We all know the role of a firefighter is to protect members of the community that are in trouble from many dangers, not just fire. Fire, flood, EMS, earthquake, tsunami etc. are all part of what firefighters combat to make their community safe. However, many go the extra distance and support charities that may or may not be part of the fire service ethos. Let me give you some examples: firefighters from one service raises money to support the psychological needs of retired fighters, and another group of firefighters fundraises and actively works with animals that have been abandoned by their owners and finds new homes for them.
This charity work is not a one-off example in a small number of brigades, I have seen it in action all over the world, from firefighters running relays across deserts or running up stairways in skyscrapers or a raffle at the annual firefighter balls. The once-a-year club meets annually on Christmas Day at a large Children’s Hospital where firefighters dress up as clowns and distribute toys and joy to those that have to remain in hospital over Christmas, every year, year in year out. It’s marvellous how much joy can be achieved with 20 dedicated firefighters once a year. Then there are the larger formal charities incorporated and run by professionals that have a number of events each year to support firefighters’ mental health and/or the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty. These organisations are often staffed and run by firefighter volunteers. Off duty firefighters have also been known to build community gardens and art centres for their communities.
One group of retired senior leaders in emergency management formed a lobby group called Emergency Leaders for Climate Action in combination with the national Climate Council. These retired leaders have witnessed first-hand the climate-induced changes around the world creating more intense disasters. They are taking a hard-line stand against governments not taking climate change seriously.
I can only guess at the motivations that would see firefighters undertake a running relay across Australian desert’s or walking to the South Pole, but I’ll have a go. Remembering this is a generalisation with a sample group of one (maybe a PhD study for someone). Here are my off-the-shoulder thoughts.
- The fire service is all about protection whether it be for the community or colleagues; it is one of the cultural doctrines drummed into firefighters from recruits to the time they retire. It must rub off into their off-duty lives.
- Firefighters are problem solvers. They have to be because there is no such thing as a standard fire; all have some twists and turns. Off duty they still cannot walk away from a problem where they see solution.
- The unique shift work system, most firefighters work under gives them more free time during daylight hours to undertake community work.
- Firefighters are just good people
These four simple points, in my view, are the reasons/enablers that see many firefighters undertake charity work in their free time.
Why am I pointing this out in the Asia Pacific Fire magazine? This magazine is read by thousands in the fire and emergency service sector. Many of them have been impacted by Covid-19 and, like them, Covid-19 has hit these charities harder than most would realise. In some charitable organisations revenue has dropped by 80% and a number of charities supported by firefighters have had to close their doors. This edition will be coming out in January after a Covid-free Christmas and the start of a positive 20n22.
When you put your 2022 budget together add a line item under expenses ‘firefighter charities’, seek out the charities your local fire service supports and DONATE. It will not go unnoticed.
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