to see if college credits are offered for EMT-B and FF1. I know they are around here. Might help knock off those pesky electives.
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    Guys, this is most excellent. Thanks for the input. I'll be sure to get in touch with the chief and get him to point me in the right direction about some of these issues. Hopefully by the spring I can start training. In the meantime, what would you suggest I do to prepare myself?
    Last edited by BigT; 12-14-2010 at 09:12 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigT View Post
    In the meantime, what would you suggest I do to prepare myself?
    Keep your grades up. Know that you're looking at a substantial investment of time (especially in the beginning, when you're getting your initial training) and plan the rest of your [i]free[i] time accordingly - ie, don't commit to some other time-consuming activity because you have the time now.

    As suggested - check with your school guidance folks on the availability of credit for your fire/EMS training and/or activities. If your college offers EMT (our community college sponsors our local EMT courses which alloweds for college credit - they also offer a full paramedic program), and you have time in your schedule, maybe you can get signed up.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigT View Post
    Hey everyone. I'm new to this forum and didn't see any information regarding this issue. I'm a graduate student in physics. Since early this year I have wanted to volunteer as a FF where I live. I was wondering if anyone had any experiences, stories, or maybe opinions on how departments look upon students that volunteer, or anything related to students and volunteering. Thanks for any responses.
    Yep. I'm a current student. The guys here in Wisconsin are great. They welcome a young guy like me. I'm just one of the guys to them and I treat them with a great deal of respect (seniority). If one of the older guys which has been in longer than I have (which is just about everybody at our department) doesn't have a seat during one of our meetings, I give up mine. I get guys drinks (as in Mtn Dew, Dr. Pepper, etc) during the meetings. You start at the very bottom but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Those guys will look out for me and I trust every single one of them with my life. At the bare minimum get basic CPR certification. Ask what is required to join. Then don't stop until your on.
    Last edited by Thunderbuck; 12-15-2010 at 09:50 AM.

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    Dang. Sorry I haven't been keeping up the thread. I appreciate very much every bit of advice. I spoke with the volunteer coordinator and he said they weren't hiring volunteers this spring. I was wondering if volunteer hiring was a seasonal deal and what I should do in the mean time to prep for the training?

    Again. Thanks for the guidance guys.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigT View Post
    Dang. Sorry I haven't been keeping up the thread. I appreciate very much every bit of advice. I spoke with the volunteer coordinator and he said they weren't hiring volunteers this spring. I was wondering if volunteer hiring was a seasonal deal and what I should do in the mean time to prep for the training?

    Again. Thanks for the guidance guys.

    I'm sorry i didn't catch this thread before. BigT, some really important information, if you will give it - Where are you?? This has a lot to do with what kind of info that we can give. For one, "Hiring Volunteers" doesn't sound like you are in my part of the World. 1. We don't "Hire", and 2, Here, Volunteers are recruited all year.........
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    I'm in Fort Collins Colorado. I thought it was sort of strange too that they would be "hiring volunteers," but maybe they take a bunch of vollies in at one time and train them together.

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    BigT: In just a couple of minutes of looking, it seems like the main fire protection organization is Poudre Fire Authority. It appears to be a paid organization, and they are taking applications beginning January 24th for nesw recruits. There are two additional organizations in your area that are volunteer (Wellington/Waverly Volunteer Fire Department and the Platte River Fire Department) that are truely volunteer companies. You will find that a background in physics can be a definite asset in dealing with most things in the fire service. After a career of 40+ years, I am still finding things that I don't fully understand, but everything I have experienced follows the laws of physics. Problem is, sometimes we don't recognize the cause or the result as being tied together by what laws. The more you learn about this business, the more there is to learn!

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    I was under the impression that the PFA application was for career firefighters. When I spoke with the volunteer coordinator, that's what he told me at least. Thanks for locating those other departments. I wasn't able to find anything on the Platte River FD however. Do you mind posting the link?

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    Though it is a volunteer department or portion of the department they still may only have a certain number of positions. You have to remember that it costs money for gear, equipment and training for every member. I am sure the money on gear is passed down since most volunteers or rookies at least start out in used turnouts. It might have to do with training like you stated, they may bring on a set number and send them all through a training program so they build a little teamwork and fellowship amongst them. Just keep poking around at it and there will be an opening. Like before if you can get any medical training before hand that would help tremendously. Be it just the CPR or if you can get into an EMT or First Responder it all helps. Good luck to you and most importantly keep the grades up, volunteering is a very VERY rewarding thing and it does take a lot of time and it is easy to get caught up in it and get "addicted" and let other portions of your life slip.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireRescueLupo View Post
    Though it is a volunteer department or portion of the department they still may only have a certain number of positions. You have to remember that it costs money for gear, equipment and training for every member. I am sure the money on gear is passed down since most volunteers or rookies at least start out in used turnouts. It might have to do with training like you stated, they may bring on a set number and send them all through a training program so they build a little teamwork and fellowship amongst them.
    That makes sense. I'll just have to keep my eyes open for the opportunity. In the mean time, the rec center here on campus is offering some rescue style classes. I was thinking about signing up for the following:

    CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer: Topics covered include: recognizing and handling breathing and cardiac emergencies in adults, children and infants; two-rescuer CPR; use of resuscitation mask and bag-valve-mask; and using an AED on victims of sudden cardiac arrest. This certification lasts for 1 year.

    Does that seem like a good idea since I am not certain when I can start fire training?

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    We have a pretty good sized college in our first due (25k students or something along those lines) and a few others at least that big within a 20 mile radius and all of our younger firefighters are also in college or in trade school. Around here college age people volunteering on departments is pretty common.
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    So I'm a little new to the process, but how does volunteer FFing actually work? Do vollies pull shifts at the house or what? I've read other forums that mention beepers for volunteers and I'm not sure how the whole process works once you've gone through training.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigT View Post
    So I'm a little new to the process, but how does volunteer FFing actually work? Do vollies pull shifts at the house or what? I've read other forums that mention beepers for volunteers and I'm not sure how the whole process works once you've gone through training.
    It varies from department to department.

    I don't know what your local department does but we have a low enough call volume (we are strictly fire, no rescue) that we don't have shifts at the station. We are each issued a portable radio and a pager and whenever a call goes off members respond to the station. We have one mandatory work night every week.


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    We all get a pager (plus we have text-on-dispatch on our cell phones available) and respond when available. At just over 100 calls a year, with half of them strictly EMS, it's just not worth keeping people in the station. After a while they'd get tired of preplans, scut work and sitting around and would stop showing up anyhow.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigT View Post
    So I'm a little new to the process, but how does volunteer FFing actually work? Do vollies pull shifts at the house or what? I've read other forums that mention beepers for volunteers and I'm not sure how the whole process works once you've gone through training.
    Like mentioned before, everyplace is different. We are issued a pager once we are through training and have maintained a minimum call volume for a while. We try to keep a minimum staffing at the station all of the time. Everybody is expected to run either a day evening or overnight duty every week. Home response is used to staff the 2nd piece. We run just over 2000 calls a year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eng34FF View Post
    Like mentioned before, everyplace is different. We are issued a pager once we are through training and have maintained a minimum call volume for a while. We try to keep a minimum staffing at the station all of the time. Everybody is expected to run either a day evening or overnight duty every week. Home response is used to staff the 2nd piece. We run just over 2000 calls a year.
    With that high a call volume for a volunteer (or is it a combo) department, I would imagine you are trying to keep as high a membership as possible.

    Dedication from volunteer firefighters is extraordinary, but having to carry the load for members that feel they have an excuse not to make as many runs can wear on those dedicated FF's.

    Has anyone ever noticed that membership from certain employer or employment location, tend to participate less than other FF's do? In our county the largest employer who also pays a very high wage and offers a 4 day per week job has the lowest participation when it comes to attending meetings, training and responding. I cannot put my finger on why they are like this, but every new application for membership which has them as an employee of this plant, always ends up having minor involvement.

    Wonder if it is the same in other areas?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jam24u View Post
    Has anyone ever noticed that membership from certain employer or employment location, tend to participate less than other FF's do?
    I've encountered the opposite - one employer in particular was very open to their FF employees leaving.

    Perhaps it would do well to investigate - there might be a company policy or philosophy involved. You never know - discussing the issue with the company could provide that insight or perhaps lead to the company visibly supporting the fire service, which might increase the participation from those members.

    If this is a major employer in your area partnering with them could be a good thing. Offering to do a walk-through to familiarize your FF's with the layout and fire load might be a good start.

    Too, there may be an economic side. If said employer has mostly low wage employees, second jobs may well be a reason for reduced participation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jam24u View Post
    With that high a call volume for a volunteer (or is it a combo) department, I would imagine you are trying to keep as high a membership as possible.

    Dedication from volunteer firefighters is extraordinary, but having to carry the load for members that feel they have an excuse not to make as many runs can wear on those dedicated FF's.

    Has anyone ever noticed that membership from certain employer or employment location, tend to participate less than other FF's do? In our county the largest employer who also pays a very high wage and offers a 4 day per week job has the lowest participation when it comes to attending meetings, training and responding. I cannot put my finger on why they are like this, but every new application for membership which has them as an employee of this plant, always ends up having minor involvement.

    Wonder if it is the same in other areas?
    Ours is an all volunteer department, in fact the entire county is still volunteer.

    As tree mentioned, we have almost the opposite. We are fortunate to have several people who work shift work and are able to staff the station during the day.

    It does get frustrating having people who can't run as much as others. I myself get frustrated when I can't help up as much as others. It's just the nature of the beast and we try to remember that those that aren't running as much are hopefully helping out in other ways.

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