It takes a special person to fill the boots of a volunteer firefighter or to serve the community as a volunteer EMS (Emergency Medical Service) provider. It takes someone with the desire to help, and the courage to act. It requires dedication, hard work, and a willingness to learn and accept the challenges of a difficult job. It takes a person who considers respect and appreciation reward enough.
Today’s Greenlawn Fire Department volunteers are a highly-trained team of men and women who have made an extraordinary commitment to serving those in need. When you join the GFD you serve a minimum of one year as a Probationary Firefighter or “Probie” as they are affectionately known. During that time our Fire/Rescue Probies must successfully complete a nationally recognized firefighter training course provided by the Suffolk County Fire Academy. The course, which consists of 110 hours of classroom and hands-on training and evaluation, followed by a written examination, is but one requirement needed to become a Greenlawn Firefighter. Additionally, our members attend over 150 hours of in-house training provided by our department Chiefs and Officers. They attend 30 department/company meetings with associated training during their first year, and must also become certified in CPR, the use of Automatic External Defibrillators, Hazardous Materials Awareness, the use of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus and much more.
Additionally, those who join the department, but do not wish to be firefighters may choose to become “Rescue Only” members. These members undergo the same intense level of training as our Fire/Rescue Probies except with an EMS focus. Their in-house training consists largely of medical response techniques and procedures. And, these Probies do not have to complete the County’s firefighter training and obtain the associated certifications. In place of that training, however, they must attend the 140-hour New York State Basic Emergency Medical Technician course and successfully complete practical and written exams to achieve their NY State certification.
We take our training seriously here in Greenlawn in order to provide the best possible service to our community. We demand a lot to ensure that the public gets a lot, and we require that this extensive training be put to good use. All Probies in the Greenlawn Fire Department must respond to a minimum of 10% of the department’s alarms (or about 200 calls) annually while on probation. However, once our Probies get a taste of what it feels like to truly make a difference and help people, many Probies far exceed the minimum response requirement. Probation in the Greenlawn Fire Department is not easy, but things that are worthwhile seldom are.
Once our Probies graduate to full-fledged Greenlawn Fire Department Members they have the satisfaction of knowing that they have achieved their place in our department and have become a part of a great legacy of local heroes. The learning and training doesn’t stop there, however, as all GFD firefighters/EMS providers are required to attend dozens of hours of training each year to maintain their status. Additionally, virtually every GFD member pursues an advanced level of training in order to better serve our community. Countless hours, months, and even years are invested in becoming qualified as Motor Pump Operators, Ladder Truck Operators, Tool (Jaws of Life) Operators, Ambulance Drivers, Emergency Medical Technicians, Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians, CPR Instructors, Paramedics, HazMat Technicians and much more. And, members must continually attend classes, undergo training and re-qualify on equipment, as well as pass practical on/or written examinations to maintain their Department and State certifications.
Like our Probies, all of our firefighters and EMS providers are required to respond to a minimum number of alarms annually. The current response requirement is 7% of all alarms (or roughly 140 alarms based on recent numbers). However, like our Probies, many of our members far exceed this minimum requirement.
While training and response take up much of our volunteer’s time, there are additional roles that we ask GFD members to play. Our firefighters and EMS providers conduct an extensive fire prevention program, regularly providing instruction and tours to local school classes and youth groups. Members are also asked to participate in a wide variety of programs to help support our community such as delivering food to those in need, assisting with babysitter workshops, providing community CPR training and a whole lot more.
Of course, parades, funerals, memorial services, fundraising activities, and meetings also become a regular part of one’s life as a member of the department. New members often find that the GFD can quickly become another home, and its members, another family. And as such, we stand together. We toil and play together; we learn and grow together; we laugh and mourn together.
Is being a volunteer firefighter or EMS provider for the Greenlawn Fire Department tough? You bet it is, but to borrow an old slogan from the U.S. Army, it’s the toughest job you’ll ever love. There is nothing that can compare to the feeling of truly making a difference in people’s lives; the feeling of being at your best when things are at their worst; the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself; being part of a united family who sacrifices for each other and for those we serve; the feeling of doing a job that not many are willing to do, not because you have to, but because you’re needed, and you want to help. There is a hero inside of all of us, waiting to emerge if just given the chance…Are you ready to give yourself that chance?
The Greenlawn Volunteer Fire Department…HEROES WANTED!