I often get asked by people outside the fire department on how they can help out. The majority of people I talk to are very thankful for the work their local firefighters do, and sometimes they would like to help out more. I have created this article to help spurn some ideas that you may not of thought about on how to help your local fire department.
1. Join the Fire Department
The biggest way to help your local fire department is to join. Obviously, if you live in an area that is serviced by a paid department, that isn’t possible, but in western Pa volunteer departments far outnumber the paid departments.
According to reports, the number of volunteers in the 1970’s in the state were approximately 300,000, however that number is currently down to 50,000 while call volume is steadily increasing.
Remember, fire departments have many different tasks and duties needed that don’t include interior firefighting. You can always join and assist in other ways. Some examples would be:
- Committee member (Fundraising committee, new truck committee, membership committee)
- Maintaining department’s Website / Facebook / Social media accounts
- And many others!
Every department is different, and based on where you live many would love to add another member to help out.
Donations are also very welcomed at most if not all fire departments. Not everyone has a lot of extra money to donate, especially in areas that have a fire tax that goes to the fire department.
So think outside of the box for some cost effective donations that would still be beneficial to your fire department.
Here are just some examples of donation items that may be cheaper than just giving money that you may not of thought of:
- Cases of bottled water. Many departments carry bottled water on their apparatus and go through a lot of it especially in the hot summer months.
- Used furniture for the station.
- Construction items, such as plywood, can be used for training props.
- Food!!! Firefighters love to eat, especially after a long call.
3. Attend Fundraising Events
Attending fundraising events hosted by your fire department is technically another form of donating, however you are getting something in return for your donation (ie a food item, a chance to win something, entertainment, etc).
Usually a lot of time and effort goes into running the fundraising events, and the proceeds all go towards the fire department’s expenses and needs.
Currently we are in the Lent season, so fish fry’s are abundant in the area. Go try one of the local fire departments instead of going to a restaurant. You may be surprised how good the food is.
Obviously there are a ton of other types of fundraising events hosted by the local fire departments all the time. Give them a try, you may enjoy yourself and who knows, even win something supporting a good cause.
The next three items are more related to helping your fire department serve the community better. These are three things that are related to what you can do to help the FD while on an emergency incident.
4. Make Sure Your House Number is Marked
Western Pennsylvania has a big variety of response areas. We have everything from large downtown areas to rural farms and pretty much everything in between.
Having house numbers marked clearly is crucial to save time during an emergency incident. There have been many calls that I’ve personally have been on where we had a delayed arrival due to trying to find the correct house. It becomes even more difficult in the dark and in rural areas where the roads aren’t as wide or in good shape, and you start trying to find houses far back in the woods.
Make sure both your mailbox (if it out by the road) and your house are marked well. Remember, the emergency responders can’t help you if they can’t find you.
Plus, you won’t only be helping the first responders, but you will be helping bus drivers, delivery drivers, and others trying to find your house as well.
5. Stay On Scene Until First Responders Arrive
With the invention of cell phones, it has become a great deal easier to call 911 for help. However, with that extra convenience spawns some circumstances that creates some issues for fire departments.
It is becoming more and more common for fire departments to respond to calls for accidents, natural gas smells, and smoke/flame investigations that were called in by a passerby, only to not be able to find anything wrong. When the fire apparatus and/or police arrive on the reported address and can’t find anything, the caller is usually long gone and the incident was never found.
This is usually due to the accident being minor and the vehicle drove away, or an open burn that was put out prior to our arrival, or just catching a whiff of natural gas that was lingering in the area.
Safety is the top priority, so please do leave the scene if you don’t feel safe or are in a dangerous position. However, if there is a safe place to pull over, please pull over and wait for the emergency responders to arrive. If the vehicles in the accident leave, you can update the 911 center so that they can update the first responders. Usually a unit arrives within a few minutes, and the caller can explain to the first arriving unit where they saw the issue or where the smell was the worst. This point is especially for calls that are “vicinity calls”, such as across the river and 200 yards up the hill.
6. Pull to the Right and Stop!
If the fire department and first responders can’t get to the incident location, they can’t help.
I personally have seen an increase over the past few years of drivers failing to yield to fire apparatus with red lights and sirens on. Another common thing I see while responding to calls are cars trying to outrace the apparatus. This usually works okay for the car for a little while, until the next traffic light is red, and then the car just creates more congestion at the light.
With apparatus getting bigger and bigger, its also important that oncoming traffic stop and pull over as well. Not only are the fire trucks bigger, but they are much more expensive now as well. The last thing a department needs to deal with is having to pay money to fix a truck because the driver scraped a wall or another vehicle due to cars who won’t move over enough.
Remember, it is against the law to not yield to emergency vehicles, and you never know when those emergency vehicles may be responding to assist you or someone you care about.
Hopefully this article is helpful to those who wish to help out their local fire department. Are there any things that you have done in the past to help your local fire department that I missed in the article? Be sure to leave a comment if I did.
Fellow firefighters, did I miss anything that should be added to the list? Please be sure to share this post on your Facebook pages.