In many communities, fire stations are staffed by volunteers. In a large number of suburban and rural areas, there is not enough call for a professional full-time staff of firefighters. Volunteer firefighters are the most efficient way of addressing the needs of the community while saving money. About three-quarters of all fire fighters are volunteers.
Volunteer firefighters are private citizens that give their time to become trained firefighters and commit to risking their lives in order to keep the homes and lives of their community safe. They receive hours of training in order to become competent and spend many more refining and updating their skills. While they may be reimbursed for some costs, generally volunteer fire fighters are not paid for what they do.
The two greatest qualifications to be a volunteer fire fighter are the physical ability to do the job and a serious commitment to community service. The training for a volunteer is as rigorous as it is for a professional fire fighter and trainees have to work their way up until they are considered true fire fighters. Besides fighting building fires, many volunteer fire departments also work on forest fires, rescue, hazardous materials, arson investigations, disaster relief and civil defense. In rural areas, they may also be trained as first responders, giving emergency medical treatment until paramedics can arrive.
Since volunteer fire fighters do not live at the station, they are on-call and have to be reachable at all times. Most carry a cell phone or pager, but this may not always be enough, especially in rural areas with poor cell phone coverage. Services like GenieVOX by AllCom can help. This service is a message center that ties to a home or cell phone and lets members send text messages and 3 minute long voice messages to any number of people all over the world. The messages are received immediately via phone, text or email and can be returned with the touch of a button. The service costs only a $4.95 a month and has no contract. It also includes a pre-paid Genie VISA card, which can be used to pay out fire fighter pay or reimbursement quickly and easily. It is good anywhere that takes VISA and at thousands of ATMs world-wide.
Volunteer fire fighters are a wonderful example of what it means to be a good citizen. Many Americans owe their lives and safety to these brave men and women. These fire departments are typically funded by tax payer dollars as well as donations, which pay for equipment and materials. It is our duty to make sure they have all that they need to help us, as well as to return home safely to their own families.