If you are an aspiring firefighter, one of the best ways to get hands-on expertise is to volunteer for a reserve firefighter. This leads a lot of people to ask the question what is a reserve firefighter?
Reserve firefighters are often used to help staffing levels to offer a high level of multi-discipline training and expertise to prospective candidates. However, you should be aware of the fact that your participation as a reserve or volunteer firefighter doesn’t necessarily guarantee you the chance to become a career firefighter.
Becoming a fireman is no easy task and neither is the process of being a firefighter. If you didn’t know, there is fierce competition and the recruitment process is always challenging and grueling, something most won’t be able to handle.
It’s well known that nearly seventy percent of applicants usually give up during their pursuit of becoming a fireman for a variety of reasons including failed drug tests, written tests, firefighter interviews and more.
By volunteering to join a department as a firefighter reserve, you greatly increase your chances of becoming a career firefighter in the near future.
Departments are always on the lookout of those individuals with the desire and the ability to offer community service and perhaps nothing proves this more than being a reserve firefighter.
Besides, it is a fantastic opportunity to build your resume, especially if you are just getting started and need career-boosting references.
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So, what do I need to successfully become a reserve firefighter?
To successfully become a member of a department’s reserve program, there are a host of requirements that you must fulfill.
Though these may vary from one state to another and from departments to departments, below are some general minimum requirements you must need before you join a firefighter reserve.
How To Become A Reserve Firefighter:
- Valid driver’s license.
- Minimum age requirement of 18 years.
- Passing a background check.
- Proof of residency
- Minimum education requirement.
- Physical evaluation.
It should be noted that most fire departments may prefer you to be a certified paramedic or EMT.
Regarding educational eligibility, you must have a high-school diploma and possess a valid drivers license.
Of course, you will have to contact the fire department you want to work with to know all the requirements you’ll need to meet to be eligible for its firefighter reserve program.
You will be required to pass a written exam and fitness tests (similar to a CPAT) and physical examinations, drug screenings as well as background evaluations.
Most fire departments prefer candidates who demonstrate strong decision-making skills, bravery and a high level of dependability.
Finally, though volunteer firefighters need no formal education beyond high school diploma, you stand a high chance of being recruited to a paid firefighting position if you hold an undergraduate degree in fire safety engineering or fire science.
Will I need to get specific firefighter training?
As a reserve fireman, you’ll probably be required to attend a fire academy before you fight your first fire.
On most fire departments, training will involve emergency medical services, fire, and rescue skills. What’s more, you will have to learn about firefighter safety, forcible entry, rescue and search techniques, equipment handling as well as other general aspects of firefighting.
After completing your basic training, you will be issued with a firefighter certificate as well as your station assignment and schedule.
It is imperative to note that firefighters continue to train within their departments after graduating from the fire academy and will be subject to probationary periods.
A significant number of reserve firefighters usually join apprenticeship programs, which may take up to 4 years to complete. These programs offer trainees hands-on experience because they are offered under the guidance of skilled fire protection personnel.
What is the role of a reserve firefighter?
First and foremost, you should know that most reserve fire departments will want to devote a required minimum amount of your time to service.
This means that you must ensure that you have enough time in your schedule and the needed flexibility to make it work. It also implies that you should have the time to dedicate to the required firefighter training program.
As a volunteer or reserve firefighter, you’ll be provided with what is referred to as an intermittent or a part-time schedule. While volunteer firefighter responsibilities will likely vary either by jurisdiction or department, most fire departments demand at least a few twenty-four hours of work shifts every month.
Others may require you to community services and also take part in specified number of training sessions.
Reserve Firefighter Responsibilities:
- Perform routine station maintenance.
- Assist with community education programs.
- Maintain a high level of physical fitness.
- Assist the community risk reduction division.
- Maintain equipment and apparatus.
- Assist with business inspections.
Regardless, the primary role of a reserve firefighter is to assist the fire department, under the direct guidance of a fire officer, in a broad range of emergencies including medical emergencies, structure fires, traffic collisions, rescues, floods, fire alarms, and a variety of other types of fire emergencies.
As noted above, you will also have to participate in non-emergency calls, such as public relations and public education.
What are the benefits of becoming a reserve firefighter?
- Hands-on job training and experience.
- Death and accidental life benefits.
- Advanced training as well as skills development.
- Career advancement opportunities.
- Access to peer support groups.
As a reserve fireman, you will enjoy a great sense of pride, accomplishment, and achievement that comes with any firefighting job.
Of course, being part of a volunteer organization that strives to help your community and give back to your fellow citizens is a great source of motivation.
As a volunteer member of a fire department, you will be part of an extended family that demonstrates core values such as excellence, readiness, courage, and respect in whatever role you play, and this gives you a sense of satisfaction which goes beyond a normal 9-5 job.
Though most volunteer and reserve firefighter positions are unpaid, some states, departments or localities provide tangible benefits to their volunteer firemen.
These may vary greatly, but examples include specialized technical training, paid per call, reimbursements for items such as gas or food, tuition assistance, tax deductions or exemptions, live-in programs for college students, business discounts and perhaps seasonal bonuses.
Being a volunteer or reserve firefighter also helps enhance your social circle. Nearly everybody you volunteer with has other interests and perhaps another profession.
Reserve firefighting is one of the best ways to create strong connections with people. When that time comes to seek a professional reference or even a career recommendation, you’ll probably have many people to turn to.
Being a reserve firefighter also allows you to save lives. Serving people and saving lives is arguably the basis of your entry into the public safety profession.
Though you may not get financial compensation as a volunteer or reserve fireman, the prospect of serving in this type of position offers you an excellent opportunity to make a tangible contribution to the community.
What’s more, you’ll not only experience life in the fire service first-hand, but you’ll also have a chance to create long-lasting memories and friendships. And who knows, it might just be a great first step to starting your career.