The Benefits of Volunteerism
The last few days have been a great microcosm for why I volunteer so actively and why I regularly encourage others to volunteer. We just concluded the the Basin Ops Drill. This is the big regional, inter-agency wildland fire training that I have been involved with planning for many years now. This year we were able to put live fire on the ground for one of the two days. The drill is one of my favorite days (or two days) of the year. It is fun to interact with all the other fire departments and Federal and state agencies. It is a great opportunity to take pictures and our guys who participate get some great training.
For anyone new, I have been volunteering as a firefighter since 2003 and have been the chief of our all volunteer department since early 2012.
The planning for the Basin Ops Drill takes months, we usually start in the fall. This year I put together the incident action plan (IAP), checked everyone in to the drill which means getting to meet a lot of people (important as there is a good chance I'd have to work with these folks if something big ever happened in our jurisdiction), helped put together the strike teams for each day and briefed the Governor of Arizona when he came on Day 2. We knew he was coming but when he first got there I was the only one from the planning group immediately available so I started the briefing until the Incident Commander (IC) came over a couple of minutes later. He was very gracious, taking a picture with me. Another task is that I take pictures of the event every year, I am not sure this is so important but it is fun for me and the response is favorable even if it isn't that crucial but I figure everyone likes to see pictures of themselves.
I also had the opportunity to talk to the State Forester. He's a wildland firefighter from way back and has fought fire in Walker so he knows our area, knows who I am and this time he gave me a challenge coin which I thought was pretty cool.
During the drill, I was able to move around the fire ground taking pictures which if you've been reading my content for a while, you know how much I love taking pictures. This one is part of a Forest Service Engine Crew getting on a spot fire.
I had on proper PPE with a hand tool while hopping around the fire ground.
Later that night we had a call for an illegal burn. The next morning we had training and tomorrow we have another round of pack tests to run through (the minimum fitness standard to fight a wildfire is hiking three miles, wearing a 45 lb pack in less than 45 minutes).
All of the above is very positive and part of what makes this such a fun endeavor. I also had to handle a very complex personnel issue where I ultimately had to say no. I pretty much never want to have to say no to anything but of course sometimes I have to say no. In the middle of all that was the annual Wildfre Expo here in Prescott and while I didn't have to spend a lot of time on it, we had a couple of guys take a truck to exhibit along with some of the other departments and agencies, I did spend a little time there and did a little PR for the department.
I regularly talk about volunteering by saying the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Aside from the potential good you do from others, you have the opportunity to do things you'd never otherwise get to do and meet people you'd never otherwise get to meet and the last few days support the point. This has also been true with blogging. In going through the tasks I did to contribute to the drill, planning, interacting with people from outside our department, having to say no and so on in the personnel matter, these are things that can help with my day job which is another high level benefit. Problem solving and interpersonal dynamics in your volunteer realm can help in your day job.
I don't discount that I am particularly lucky but I believe the sentiments translate and would encourage everyone to find something they love and try to help with that thing. You've probably seen the meme on Facebook or other social media about your time being far more valuable than your donation and I think that is very true.