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HTG Volunteers

September 22, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Washington County's 13 fire companies and seven rescue companies primarily are staffed by about 800 volunteers, with some paid personnel, said Tom Altman, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.

The Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway is the only station in the county with combined fire and rescue services.

The six companies in Hagerstown fall under the direction of the Hagerstown Fire Department for emergency incidents, but are independent corporations and part of the volunteer association. Stations in the county also operate independently and are members of the volunteer association.

There are specialty teams in the county, including an emergency air unit and a special operations team, said Brigitte Heller, Emergency Medical Services management specialist.

Community Rescue Service responds primarily within the city limits, but does not report to the Hagerstown Fire Department.

All 27 fire and rescue corporations are independent nonprofit organizations.

The once all-volunteer fire and rescue system now is supplemented by paid firefighters and emergency medical technicians, primarily during daytime shifts, when volunteers are at work.

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"The primary reason the independent companies have put in paid personnel is that they want to provide and meet the needs of the community they serve," Heller said.

She said anyone interested in volunteering in Washington County should complete the following steps:

- Stop by a fire or ambulance company to pick up an application. If you need help locating a nearby station or would like more details, call the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association at 301-714-0812.

- After you've turned in your application, a membership committee will review it and make a recommendation. Each fire and rescue company is different, but Heller said most vote on new members.

"There are really few who don't get voted in," she said.

Most companies have a probation period for new members, and some do background checks before the vote.

- After a member has been voted in, there usually is some form of preliminary training. Each department offers volunteers between 30 and 32 hours of preliminary training, including information on CPR, a history of the company and other essential details.

New volunteers are required to be certified by the state. A volunteer moving to Washington County from another Maryland county may be able to bypass this step if he or she has undergone the same training.

The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services has the following requirements for those wishing to obtain first responder or basic emergency medical technician designations:

  • First responder

    Skills include patient assessment, bleeding control and bandaging, fracture management, medical emergency management, CPR and oxygen administration, and requires a minimum of 40 hours of training.

    The certification is valid for three years and requires both written and practical exams.

  • Basic emergency medical technician

    Skills include patient assessment, bleeding control and bandaging, shock management, fracture management, CPR, medical emergency management, oxygen administration, patient-assisted medications, spinal immobilization, patient movement and transport.

    Volunteers receive a minimum of 131 hours of training.

    To be a certified firefighter or to handle hazardous materials, the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute requires volunteers to do the following:

  • Firefighter I

    After completing the 102-hour course, volunteers should be able to understand and apply the principles of fire behavior, building construction, water distribution services, fixed fire protection systems, ventilation, hose streams, fire prevention and inspections, etc.

    After a Firefighter I course, the volunteer may enroll in a Firefighter II course, also through MFRI.

  • Hazardous materials operations

    After completing the 24-hour course, the student will be able to analyze a hazardous materials incident, plan an initial response, implement the response and evaluate the progression of an incident.

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