I must confess that until just a couple of weeks ago I really could not answer that question. But back at the end of March I was teaching a class at the Sissonville (WV) Fire Rescue School and introduced myself to my instructor “neighbors” across the hall during a mutual break. And one of those “neighbors”, Candice McDonald, is now a fire service colleague.
You know within the first minute of meeting Candice that she is passionate about Fire Corps! So she invites me to the Ohio Fire Corps Annual Conference (their 3rd annual) in Lisbon, Ohio. I traveled from my home outside Charleston, West Virginia to Lisbon (about a four hour drive) on my own dime to see what this Fire Corps thing was all about.
I was not disappointed in making that trip. In addition to getting to know Candice better, I also had the opportunity to meet and have dinner with some of our respected colleagues in our business: Dr. Harry Carter, Tiger Schmittendorf, Stella Hickey, and Greg Yost.
Some quick notes from the conference that I wanted to share with you. (I’ve included several applicable links where you can go for the full story!)
What does Fire Corps do? Just about anything that the average citizen can do to support emergency operations with the exception of actual operational tasks. Fire Corps volunteers in Ohio provide their fire departments and communities with services such as:
- Operation of on-scene Rehab facilities to support emergency operations;
- Grant writing;
- Emergency sheltering of residents displaced by an emergency;
- Teach fire prevention education classes for young and old alike (65 percent of Fire Corps programs nationwide are delivering fire prevention classes in their communities!); and
- Much, much more!
Does your department already have a Ladies Auxiliary unit?
Make them into a Fire Corps group and they can be protected under a limited liability insurance program through the National Volunteer Fire Council!
Do you have senior citizens volunteering in your department?
Want more of these valuable folks? (They’ve got available time and experience, right?) Fire Corps has more than 100 grants available to support recruitment and retention of seniors!
Does your department have youth groups, e.g., junior firefighter or Explorer programs?
You can start one or grow an existing program with one of the over 700 grants that are available for getting more young people involved in supporting emergency services in their community.
One of the themes of the conference was that the survival and success of the volunteer fire service in the USA is dependent upon its ability to create MORE opportunities for MORE people to volunteer LESS time. (Tiger Schmittendorf really drove home that point in his presentation entitled, From the X-Box to the Alarm Box. Book him and his show in your town if you can!)
And that’s the real focus of Fire Corps. Getting more people with varied backgrounds involved in the multitude of tasks that are required to run a fire department and provide services to the community they serve. Think of the possibilities (here is some “seed money” for your thought process):
Have people to maintain your fire station and its grounds, especially people who already have knowledge and experience in such matters.
- People to provide accounting services to maintain your financial records and conduct required financial reviews.
- Have people to conduct fundraising activities and campaigns
I’m not just talking about people to be “doers”, I’m speaking of folks who can lead, guide and direct such activities because that’s what they do (or have done) for a living.