Despite its name, the National Junior Firefighter Program is not just for future firefighters. Departments can utilize a youth involvement program to recruit and train the next generation of EMS personnel, or to cross-train youth in both the fire and EMS disciplines.
A junior firefighter program is a great tool for getting youth interested in the emergency services. These youth might become first responders one day, or else become a community supporter of their local emergency service department. These programs also benefit the youth by providing them with life-saving knowledge as well as instilling the values and skills they will need as adults, such as leadership, teamwork, and responsibility.
Many fire and EMS departments use junior firefighter programs to introduce young people to the field of EMS. Whether the program is divided into a fire service side and an emergency medical service side, or all members are introduced to both disciplines, a youth involvement program is an excellent recruitment tool for a department. Youth can receive training to learn about the emergency services as well as to prepare for the certifications they will need to participate as active department members once they turn the appropriate age. Junior firefighters often become certified in CPR/AED and first aid, and many go on to become EMTs or Paramedics.
For instance, junior firefighter Michelle Carilli, winner of the NVFC’s Junior Firefighter of the Year Award in 2010, made a significant contribution to her department in the field of EMS. As a high school freshman, she worked with the principal to implement CPR training at her school, resulting in over 200 students becoming CPR certified. She later worked with Emergency Medical Instructors to offer First Responder Certification classes at the school. In addition, Carilli organized a junior firefighter program recruitment initiative that resulted not only in tripling the number of youth in the program, but also in getting many of the parents to join the department as EMTs and firefighters. In 2009, Carilli became the first junior firefighter to be named the Coventry (CT) Volunteer Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Service Provider of the Year.
Junior firefighters are a great asset to a department. In addition to receiving training, they can help with non-emergency tasks such as events and parades, fundraising activities, fire prevention and life safety programs, station upkeep, and even assisting at incidents in a non-operational capacity and outside the operational area (such as providing rehab/canteen services). Activities depend on the age and interests of the youth as well as the needs and capabilities of the department.
The National Junior Firefighter Program provides tools and resources to help departments establish, manage, and expand a local youth involvement program. If you are not currently registered with the National Junior Firefighter Program, register for free at www.nvfc.org/juniors and learn how you can help build the future of both your fire and EMS forces today.