Today I found myself pondering my local volunteer fire department, in which I serve, and our Rescue Squad, with which we interact at car accidents and fire scenes where injuries are involved. I found serious food for thought that should be useful to the development of a Peace Movement.
Say you're the type of person who likes the idea of helping to save people's lives. You could go through life hoping that someday you'll find yourself in a situation where you could make the difference between life and death, or you could join your local fire department or rescue squad, which would not only put you in steady contact with the rewards of lifesaving service, but would also provide you with the training and support network that would ensure your ability to complete your task. What happens when you volunteer for the fire service?
First, you meet with the membership committee, which ascertains your understanding of the degree of commitment that's expected, assesses your desire to serve, checks your references, and does a minimal background check to make sure you never committed arson. Then the general membership accepts you into the service; and on the same night that happens, you get introduced to the team, shown around the trucks, bays, and compartments, and issued your ID, pager, and a t-shirt that you start wearing a lot more often than anything else in your wardrobe. You are a probationary member. From that moment, you're committing to a training schedule that will run you over 100 hours over a period of four months, just for the basic certification that allows you to enter a structure or touch a patient -- and that doesn’t include the regular weekly department training and monthly organizational meeting. All of these procedures are conducted by other volunteers who have come up in the exact same way and are now expert and motivated to bring others up through the ranks. If you fulfill all of your responsibilities and respond to the minimum number of calls over your first year, you move up to full member status, which brings further levels of commitment and the right to vote. All company business, ranging from what contractor services the soda machine, to drawing up specs for a truck, to altering bylaws, to the naming officers, comes across the floor for a vote.
You'll probably buy another t-shirt, and sweatshirt and jacket by this point, or receive them over time as service incentives, as by now you feel naked wearing anything else, for in them you are recognized as an Emergency Responder in your community and to your brothers and sisters in the service wherever you roam, a matter in which you take pride.
Every week you attend the company meeting, whether it’s administrative or technical training. Trainings are conducted by experienced officers. As you go through your activities, your talents and limitations start to fit in with the response plan. If you're claustrophobic, you won't be sent into confined spaces. If you're six-foot-three and 230 pounds, you could find yourself on forcible entry. If you're five-foot three and 105 pounds, you're perfect to get into attics. If you're older or have cardiac limitations, you might become a driver/pump operator. If you can't wear a pack and mask, you could handle the hydrant. Even when you're ninety years old, you can videotape incidents for review and training development. Everybody is a full partner in the operation, everybody is needed on every call, and nobody goes without a job. And yes, sometimes that job is fundraising.
But no matter what, you and the whole team are there every Monday night, and you answer every call that comes in when you're home. And you do that every year, as you get older, evolving into new jobs, and recruiting and training new members so that while some day you will be gone, the Fire Department will always be there. The Volunteer Fire Department was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1736. It exists today with a million members nationwide, and there are probably an equal number of
But there's more. Each company sends a delegate to the county organization. Counties send delegates to the regional and state organizations. States belong to national. Colleges offer courses, and vendors sponsor conventions. Heck, we even build full-service nursing homes for elderly volunteers who need looking after. And you know what? At every level, from the smallest town to national, the emergency services wield serious political clout. Candidates come calling, legislation is adopted, and photo-ops abound.
The Volunteer Fire Service and the Emergency Medical Service are genuine movements that extinguish every fire and transport every patient to the hospital, yet only a million people participate. There are perhaps 100 million people in
I urge you to get started in your community immediately. See the previous post, "How To Get Started," for details. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, and check in regularly with this blog, email@example.com.