Fire Corps awarded the 2009 Award of Excellence to the Mesa (AZ) Fire Department Volunteer Corps. Sponsored by the International Fire Service Training Association and the Oklahoma State University Fire Protection Publications, the Fire Corps Award of Excellence honors a Fire Corps program whose remarkable achievements in the fire and emergency services and the community exemplify outstanding performance.
"The range of activities and accomplishments of the Mesa Fire Department Volunteer Corps is truly inspiring," said Sarah Lee, Acting Director of Fire Corps. "This team of volunteers has demonstrated how a department can significantly expand and enhance their services by utilizing community members to perform non-emergency tasks. The work of the Fire Corps members has greatly benefited the department and the entire community."
The Mesa Fire Department created its Volunteer Corps in 1998 after recognizing there was a gap in service after emergency personnel finished the initial 9-1-1 call and residents were left not knowing what to do or not aware of the resources available to them. It has since grown from a single program with 10 volunteers to a multi-faceted program with 130 active members responding to over 3,800 calls a year.
The Volunteer Corps is a comprehensive program that provides a variety of opportunities for community members to help the department make their community a safer, stronger, and better place to live. The program is comprised of five segments, each serving a specific function in the fire department and community.
One of the largest of the Volunteer Corps components is the Connector Program, which provides a number of non-emergency services to assist both the department personnel and the community. Connector volunteers help citizens in times of crisis and connect them to the right resources when further assistance is needed. Services include fire victim assistance, emergency scene transport, stranded motorist assistance, crisis support and referral, fire and life safety public education, and much more.
The Connector Program has also proven to be a source of recruitment for the Mesa Fire Department. Of the more than 600 volunteers that have been trained for the Connector Program since it was established in 1998, 25 percent have gone on to have a career in the fire service.
Another component of the Volunteer Corps is the Community Response Team (CRT). Established nine years ago, CRT provides initial grief support and community resources to families who are dealing with stressful situations, particularly the loss of a loved one. CRT volunteers step in to assist families after emergency crews have left the scene to respond to other calls. They are trained to provide emotional support to grieving families and friends, assist in the death notification process, and assist in the choice of necessary services.
Also included in the Volunteer Corps are the Home Safety Inspection Program, where volunteers educate residents on how to make their home safer by eliminating fire and fall hazards and conduct free home safety inspections; the Bilingual Assistance Team, who assist with educating and connecting with non-English and bilingual speakers; and the Social Service Intern Program, which is a partnership with the Arizona State University School of Social Work. For the Social Services Intern Program, students meet the field experience requirement for their social work degree by assisting the Mesa Fire Department in providing follow-up assistance after fire crews determine there is a need for additional social service assistance and community resources.