Consortium Suggests Homeland Security Classes In More Schools To Combat The Decline | News, sports, jobs
In 1970, Pennsylvanians counted on 300,000 volunteer firefighters from across the state to respond to local emergencies that threatened lives and livelihoods.
According to the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, that number had shrunk to less than 40,000 by 2018.
Because of this, Scott Delaney, director of the Muncy Area Volunteer Fire Co., and several others from the east of the county are pushing for firefighters, EMT, corrections and law enforcement courses to be brought to local high schools – to encourage young county residents , the eastern end of the county to volunteer and work for the safety of their communities.
“We have a problem,” said Delaney. “We are struggling with a declining workforce. People are getting older and retiring, and the next generation doesn’t jump in. “
The greatest fear of all participants was that within 10 years the Pennsylvania Volunteer Fire Brigade will no longer be able to adequately protect local families.
At this point, local governments must step in and use tax dollars to fund professional fire departments to take their place – which will inevitably lead to higher taxes, Delaney, a Muncy Borough councilor, and Ed Feigles, the president of Muncy Borough Council, agreed to.
Fire departments are often cross-generational, which means one family member will volunteer in a department and eventually bring more people like friends and family into the department, Delaney said.
The problem is finding new people who can then recruit on behalf of the department.
The consortium meeting on Monday evening focused on planning real-world training in the form of electives that local high school students can take. Her idea is inspired by the existing CTC program at Williamsport Area High School, which was implemented by Melanir Bertin around three years ago.
Bertin’s program lasts three years and focuses on teaching high school students about criminal justice and the prison system, emergency medical training, and firefighting.
Melanie Bertin, the homeland security professional teacher, said the first year will focus solely on local, state, and federal law enforcement issues, drawing on social issues in the community and the world.
The second grade focuses on the ambulance service – Bertin’s bread and butter, as a paramedic who takes on weekend shifts during the school year. Students who go through the EMT program become certified for CPR and automated external defibrillator, EMT certified, Hazmat certified, and more.
“It’s been two crazy years” said Bertin.
The third year, starting this fall for the first time, has the goal of getting students certified as firefighters – which may or may not happen due to pandemic restrictions. Certification extends to the students’ live brand test, which they can take when they turn 18.
The three-year course counts as 15 course credits at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, and students only have to pay for state background exams and the national registry’s EMT test – around $ 125 total, Bertin said.
Pennsylvania college students currently pay $ 504 per credit hour at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, according to the institution’s website.
“It’s huge, I preach that to the students all the time. If you are going the college route please use this one. I don’t have the feeling that they understand the opportunity there “, said Bertin.
Bertin said the program was first conceived when community members reached out to the Williamsport Area School Board begging them to start a program to combat the decline in volunteering.
With the approval of the board of directors, Bertin’s program inherited the $ 70,000 budget for a retiring program, and from there relied on community donations and grants.
“We were lucky that we had the means to do it. The local fire departments, UPMC, Williamsport Bureau of Fire and Williamsport Bureau of Police kindly told me to report if they did something and they always got through. “ said Bertin.
According to Bertin, the results were mostly positive. Of the 2021 class, Bertin said she had one student enrolled in the United States Marine Corps, two students are studying criminal justice, and another two are studying at the Pennsylvania College of Technology with dual majors in paramedic and emergency management.
From year to year Bertin has taught 50-60 students in her classes, plus around 40 high school graduates in an introductory class to whet the appetite for the program.
“It is important to give the students the tools they need, regardless of whether they want to advance professionally or go to school”, said Bertin. “In the near future, volunteering will disappear. It is important for these students to take this course, see if they like it, and learn to give back to the community. “
What if they choose not to volunteer or pursue a career in any of these three areas?
“Everyone they meet can help them until they are finally taken care of.” said Bertin.
Bertin encouraged members of the “Consortium” Understand the importance of the relationships between school districts, local hospitals, volunteer fire departments, and professional fire departments.
Additionally, she said it was valuable to help students learn and grow at a young age in order to give back to their communities.
That “Consortium” the first responders who band together in the Ostend district will draw on and rely on Bertin’s experience as they pave the way for their own program in the Ostend school districts.
Delaney said Bertin had a powerpoint presentation to check what her course was about and let her speak during the pitches to school authorities that the consortium is looking to find.
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