Explorer post being established in Pa.

December 22, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Franklin County, Pa., emergency services officials are organizing a new Explorer post for teenagers wanting to learn about firefighting, police work, medical services, dispatch centers and disaster management.

The branch will be called Post 911.

"It gives young people an opportunity to try out a career," said Greencastle (Pa.) Police Chief John Phillippy, who participated in a law enforcement Exploring program as a teenager.

Exploring is a career education program through "Learning for Life" and Boy Scouts of America. It is open to males and females ages 14 to 20.

"There's a lot who don't know where they want to go, and this is a good place for them," said David K. Donohue, director of the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services.


Organizers said they want the youths to practice planning skills and develop their own activities, but some of the adults' suggestions included touring a medical helicopter or using a fire extinguisher. They hope to provide CPR and first-aid training.

Kickoff for Post 911 will start with an open house at Franklin County Department of Emergency Services' new headquarters. Various agencies will be represented Jan. 21, starting at 7 p.m. on New York Avenue in the Cumberland Valley Business Park.

"Exploring has had a very limited visibility here," said Bill Tolleson from the Keystone Area Council of Boy Scouts of America/Learning for Life.

Summit Health has a medical careers program and the Borough of Shippensburg (Pa.) is looking to start a program, he said.

"A lot of kids don't have an idea of what they want to do," Tolleson said, adding that Exploring can help give youths direction.

Exploring has scholarship opportunities, Donohue said.

Dustin Ulrich of the Fayetteville (Pa.) Fire Department said one of the trainees who attended firefighter training with him quit after three days. The man didn't know what would be involved, he said.

"He hadn't touched a fire hose in his life," Ulrich said.

Tolleson said Exploring has a $10 registration fee, meets once a month and can draw from any geographic area, although he plans to target Chambersburg and Shippensburg.

Craig Myers, of the emergency services department, said he expects the Exploring program can give teenagers a good starting point. Currently, youths need to join a fire department and take an oath before participating in junior firefighter activities.

"That intimidation factor is right there staring at you," he said.

Ulrich said recruitment for junior firefighting training is down dramatically at his department.

"Volunteers are a dying breed," Myers said.

"When they go for the career side, there aren't that many" either, Ulrich said.

Recruitment is extremely important to continue offering these services, he said.

Phillippy said his Exploring experiences were conducted with the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Hagerstown. Waynesboro (Pa.) Police Sgt. Mike Bock and Cpl. Kurt Wagaman went through the program at the same time, he said.

"I think it's a good chance for young people to have interaction with law enforcement, in this case emergency service providers, in a positive fashion," he said.

Exploring gives "an inside look at a career," according to Phillippy.

"It doesn't make much sense to enter a paramedic program and find out you don't like blood," he said.

If you go ...

What: Explorer Post 911 open house

Where: New York Avenue, north of Chambersburg, Pa.

When: Thursday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m.

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