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Volunteering during college

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  • Volunteering during college

    I'm a volunteer firefighter in my hometown in New Mexico, but I'm very new to the game. I joined as a senior in high school at the urging of a buddy, and I'm now enrolled as a freshman in college. The thing is, I'm going to college in Washington, so I'm not exactly active in my department. I'm still going to be serving with them during the summer and winter holidays, but in the meantime, I want to stay active. I've found several volunteer departments nearby, but I wanted to see if anyone might have advice before going forward. Has anyone had experience volunteering in college? What challenges did you face as a result? Did you respond to station, sit a shift on the weekends, or serve as a live-in? How was the experience. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    fire5555, I'm majoring in political science and/or international relations, and my career goal is criminal investigation. For me, volunteering in college wouldn't help me in terms of a career. But I still love what I do as a firefighter, and it would be awesome if I could keep it up. I just need to determine how realistic this is, because at the end of the day, I've gotta put my education first.


    • #3
      In the area where the college is at, check to see if any FD's have live-in programs. You may be able to be a live-in and reside in a fire station. This can help you serve as a firefighter and possibly receive free housing. That will help make college more affordable, too.

      If you become a resident live-in, you will have to have good time management skills. Serving as a live-in will probably entail responding to calls, training and cleaning duties. If you will need to manage your time to attend classes, study, etc.

      Another issue would be fire/EMS certifications. If you have any certifications in Fire and/or EMS, check for reciprocity. If you could attend training (FFI, II, EMT, etc.) while a live-in, that could be a bonus, too. See if the training is nationally recognized.

      I was a live-in for the first four years of college on two different departments. Some of the duties were responding to calls, dispatching and cleaning. It saved me a fortune in housing (dormitory, apartment, etc.) costs in college. The main challenge for me was time management. I purposely stayed in the college library after classes for studying. I knew once I walked into the fire hall, I would be busy with FD matters. Make sure studying is your main goal.

      FD's are shorthanded nearly everywhere. Check out the FD's in the college town and surrounding areas. There maybe opportunities.


      • #4
        FIRE117 fire5555 Thank y'all for the advice, especially the experience-based advice. I'll definitely be waiting at least a semester to get into the hang of things. As far as I know, some departments in the area have live in programs, but I'll have to figure out if it's a viable option for me (college housing rules, working, etc.) I'll definitely need to get time management down before I do anything else.


        • #5
          Do you have pro-board FF1 ? Or even EMT ?

          With 'washington' I assume you mean DC (if you mean the state stop reading now). There are very active VFDs in Prince Georges County. Some of them require high hour committments, some of the smaller ones are more flexible with 'out of state's memberships' and work with whatever you can give them. As you don't plan to make this a career, I would NOT do the live-in. Too much of a distraction. Go for the drills, sign up for a couple of duty shifts and experience volunteer firefighting in a urban environment.
          As a member in a MD company, you can do lots of training at MFRI for free. Get your rescue tech stuff (site ops, top tech, vehicle extrication, swiftwater), FF2 or hazmat while you can do so for free. If you go back to NM your community will value your skills and certs.

          Just two things:
          - PG has volunteer companies, career companies and 'volunteer companies with career staff provided by the county'. It's a big muddle and in parts of the system there is strife and rivalry between career and volunteer. This has gone to the level of knock down drag out fistfights on the fireground, lawsuits back and forth, criminal prosecutions, union grievances you name it. Just stay out of that conflict alltogether. It doesn't make you a better firefighter. Don't engage, don't comment, 'smile and wave....'
          - There are some huuge egos at some of the busy 'all volunteer' stations as well as some inter-company rivalries. You will encounter the occasional ****-talkers and YouTube experts. Again, don't insert yourself in that nonsense. Seek out the quiet professionals and learn from them.



          • #6
            Too_Old I have neither, unfortunately. The only training I have is my in-house training (plus First Aid/CPR). When I say Washington, I mean Washington state. Regardless, you have some valuable advice to give, so thank you for that. I'm definitely leaning towards sitting weekend shifts (if possible), but we'll see what happens.


            • #7
              Originally posted by ALar13 View Post
              Too_Old I have neither, unfortunately. The only training I have is my in-house training (plus First Aid/CPR). When I say Washington, I mean Washington state. Regardless, you have some valuable advice to give, so thank you for that. I'm definitely leaning towards sitting weekend shifts (if possible), but we'll see what happens.
              Lol, so much for me assuming that anyone studying political science would surely do so in DC ;-)

              Most of what I said would apply anywhere (except that I have no information about Washington state firefighter egos). Just stay out of the politics wherever you go.

              I am looking into Washington state for retirement and started to root around a bit on what it would take to keep volunteering in WA. I didn't go beyond what the departments with a web presence put there about the process. The entry requirements in WA seem pretty steep (and I'll gladly be corrected if my information is wrong). To become certified you have to go to a 260hr academy at the state fire school. This seems to include things like hazmat-ops and EMR that are separate courses in other jurisdictions. For someone who wants to volunteer along with a full time course of study, this would seem an awfully large committment just to get started.
              When you get to WA, contact the fire chiefs or recruitment officers at departments that could work for you and get the correct information. Tell them who you are, what you have done so far and ask whether they could make use of you and what it takes to get started. You may find that the process 'on the ground' is less involved than it seems on paper.


              • #8
                Too_Old Way too humid for my liking lol. I like it up here in Washington. Temperate climate, wide open plains and forests, good hunting, and family in the area. Sounds like a good deal to me.

                You're right in saying that that's a steep commitment. I have to work in the summers; I can't afford to go to an academy, even though I'd definitely like to. But, we'll see. I've been trying to get ahold of a few districts in the area, so once I talk to someone, like you said, I'll know for sure what to expect.


                • #9
                  I believe that students can use online school assistance. For example, when I wrote an essay about homelessness, I used examples of essays on the Internet. You can find it on this link. This will greatly speed up the writing of your homework.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ALar13 View Post
                    Too_Old I have neither, unfortunately. The only training I have is my in-house training (plus First Aid/CPR). When I say Washington, I mean Washington state. Regardless, you have some valuable advice to give, so thank you for that. I'm definitely leaning towards sitting weekend shifts (if possible), but we'll see what happens.
                    Go volunteer, no matter what you do in life, volunteer experience is great (especially on a resume). I know a lot of voly departments in Washington will pay for you to get your certs (if you want to become a paid FF). I am from Texas and went to fire academy in Texas. It was 9 months long and I volunteered the entire time. You will have to figure out your time management, but I say do it. I made life long friends and learned so much actually doing the job. Any school work can be done at the station once your duties are done, and I doubt they have call volume high enough that will keep you from doing school work in a timely manner. I was required to ride one 12 hour shift a week plus one weekend day a month.


                    • #11
                      Oh...and there was a bout 8 month where I was pretty much a "live in" went home like once every 2 weeks.


                      • #12
                        I volunteer because that is natural for humans. And everything else that is done by money I really don't appreciate. Maybe not everything, but mostly. If people suffer - no interest! But good experience change your perception. After college It was hard for me to work and to chores. I wanted to live without my parents but because no work by speciality I came back to them hopefully in time changes will come. Soon after I had a full cover for my Cisco certificate, one person from forum told me could help, I did not ask, I just was looking for work. Afterwards I changed my location to Ontario CA and work by speciality, I was really happy. All of this happened here: https://www.spotoclub.com/
                        Last edited by JoanneFraser; 07-24-2020, 07:55 AM.


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