The Path from Volunteer to Career!
Many people may not volunteer, because they simply don’t know what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter or how to go about it. Over the course of time there have been many changes to the world of volunteerism and I’m sure due to regulations and commitments of time and funding, it has become a hindrance for organizations to now gain prospective volunteers. The same is true, if not more, for fire districts. Because not only have regulations been added to the requirements, but there is a great deal of training to ensure the safety of firefighting personnel.
For the Northshore Fire District, they are always in search for good volunteers and over the years we have had some great community members who started out as volunteers and have come to be permanent paid firefighters on the team. The first part of the process following submitting an application as a Volunteer would be an interview with the Chief and then a scheduled physical exam and drug screening. Once successfully moving beyond these requirements, the recruit is provided a set of training personal protective equipment and the training begins.
Northshore Fire has a variety of task books for different roles and functions within the district, this will be the guide that enables both the recruit and the training officer to make sure all the necessary skills and exercises for training are completed. Typically, the recruit will be given a home station and will work alongside a Volunteer liaison who will report to the Training Officer on the status and progress of the recruit. As a recruit firefighter they will be allowed to attend training classes and drills only – nonemergency response.
The goal is to have the basic recruit firefighter task book completed within four months. Once this is done, the recruit will once again have an interview with the Chief and upon appointment as a Probationary firefighter, the training PPE will be exchanged for a full set of approved personal protective equipment. The probationary firefighters helmet will carry prominent marking or be of a distinctive color so as to identify the firefighter’s probationary status on the fire ground. As a probationary firefighter, they may now respond to emergency incidents under district guidelines and will be given a new task book to complete as a probationary firefighter, which shall be conducted in an annual academy unless the program is approved for in-house training. The probationary Firefighter training program is to be completed within one year.
Once the volunteer has completed the probationary firefighter task book, they are then issued a Firefighter I task book and this training is completed in-house utilizing approved instructors. Once all the terms of probation are completed: the probationary task book along with six months of experience in responding to emergency incidents, then the probationary Firefighter will be issued a certificate, badge and be sworn in as a Firefighter for the Northshore Fire Protection District.
So nearly two years into being a volunteer there is a lot that gets accomplished, the tasks books specify topics covering Station Orientation and Administration, General Safety, Vehicle Orientation, Radio’s, Hospitals & EMS, Ladders, Hose & Hydrants, Ventilation, Vehicle Accidents, Wildland Firefighting, Miscellaneous Training and Station Ride-a-longs.
Once a volunteer firefighter has completed all of the initial training and to maintain the basic level of training required each year, they will move on to the training record which will record all of the mandatory training required to remain as a Volunteer Firefighter with NFPD. Although, Northshore has revamped the training schedule to make completing the assignments at the convenience of the firefighter, it is still required that 100% of the minimum assigned trainings for the year get completed.
Although, becoming a firefighter has a lot of regulations to it, it is because it has a great deal of risk to the individual and we want them to remain as safe as possible doing the job. Over the years, the regulations governing how volunteers must be integrated into a fire crew and the necessary equipment and heavy demand for training that is requirement often makes it less desirable for an individual to volunteer, which is why there has been a dwindling number of persons who actually do volunteer.
For Northshore Fire District to hire someone as paid firefighting staff, the minimum requirement is for them to be at a level of Firefighter/EMT already, which you can see puts the district ahead by nearly two years (not including the EMT qualification). This isn’t to say that there is not value or need to have local volunteers, there absolutely is and we have had some excellent volunteers that have stayed with us for years and others that have come on and continued their careers here at Northshore Fire and earned advanced certifications and skillsets.
But remember volunteers can be of all varieties – it is knowledge and expertise that can help us improve the Northshore Fire District in many ways. Volunteers can learn to be firefighters as described above, or Volunteers might be instructors or trainers (or know how to coordinate and obtain instructors and/or trainers at minimal costs), they can be Support Team Members who help firefighters on scene with hydration, medical monitoring and SCBA exchange and/or refills, Volunteers could even be someone with expertise that is needed from time to time, such as a radio technician or a grant-writer or other such skill set that can help the district to achieve its objectives and goals. Ultimately, volunteers can make all the difference, so if you are interested in the Northshore Fire activities make sure to find out more…
We are fortunate in our Northshore Fire District that several of our existing team started out as volunteers and welcome that into the culture of the Northshore Fire District Team. Many others continue to be volunteers with Northshore Fire, even though they have careers in other fields or work for other agencies, this is their home and they also volunteer here. The bottom line is Northshore Fire has the heart of a volunteer organization and has a dedicated team servicing the citizens' call for help. They consistently strive to improve the defense and protection of our communities of the North Shore of Clear Lake. There are many ways to join the volunteers in action at Northshore Fire.
One way to get more information is to join us for the Northshore Support Teams’ Fundraising Enchilada Dinner at the Upper Lake Station on Sunday, October 6th from 5pm – 7pm. There will be plenty of volunteers, firefighters and others there to chat with – hope that you can come by for some dinner and learn more about your Northshore Fire Protection District.