Volunteering in the Fire Service is increasingly used as a means to provide personal development opportunities for individuals and to broaden the level of engagement with local communities.
In my service, volunteers support the delivery of community safety activities.
They are involved in conducting safe and well visits, delivering youth programmes and supporting other high profile events.
Other services employ volunteers as community advocates to improve engagement with diverse and hard to reach groups in local communities.
In some areas, such as the remote Scottish islands, volunteers also provide the local emergency response fire cover.
Who is suitable for Volunteering in the Fire Service?
I have known volunteers in the age range from teens to seventies. All have had an important role to play and all have benefited personally from the experience. Many of the volunteers at the lower end of the age scale volunteer as a means of gaining skills and experience to improve future employment prospects.
Often volunteering is a natural progression from having been involved in fire service youth activities. Suitable young people who have been fire cadets progress to become volunteer leaders when they reach nineteen years of age. Both the skills and experience gained, plus the fact that they are motivated to work unpaid should be viewed positively by potential employers.
Other volunteers I know are retired, but have skills and experience which they want to use for the benefit of local communities. A further benefit for older volunteers is that it keeps them active and involved in meaningful activities. I recently asked an older volunteer why he volunteered and what he got from it. His response was:
“I’m 71 years old, if I didn’t do this I’d probably be dead. I’ve done lots of courses and passed them all, which is a sense of achievement and I use the skills I learn to keep my family and neighbours safe. I also get to work with the young volunteers, which is great.”
It is fascinating to watch older volunteers interact with younger people. There is a mutual sharing of skills and knowledge. The older volunteers pass on general life skills, whilst the youngsters provide guidance on how to use modern technology. However, volunteering is not just for the young and the elderly. Opportunities are available to anyone who wants to contribute to their community and to develop new skills.
What are the benefits?
Many of the young people I know have progressed into full time employment, with several now being employed by the fire and rescue service in both operational and non-operational roles. A common route to full time employment in my service is from volunteer to retained on-call firefighter and then to a wholetime role. Invariably, when talking to these people they recognise the value of being a volunteer to them gaining employment.